Identifying common ground on development for UNGASS 2016

Mr. Cockayne
There are major obstacles for the implementation of our drug policy approach. For alternative development to be dealt with new directions in rural and urban areas, we need to discuss the issue at the 2016 UNGASS. 3 directions:

  • need to use programming to tackle poverty, government presence and access to land
  • need to improve infrastructure, education and access to markets
  • need to use human development indicators and metrics to assess the impacts of drug policies.

The discussion has highlighted the impacts of drug policies on the MDGs. In some academic circles, we even see suggestions that some drug control measures use physical and financial resources leading to crime traps, although we need to look better at the impact of our policies to establish that link.

So what is important? Should we move to development metrics, should we move beyond alternative development? For the UNGASS, if most people who attend are those who usually go to Vienna, can we expect a different discussion or outcome than that of CND? And who are the constituencies? Why should we expect states from Africa, Asia, etc to take a different approach? There are large, complex practical and political questions. We must think practically about how UNGASS can improve global drug control.

Mandeep Dhaliwal, UNDP
The post-2015 development agenda asks different pertinent questions about drug control. We all know that drug policies that prohibit and punish the drug trade has failed to reduce the harms associated with use and markets. Reducing these harms contribute to development. So drug policies and development policies have a common aim, but drug control has not been able to reduce the scale of markets and has fuelled harms in terms of health, human rights abuses, security, etc. It’s safe to say that the relationship with drug control and human development is complex and multifaceted. I will focus on three aspects: 1. key dimensions of drug policy that are linked to development, reductions in poverty and exclusion; 2. the need to improve system-wide coherence; 3. discuss metrics to measure the impact of drug policy.

Firstly, I want to discuss the lack of sustainable livelihoods. We must pay greater attention to the root causes of involvement in the drug trade. Cultivating illicit crops is strongly linked to poverty. This is the same for involvement in the drug trade as couriers. Cultivating crops is often seen as a viable option for poor farmers and vulnerable communities. Those incarcerated for drug offences are usually poor and vulnerable communities. Incarceration has a significant impact on people’s health, in particular for women and their children. Incarceration results in significant negative consequences on their children. Crop eradication has significant impacts on the health and human rights of those affected, it has caused forced displacement, exacerbated hunger and poverty, has led to health effects, including cancer. So what does this mean in terms of law and policy? Decades of research from the UN has proven that evidence based harm reduction interventions (NSPs, OST) are effective at reducing drug use and criminal activity, and has increased health outcomes. Analysis also reveals that when harm reduction is not hampered by prohibitive laws, policies are much more effective – we need to address these laws and policies.

What are the opportunities for more sensible drug policies? We must do more to work towards better system-wide coherence. The SDGs can have a significant effect in improving this system-wide coherence.

Measurements are also a powerful aspect. Today, the success of drug control has mainly been measured in terms of processes, but have not been able to measure impact on people’s lives. Metrics should reflect the whole spectrum of health and social issues, as well as to make drug policies more development sensitive.

To conclude, the common goal for drug policies and development policies is to reduce exclusion and poverty. What we really want to achieve is sustainable development.

Mr. Rodrigo Velez. National Council on Narcotic Substances, Ecuador
In Ecuador, we have tried to work on the different aspects of drug control to understand the development issues of the problem. It has been difficult for us to keep illicit cultivation and lab production of cocaine out of our territory. We tried to keep control over precursors so that it would be impossible to produce drugs in the country. Since we have a dollar currency, it is attractive for traffickers to do business in Ecuador. We presented this issue in every forum where we could speak. The amount of money laundering happens in developed countries, where demand is happening. This has not worked. So many lives have been lost to narco-trafficking.

Since 2008, our constitution no longer criminalises drug use. We have then had a wonderful experience – 2,300 drug couriers, mostly women, were given an amnesty. In 2010, we found less than 1% had committed the same crime. Last year, we implemented a new criminal code where we apply proportionality of sentencing related not only to the amount of the substance, but also what kind of substance, what participation in the crime, etc. In less than a year, we have released more than 2,000 people because they were consumers, not traffickers.

We also realised that if we do not work in rural development, if we don’t give these communities opportunities for development, they will continue to engage in drug cultivation. We learned from other countries’ experience, but we started implemented preventative alternative development – we don’t have illicit crops but we have transit and trafficking in the country – we adapted other countries’ experiences to our own situation. We used the private sector and different ministries within the government to work together and the result so far has been very positive. Communities are very proud of where they are now. We have a health and education system in these communities, including arts and sports, prevention speeches and information sharing.

