Side event: Measuring impact of Alternative Development and the SDGs

Organised by the UNODC Research nnd Trend Analysis Branch, the UNODC Sustainable Livelihoods Units, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

“Monitoring and measuring impact of Alternative Development – Developing a measurement framework in line with the Sustainable Development Goals”

The UNGASS outcome document calls on countries to promote research and improve impact assessment of alternative development programmes, including through the use of relevant indicators and other measurements in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. To help advance this objective, this side event will focus on the development of new metrics for measuring the success of alternative aspects linked to the development and implementation of such a measurement using concrete examples from Afghanistan and Myanmar. They will talk about the challenges related to data availability and selection of indicators, but also highlight the opportunities brought by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Moderator: Jorge Rios (Chief, Sustainable Livelihood Unit, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

Does alternative development actually work? There are a number of successes, but we really need to research them and find out how they’ve worked. We need governments to understand that law enforcement does not work.

Daniel Brombacher (Head of Project, Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD), Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), GmbH)

Good afternoon everyone. Briefly, why are these issues relevant to us? I head a program called GPDPD, who’s objective is in international promotion of development and health-oriented responses to drug policies.

German approach to Alternative Development (AD):

  • We seek to address illicit drug crop cultivation through a comprehensive development strategy
  • If we really want to make a difference, we need to address the underlying root causes of illicit drug crop cultivation.
  • The success and impact of AD is to be measured by socio-economic indicators

We’re trying to move towards a new understanding of AD, by changing the metrics: currently, it’s measured by hectare (ha) of territory used for the cultivation of drug crops. This is a narrow view which is risky. But we are optimistic, from the UN Guiding Principles on Alternative Development (2013). When you look at the UNGASS Outcome Document, you see a new understanding – “research should be promoted to better understand factors contributing to illicit crop cultivation…and to improve impact assessment of alternative development”.

Towards a new understanding of impact assessment for AD – challenges to overcome:

  • Make a clear case for the contribution of AD to SDGs
  • Facing a broadened concept of AD through UNGASS 2016
  • Overcoming the regime of wrong expectations
  • Using the almost universal support for AD

Angela Me (Chief, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

“Developing a framework of global and local indicators for assisting AD interventions: the role of the SDGs”

From the UNODC side, we try to cover issues from all levels; local, national, global, supra levels. We do different surveys, including field surveys, related to cultivation, production, and eradication. It is hard to measure AD, as it really embraces complex issues. Using development indicators to measure AD is not new. The SDGs embrace a much broader range of issues.

Focus on Shan State, Myanmar. This diagram shows us the “sustainable development gap” on the country and international level.

These diagrams help us recognise the gaps.

How exactly we will address the gaps? The SDGs allow for better informed decisions and integrated policies going forward.

Jaqueline Garcia-Yi (Research Officer, UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch)

“How to design and evaluate the impacts of Alternative Development interventions? UNODC’s illicit crop monitoring program”

AD has been an important component of drug policies for the last couple of decades. We can improve the interventions through collecting better data. We are helping the UNDP decide on the interventions at the local level.

Sequence of activities:

  1. Support on selection of communities and interventions
  2. Descriptive and quantitative impact assessments – using indicators in baseline.
    1. Village headmen questionnaire
    2. Household questionnaires
    3. Consumer questionnaires – to identify demand
    4. Women focus groups

We need to include a comparison group in assessment. We are working on supporting local AD interventions through mixed methods, collection of information for other sources, better drug-control policy decisions, including cost-effectiveness of AD. We can help the international community make better decisions with drug policy.

Anubha Sood (Senior Programme Officer, Alternative Livelihoods and Counter Narcotics, UNODC Country Office in Afghanistan)

Alternative development does work – but for who, and for how much? We will talk about this at the country level.

Programme Objective: to support AD interventions in accordance with the Government of Afghanistan strategies, National Drug Action Plan and the National Alternative Livelihood Policy. Our program is in line with the 2030 Plan for Sustainable Development. It is made up of small scale projects: including poultry, livestock, e-commerce, and more. Large scale projects: commercial greenhouses, land stabilisation, quality extension services. Coordination and capacity building: meeting with key stakeholders, field visits, community selection. Project selection has been helped by the UNODC. Now the team helps us identify the control groups, and on how to compare information. In the AD department, we have another team monitoring the progress, which works simultaneously with the office here in Vienna.

Communities are selected by criteria including: opium poppy cultivation performance, and more. The documents are endorsed at the provincial level.


  • Security can hinder/delay data collection
  • Change in project location
  • Interventions in the same communities
  • Relying on monitors
  • Limited access to project areas
  • Most projects are in remote rural areas
  • Not able to interview the beneficiary some time
  • Large geographic spread of project
  • Short duration of funding


Steve Rolles, Transform UK – what’s been talked about today has focused on the local level. Is there any impact evaluation of regional impacts?

Dr Me: You always need to look at the regional level. If there is a balloon effect, where is it had, and what are the risk factors in moving it? Some elements may have a broader impact than local. An intervention on AD needs to redirect. You have a balloon effect on every policy you have – in cultivation, eradication, seizure.

Peace Corps Brooklyn – are you looking at other security focused interventions in AD, and how they intersect with other policies we use?

Dr Me: I’m not talking about only eradication. We need to measure the impact of everything, we are just starting here. We don’t do it at the bigger level, but we take into account external factors.

Brombacher: If there is still drug crop cultivation, AD is always blamed. If there are seizures, police are applauded. I hear this question quite often. How do you think we can measure the balloon effect? I appreciate your comment but I think we need to think about this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *