Side event: Contribution of alternative development to implementing the sustainable development goals

HE General Paiboon Koomchaya, Minister of Justice of Thailand. I welcome all our high level participants. We place high priority to push forward alternative development in addressing the world drug problem to address the root causes such as poverty via public health, education and social security. AD was recognised as a cash crop substitution programme. Now it is used as a wider development concept. It derives from participation of many stakeholders and is effective, helping to generate jobs, income, strengthening communities, etc. It ends the era of opium cultivation, improves quality of life. It is integrated into the sustainable development strategy of the country. The SDGs are the development pattern that focus on social, economic and environment aspects. AD, the SDGs are interrelated as human centred approaches. Development is the basis of everything. We must maintain sustainability of such programmes. The approach was led by the king. But development in the big arena, for example at international level, can only happen if governments work together to bridge the gaps among different countries to expedite the elimination of poverty. It is a worthwhile investment for the future for a strong and sustainable society for the next generation.

Mr. Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive Director, UNODC. Thailand is not only the birth place of AD. With the leadership of the king, Thailand has been advocating for AD as the main tool to reduce dependence on illicit crops in a sustainable manner. Selflessly, Thailand has shared its knowledge in South East Asia and other parts of the world, to transform poverty into socio-economic prosperity. Entire communities, with time, can evolve and thrive. Thailand can work with other countries. AD can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs with employment and education, environment and partnerships. In Myanmar, food security is complemented with the development of cash crops and AD is an essential component. In Peru, cacao is now replacing illicit crops. Poor communities have transformed into successful people. In Colombia, AD is part of an unprecedented peace process. In Afghanistan, AD still need to be more prominent. The country’s decline in opium production can only be sustained if the international community support the country with a comprehensive AD strategy. Thailand, Germany and many other countries are working very hard at developing a development framework that offers sufficient flexibility to enable countries to adapt to their own circumstances. The Guiding principles are compatible with the development agenda. Although it is true that the SDGs are equally important, some are more important than others for AD: development, environment, good governance, peaceful societies. The credibility and effectiveness of AD is contingent with the implementation of the SDGs 5, 10 and 17. Member states, international organisations, CSOs and the private sector should unite in partnership to ensure success. AD features prominently at the UNGASS with roundtable 5 dedicated to the issue. It reconfirms that AD is an effective drug control strategy to reduce illicit crops but also ensure the wellbeing of communities. It is linked, complimentary and supportive of member states to implement the SDGs.

Dr Tenu Avafia, United Nations Development Programme. I want to start my remarks on the UNSG remarks around the SDG agenda around peace, security, development and human rights. Both drug use and drug control have impacts on human development. Drug control and development objectives share a common goal of reducing harm. It fuels exacerbated violence, crime, corruption. But speaking of the SDGs, it’s clear that drug control cut across in a negative way the SDGs 3, 5, 8, 10, 15, 16 and 17. There is also a growing body of evidence showing that drug control has not proven effective in reducing demand and supply. Last year, we published a discussion paper on addressing the development dimensions of drug policy, which found clear links between cultivation of illicit crops and poverty. Cultivation of illicit crops are often attractive for poor communities. Drug control has resulted in human rights abuses including mass incarceration, denial of essential medicines, arbitrary detention, public health consequences. If we want to achieve the SDGs by 2030 such as ending poverty, etc., we must address the root causes of the drug trade. We welcome the open and inclusive debate here because we must discuss pragmatic and informed solutions to ensure true progress. We see also that a number of countries are exploring new solutions such as alternatives to prison and access to pain medication. The UN has also released another report this week to build on a growing body of evidence to address the misalignment between drug policies, human rights and development. UN member states committed to global partnerships. It’s important that we don’t forget mobilisation of financial resources. The present rate of funding for harm reduction will leave the international community short of any AIDS targets by 2030 unless we prioritise key populations. UNDP has advanced the findings of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law since 2012 to discuss the criminalisation of people who use drugs. UNDP is discussing the development of human rights guidelines in drug policy with several member states. Drug issues affect all of UNDP’s mandate and work. We all agree that the relationship between drug policy and development is complex. An integrated agenda combining security, development, human rights and drugs is imperative.

Dr. Kittipong Kittayarak, Executive Director, Thailand Institute of Justice. I want to focus on the experience of implementing AD in Thailand as a lesson to implement the SDGs with a focus on people. Efforts to provide viable livelihoods for vulnerable communities began in the late 1950s. But how do we measure success? It was not measures in reductions in illicit crop cultivation, but in the form of increased safety, less hunger, disease and criminal activities. Providing alternative livelihoods can motivate ethnic minorities to turn their back to illicit cultivation. It is possible to identify common features for successful attempts. Our programmes evolved over time. Early efforts focused on providing basic infrastructure (roads, healthcare, education, etc.), then focused on branding and marketing of produced crops. But what remained in place was the focus on human beings, expanding the range of opportunities available. Long before the development paradigm, the need that a balance approach was necessary was already implemented in the Northern part of Thailand by His Majesty the King. From the beginning of AD efforts, the human face was clearly visible. Considerations were given to human security for all, including ethnic minorities. AD in Thailand benefit greatly to human development. We were successful because we placed people at the centre of development efforts. Thanks to the King, AD initiatives in Thailand were part of a larger approach of sustainable human development. AD proved effective in providing livelihoods for those in need. The 1st UNDP lifetime development achievement award was offered to the King. The new SDG agenda recognises the need for an integrated and balanced approach. The SDGs also recognise human security needs, freedom from fear. Commonalities appear between the SDGs and AD show useful conclusions:

  • AD should be human centred
  • we must not lose sight to human security
  • we must find the right balance between law enforcement, justice, rule of law and fairness
  • we must adopt a holistic and balanced approach to our SDG efforts

Despite the effectiveness of short term approaches, SDG implementation requires a long term commitment. The King has done that for over 50 years. And he proved that AD works. 15 years from now is not that much time. But human centred approaches are the right way to go so let’s get there together.