This is our experience in Ecuador. This is not a war problem, it is a social and economic development problem which we need to tackle in a civilised way.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC
In Doha at the Crime Congress, member states reiterated the need to address the world drug problem through a comprehensive and balanced approach. Can we discard the “one size fits all”? The consensus Joint Ministerial Statement does not support this, neither does the evidence on mortality rates. But we cannot discard the impacts of drug use on health, families, etc. What we need to explore is what has to be implemented in specific contexts. This awareness resulted in the conclusion that drug policy must be evidence based, balanced and comprehensive.

We need to translate the international drug control regime into efficient policies to tackle the problem and vulnerabilities. We must reduce violence, abuse and environmental damage. The real revolution in drug policy today is that we discuss these issues within a wider social and development agenda. In Colombia and Mexico, new indexes focused on reduction in crime were very positive, focusing on mainstreaming development. In Myanmar, we were able to kick off an integrated intervention in 2002. But this happy incident was incidental and an exception to the rule.

More than UNGASS 2016, it is hoped that the post-2015 development agenda will be a way to make progress in this field. The concept of vulnerability is easily identified – poverty, under-governance, lack of basic services, etc. Development aims to correct this. But services can be provided by others – including criminal gangs. Many gang leaders proved incredibly popular. But this is fed by fear. It channels illicit financial flows away from where they are needed. Access to fair justice systems, measures to combat corruption and illicit flows, and better security are inherent to sustainable development in a global drug policy.

Dr. Mc.Sweeney
Central America is a site of drug transit, not of cultivation, where development has tended to focus. Central America only became a transit region when drug interdiction pushed traffickers to move their activities there. To be clear, it has become a drug hot zone not because of the region’s position but because of drug control strategies focused on supply reduction. Within these transit countries, drug development issues are clearly overlooked compared to interdiction policies, in particular in rural spaces, where the issue is mainly concentrated. Rural areas are epicentres of social struggle. On the one hand there are indigenous development programmes focused on food security. On the other, drug control policies tend to ignore economic development. These two models are fundamentally incompatible.

One one side, we have to established where profits enter the drug trade. This is one of the least understood element of the drug trade due to lack of data. But we have some insight into the detail of the trade: in 10 years, between 5 and 10 billion dollars in profit were extracted by traffickers in the region. Development aid that targets these regions and security initiatives are nowhere near these numbers. We then tried to figure out how narco-dollars were invested. These were spent on luxury items, black market, buying extensive areas of frontier land, often through local allies. These investments cannot be traced through land records. Narco-signature in land clearing can be identified through other factors, resulting from capitalised illicit actors. What we have witnessed is narco deforestation.

We can clearly see the drug trafficking dynamics which undermine development through narco-land appropriation and investments in foreign capital. This includes displacements of vulnerable groups, a move from the licit to the illicit economy, diversion of capital into the illicit economy, increased violence that undermine campesino communities.

The US backed anti-narcotics strategies have exacerbated these issues. From Panama to Guatemala,we have seen drug policy loop come full circle: undermining sustainable development by traffickers who then move to other areas, where the cycle starts again. So how do we break this vicious cycle? Should we disinvest in supply-side approaches? We should also consider all affected populations from production to trafficking and sale and retail. Drug policy should include UNDP, but also organisations such as FAO in the debate. While we’re at it, why not the International Office on Immigration? They represent a stark and important antidote in anti-drug policies. We should remittances as a development approach in the drug market.

Mr. Diskul, Fah Luang Foundation, Thailand
We have been involved in alternative development for 25 years, we focused on poverty and lack of opportunity. In the 1970s, Thailand was the world’s leader in opium production. We focused on improving the lives of people involved in illicit cultivation. Thailand has come a long way since then. We have accumulated experience and know-how and exported our knowledge to neighbouring countries. We have contributed to the formulation of the UN guiding principles on alternative development. We ask what this development approach to drug policy mean in practice. In my view, if you take a development approach, you must adopt a comprehensive approach.

There is no straightforward way to see this via demand and supply. You must focus on empowerment for people  to be able to live productive lives that include health and social and economic development. alternative development must be looked at from a long-term perspective. It took us 5-6 years to have an impact. Household based initiatives should come hand in hand with access to infrastructure, access to land, markets, water, etc. These are crucial for long-term development for affected communities. The population should be integrated into the mainstream economy.

