The International Guiding Principles on Alternative Development approved last week at an international meeting in Lima, Peru, represents a lost opportunity to promote equitable economic development in some of the world’s poorest regions. The final document on the Guiding Principles bears little resemblance to the document that was originally drafted in November 2011 in Thailand by a group of more than 100 governmental and non-governmental experts.
At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held in Lima from 14 to 16 November, the Peruvian Government supported by the UNODC claimed that currently in Peru the surface planted with alternative development crops is superior to the amount of coca, used for the production of cocaine. Allegedly, the 80 thousand hectares with cocoa and coffee have successfully replaced an illicit economy, or prevented it to establish itself.
In November 2011 I was invited by the Thai government to take part in an international delegation to develop a set of UN International Guiding Principles on Alternative Development. Our work began with a five-day journey along the Thai-Burma border to see first-hand the development programs that have been successful in virtually eliminating poppy production in that country. Over 100 government officials and experts from 28 countries visited the Thai “Royal Project,” which has research stations and development projects in five Northern provinces of the country.
China’s opium crop substitution programme has very little to do with providing mechanisms to decrease reliance on poppy cultivation or provide alternative livelihoods for ex-poppy growers. Financing dispossession is not development.
Despite promising signs that Peru’s new president was ready to take a fresh approach to drug policy, focused on attacking traffickers and not coca farmers, his unorthodox top drug official has resigned and been replaced with a more Washington-friendly choice. Ricardo Soberon’s appointment as head of national anti-drug agency Devida was viewed by many as a sign that newly-appointed President Ollanta Humala planned to reform Peru’s anti-narcotics policy. Soberon's proposed policies involved moving away from attacking coca growers.
The loudest voices in US drug policy debates call either for enforcing prohibition with ever-increasing ferocity or for giving up altogether by letting corporations legally sell the currently illicit drugs much as they do tobacco and alcohol. But as our colleagues and we detail this week in the Lancet, there is an alternative: adopting drug policies with scientific evidence of effectiveness. Regardless of what goals for drug policy emerge from the democratic process, everyone wants the policies implemented in the service of those goals to be effective.
Fifty years after signing the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and 40 years after the U.S. government declared a "war on drugs," many obstacles remain despite the partial successes of efforts to counter the problem. The Andean-United States Dialogue Forum, noted with concern how drug policy has monopolized the diplomatic and economic agenda between the Andean countries, contributing to tensions among the governments and impeding cooperation on other crucial priorities, such as safeguarding democratic processes from criminal networks.
The present report has been prepared pursuant to Commission on Narcotic Drugs resolution 53/6 entitled “Follow-up to the promotion of best practices and lessons learned for the sustainability and integrality of alternative development programmes and the proposal to organize an international workshop and conference on alternative development” and resolution 54/4, entitled “Follow-up on the proposal to organize an international workshop and conference on alternative development”.
Peru's leftist government has scored some early victories in its bid to overhaul anti-drugs policy in the world's top coca grower while keeping the United States as a key partner, the country's new drug czar said. Ricardo Soberon, a lawyer who previously worked for a legislator with close links to coca growers, was seen as a risky choice to lead anti-drug efforts in a country that may surpass Colombia as the world's top cocaine producer.
Alternative Development (AD) must not be part of a militarised security strategy, which is the predominant approach in Colombia. Instead of simply attempting to reduce the area planted with illicit crops, Alternative Development programmes should operate within the framework of a rural and regional development plan.
Alternative Development programmes have been widely discussed from the point of view of experts, technocrats, politicians and academics, with advocates and detractors debating whether such programmes contribute to decreasing the cultivation of illegal crops. However, little is known about the opinions of the people targeted by these programmes and the implications that they have for their daily lives.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) invited a group of 20 experts for a round-table discussion at the WOLA office in Washington DC . The main question on the table: can the concept of “harm reduction” be applied to supply-oriented challenges to better address the harms associated with illicit drug production and distribution, but also minimize the harms that stem from drug control itself?
The Peruvian government has presented the “Miracle of San Martin Model” as the path to follow to achieve drug supply reduction. However a closer look reveals that the model is not replicable, not ecologically sustainable, and won't remedy the ‘symptoms of alternative development’.
The Chinese Government's opium substitution programmes in northern Burma and Laos have prompted a booming rubber industry, but the beneficiaries have been a small few with many others losing their lands as a result.
This study looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on alternative development initiatives in the Golden Triangle region, but also identifies the key determinants of opium poppy re-cultivation as well as possible solutions. Governments in the region have adopted national policies and strategies to counter the problem, however long-term political and financial commitment together with increased international support will be required to address the issue.
Development First demonstrates why it is no coincidence that policies that worsen poverty and undermine governance cannot achieve their drug control aims. This report identifies ten lessons learned for promoting alternative livelihoods, based on decades of evidence in countries from Thailand and Burma to Afghanistan and the Andes.
TNI’s Drugs & Democracy programme analyses drug policies and trends in the illicit drugs market. TNI examines the underlying causes of drug production and consumption and the impacts of current drug policies on conflict, development,and democracy. The programme facilitates dialogue and advocates evidence-based policies, guided by principles of harm reduction and human rights for users and producers.