Ms. Marion Barthemely, Acting Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. I will focus more generally on the implementation of the SDGs and link with AD. The agenda 2030 is very ambitious. Given the breadth of the SDGs, they are likely to inspire a range of policies and programmes. This applies to AD. Its overarching objective is to realise the SDGs and the impact on drug control is only one facet of this broad objective. At the UN when we listen to member states it’s clear that the implementation of the SDGs is in everybody’s mind. The SDGs entered into force less than 4 months ago, encouraging governments to implement policies to achieve the development agenda. Firstly, localising the targets – countries are expected to look at the targets and adapt them to their national circumstances while bearing in mind the global ambitions of the development agenda. Secondly, adapting the institutions to implement the SDGs – countries have used a variety of mechanisms. Some have created entities among their heads of state, others within specific ministries, others use the foreign affairs ministries, or inter-ministerial commissions to ensure coherence. Others use sustainable development agencies at national level. Others use civil society. But it is a difficult endeavour given the gap in resources and capacities. What is important is that the office in charge for implementation has authority under other ministries and agencies. We shouldn’t create a parallel track focusing on the SDGs specifically. Implementing the SDGs mean that agencies have sufficient capacities and resources Thirdly, targets should be enshrined in policies and plans. Much progress has been made with some countries adjusting their development plans and targets, their sustainable development strategies, etc. Some countries are also engaging their parliament. Others have created special parliamentary committees, using previous MDG committees. Other dimensions include the need to reflect an integrated approach – leaving no one behind. A fourth step is involving civil society. There is a heavy focus on respecting national priorities and integrated approaches, integrating the local and global level. Groups are implementing these global programmes in about 20 countries. The issue which comes from the UN is how to rethink its role given the global perspective of the SDGs. As other speakers mentioned, SDG 1 is linked to many other SDGs. The focus on people, human rights, inclusiveness and partnerships apply to alternative development.

Coletta Youngers, Latin America Regional Associate, IDPC. IDPC is a coalition of 150 NGOs seeking to promote effective drug policy – I encourage you to read our drug policy guide. I want to thank the Thai government in trying to link AD with the SDGs and broad development policies. Thailand has played a leading role. I will be brief. I want to make 3 points:

  • Firstly you cannot eliminate farmer’s income before livelihoods are already in place. Otherwise people are left with no choice but regrow.
  • Eradication prior to crop substitution exacerbates poverty
  • Farmers must be treated as partners in development and not as criminals. An SDG framework can ensure that this is the case in Latin America and over the world.

A successful case is that of Bolivia with a 44 per cent reduction in production between 2010-2014. What we saw there was cooperative coca reduction efforts carried out in collaboration with local communities, farmers and federations. The government was able to reduce coca cultivation. There is sophisticated coca monitoring to ensure compliance, and most importantly, sustained investment in economic development, in particular in the Chappare region.

I also want to raise the importance of bringing a gender perspective in AD. The growing of plants is linked to the survival of whole families and women are at the lowest levels of the drug production. They are heads of households, belong to campesinos communities, lack basic access to services, live in poverty and are victims of violence and coercion. This must be taken into account in AD programmes, taking into account the situation of campesina and indigenous populations. This should also include coca cultivation for legal uses.

We must also include farmers of prohibited plants in the debate – they are at the cornerstone of any AD programme, from the first stage to the last of the process. This was the early lesson from Thailand. We must bring that to the UN debate. A civil society speaker will intervene from the floor – Amapola from Peru. It is the first step in the debate but we must do more to participate in the debate.

Myanmar opium farmers forum. Farmers should have the right to participate in the policy debate. But I also want to comment on forced eradication. Forced eradication is not the solution, it has an adverse impact, it destroys livelihoods. It is encouraging that Thailand has a successful programme. But still now, Thailand still has opium cultivation. My point is that I want to ask a question to Thailand and policy makers – when we try to eradicate a plant, we create a space for people and traffickers to produce more synthetic drugs. We try to reduce opium and we then face ATS. I also work in the region for 15 years, Asia worked to eradicate all opium, but then ATS is increasing.

Thai official.  It is true that there has been a switch from opium to other drugs. But we need to look at who benefits from the production of ATS and I don’t think that it is small farmers. Let’s put ATS aside and look at the issue of cultivation. Gradual development initiatives are important to introduce in the area. Strengthening infrastructure is critical to put communities on the right path towards sustainability. We must look at the source of ATS, which is precursors, and we have not made enough efforts to identify which countries are producing those precursors.

HE Mr. Arthayoudh Srisamoot, Thailand Mission in Vienna. It is a long process and when you come to Thailand we can show you, but it is a long term and holistic approach.

US Department. I don’t know if there is a clear definition of AD. There was a lot of references to the rule of law and appropriate balance for law enforcement in AD and crop eradication.

Dr Kittipong. This is a very good question as it is difficult to make a decision to enforce the law. In Thailand, it would be difficult for this alternative to happen as the law is strictly enforced. A balance between livelihood protection and enforcement would be difficult. The Kind ensured that this would be possible, that eradication would not happen before people were secured.

UNODC. This issue is very controversial. People don’t see a clear division between crop eradication and AD. There is a defining list of variables that development does not necessarily fit in within specific contexts. How you address these issues on rural development with some governance, rule of law, you also often need to link this to crop eradication.

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