One common problem is the balloon effect. While there are possible causes to the problem, this is due mainly to the fact that we give too much weight in number of crops produced, instead of measurements in terms of development indexes and improved life, lasting outcomes.We base our measurements based on human development indexes and MDG indicators. Our success lies in poverty alleviation and access to land. The community must be able to land on its two feet. AD products should be sold because of their quality, not out of pity because this would never last. But it is the job of the government to develop skills, capital and knowledge to assist the sustainability of development approaches.

UNGASS is timely. It is important for member states to translate development approaches into concrete actions. We plan to host an international conference on alternative development this year to share with new stakeholders our experience on AD. We want to increase member states’ commitment to AD and integrate it into the larger sustainable development context.

Questions and answers

USA. We are engaging in new strategies in Central America – where should we invest our resources?

Response from Ms. Sweeney. We should invest in education, health. Health aid has been very limited so far. Support for micro-entrepreneurs is also very important, they need our help working through micro-economic strategies. We must also provide minimal income support for subsistence farmers.

Brazil. Development has been linked to developing countries. We need a universal strategy to involve everyone: producers, suppliers, consumers, emphasis on ethnic communities. Looking at system-wide coherence, maybe UNDP is not the best equipped agency in the UN to deal with universal analysis and outlook at the SDGs will require. The other point is that I am concerned when I see the idea of using the notions of peace, security and human rights. There is a notion of local public security, but does not necessarily involve international peace and security – it is also the difference between security and war. I discussed this with the representative of the Red Cross, who is also concerned with this confusion and impacts it could have on the use of international humanitarian law. The involvement of the military has so far been very counter-productive.

Response from Rodrigo Velez. If we focus on the south, we’ll only ever see the same picture. We must see what is going on with the money flows, this is a major issue. Controlling money laundering produced in demand markers is primordial. Otherwise nothing will change. Harm reduction is another policy we must expand. We need a debate, check if the architecture of the UN is still relevant. We may need organisations for health, work, development, etc. to work all together. If we continue with the same agencies talking about this, we will end up nowhere. We have the hope that the UNGASS will address this issue. We have to accept that some countries will adopt policies that are right for them. We must review what we have been doing for the past 50 years.

Response from Ms. Dhaliwal. The issue of shared responsibility is something that has worked very well in the response to HIV and can play an important role here. On the SDGs, there is also an important role to see how drug policies can impact on development. And finally,UNDP does not need to be the sole organisation to deal with development issues in drug policy, but we have an important role to play to share experiences.

Response to Mr. Cockayne. The fact that we are shifting the development response from a north-south to a universal respone is crucial. But it begs the response – the existing framework leaves it to states to decide what to do, with the INCB advising governments on what they can do. So to what standards will the states hold themselves in the implementation of a development strategy through the drug control mechanism. What scope is there within the drug control conventions to better integrate a development approach to drug control? In the health side, we have seen who has the power to decide, in particular on the ketamine issue with WHO, CND and INCB all playing a role. We would need a mechanism for articulating what development outcomes are expected and how to move beyond the rhetoric and holding governments accountable.

Non-violent radical party. Has anybody looked into legalising parts of the substances. Regulation of medical purposes could solve part of the problem.

Response from JL Lemahieu. Afghanistan has been a field of experimentation. Legalisation was indeed considered as a viable option in 2006-2007. It was considered as totally unrealistic since if you don’t have any authority that guarantees production controls and considering the costs of the criminal market, this would not have worked. One needs to be very careful about what they are opting for considering complex realities. Given the institutional set up, the ketamine case was a good example of a real debate within a working system. I don’t see this as a failure of the drug control system, but rather as a success. At the end of the day, member states are the ones that have to keep the UN accountable.

Response from Mr.Diskul. I speak from a practitioner point of view. There are a lot of overlapping issues now – health, rights, security, etc. There is clearly successful evidence of how countries have applied sustainable development programmes and where we see the long term effects of these strategies. I would question what we are trying to do – but we do know the trends that provide a longer-term, more sustainable option for development. There is a link between poverty, production and trafficking, and these will influence the development framework. But it is up to each country to adapt these principles to their local contexts. We must also look at the environmental aspects as we see the damage that has been done by illicit cultivation. There are other issues, such as legalisation, where we are not sure whether we should move forward or not. It could easily get out of control.

Guatemala Mission in the UN. This is a question for Mr. Velez, in the lead up to the UNGASS, what do you think we can do to bring these new approaches to the UN and try to reach a better result next year.

Colombian Mission in the UN. With regards to new psychoactive substances – these are a new challenge that blur the divisions between production/use, how can this be tackled? The second question is how to involve all relevant actors? We have seen that we are leaving organisations such as the WTO or international financial institutions. So how can we tackle these issues?

???. How can we promote access to markets?

Response from Mr. Diskul. You need to look at a lot of the local wisdoms, to make sure that you connect your interventions to the local markets and context. You can then link to the national, and the the regional market. You do need to look at this via the local community. The Thai approach has always been looking at the local needs and respond to those. When you look at the product, you also need to look at farmers’ groups and cooperatives. They must be able to negotiate, get access to finance and build partnerships.

IDPC. Could you expand on any preventative alternative development for micro-trafficking, in particular for women?

Response from Ms. Dhaliwal. This is a widely ignored area, in particular in the context of harm reduction. This area requires a lot of investigation, and solutions to be considered can be anmesties for poeple who are in jail for minor trafficking offences. The whole issue of women inequality underpins the issue. I hope the international community is looking at this much more.

Portugal. We have decriminalisation in Portugal which has had a significant impact. We must bring forward health and development, as well as a review of our legal frameworks.

Response from JL Lemahieu. We need to balance demand and supply and these are very complex issues. In many countries, patients do not have access to controlled substances for medical purposes. And this is a clear example of shared responsibility. With regards to the Colombian question, it is a good question! This could all lead to the UNGASS 2016 discussions: we have two discussions. The first one is the post-2015 development agenda. The development agenda is no longer linked to production, it is also linked to urban areas, prevention of piracy, smuggling of wildlife, artefacts, etc. UNGASS 2016 must remain focused on the balance in demand and supply of drug control, otherwise it will get lost.

Response from Mr. Cockayne. From my perspective this misses a large part of the discussion if we only focus on demand and supply reduction. What is clearly missing here is the issue of harm reduction, which can enable us to deal with development through a universal lens. I understand the emphasis on the need for a balanced approach, but I don’t think that anybody can do whatever they want. Some of the constraints are respect for human rights and minimum standards, which can re-orientate our policies and their practical orientation. The question for the UNGASS is how we can articulate our policies to respond to metrics that are linked to human rights and the human development index. I don’t think that limiting the UNGASS to balancing demand and supply is enough. We must take a step back from the CND discourse. If we do not try and figure out how to include these missing aspects from the debate, we will miss the opportunity to make the UNGASS “special”.

Response from JL Lemahieu. We must look at a comprehensive approach, human rights and dignity, but we must focus on drug demand and supply. Otherwise we will get lost in discussions.

Response from R. Velez. We must approach this phenomenon from a social and health point of view, and we must therefore review our language. We must no longer only focus on the south and consider the demand side. If we talk about human language, and keep the same the metrics of price increase, increase market share, decrease demand, reduce supply, etc., which have not been working for the past 40-50 years, we must realise that something has not been working. The UNGASS is an opportunity to review many things we have been doing. We need an architecture to coordinate all these efforts in the right way. Considering the other question, in the rural and urban areas, we have preventative alternative development projects for women, so that they are more successful in their lives. We are going to have a CELAC meeting soon where we will talk about the UNGASS. We have been inviting the Caribbean countries to start implementing preventative alternative development projects across the region. We have learned a lot already and we can share experiences across the region. Concerning micro-trafficking, we changed the law that significantly reduces the sentences for micro-trafficking. Now we are centred on the human being.

Mr. Cockayne. One thing we hear in the corridors is a confusion or anxiety that the special session has been called without clear goals in mind. There is sometimes a tension between two potential ways that this UNGASS can be used: one is rhetorical (use UNGASS to develop a new language, new lens, which can be itself important), the other would include a new institutional arrangement. There have been discussions that the UNGASS will not re-open the treaties as they currently stand. So are we looking at a change in discourse or to put concrete proposals for change and what are those ideas and how are the going to come into the process?

Response from R. Velez. We want a global commission to study what we can do better. If a New York infrastructure is necessary, then we need to consider it. How many trillions of dollars have we used in interdiction? We advertise supply-side strategies. We have felt guilty for so many decades around not being able to achieve results and have asked increasing sums of money. This global commission is therefore very necessary.

Response from Ms. McSweeney. The war on drugs seems to be a battle against rich and poor, not a war against states. How about cutting across the states and look at the similarities?

Response from Ms. Dhaliwal. This is an issue that is trying to be resolved by the SDGs. It is an opportunity to highlight the evidence we currently have on what has and hasn’t worked. There is no one size fits all. That should be the focus of discussions in 2016 – what can we do to have a comprehensive strategy to address the issue. The common cause is the aspiration to leave no one behind and promote human rights and dignity. Lifting people out of poverty is a priority. And we need to shape our policies based on these priorities.

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