Special Side Event: Exchange beyond borders: Trilateral cooperation on alternative development between Thailand, Colombia and Germany

Yuri Fedotov, UNODC: (…) In order to succeed, we need to fulfil some preconditions. We need a strong political commitment, sustainable funding, patience and security conducive to a long-term process. UNODC is proud to support the Peace Process in Colombia. Largest bilateral programme in our history. Last month, I had the opportunity, in Bogota, to meet with Nobel Prize winner, President Santos. I saw some of the results in promoting alternative development in the Meta region, for instance; and seeing the change in the mindset of the growers. UNODC encourages alternative livelihoods with various programmes. We also support with conferences, expertise. In Myanmar, a Green Gold coffee label also pursues this goal. In Lao PDR, farmers also move from opium to coffee cultivation with UNODC assistance. In South East Asia, the Mekong (…). UNODC remains committed to supporting states in their engagement and dedication to alternative development, which can work for those in need. Our progress shows communities can thrive free of illicit drugs.

Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand: As many of you are aware, Thailand had a big problem of illicit opium crop cultivation. In the 1960s, the biggest grower. Our late King implemented efforts to improve the livelihoods of impoverished communities, which inspired long-term national development policies by the Thai government. The communities were able to stop growing opium, and Thailand was removed from the list of growing countries in 2003. The Thai government has been working with the Royal Project Foundation and the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to transform the livelihoods of marginalised communities in the highlands. We have shared expertise with Myanmar, Indonesia, Myanmar, Lao and Colombia. The Thai-German cooperation began in 1981. The Thai-German Highland Development Project. (…) We also worked together to prepare for UNGASS to move discussions forward. In 2016, under GPDPD, we have been working on technical support to partner countries. (…) Trilateral cooperation between German, Thailand and Colombia has proven fruitful for all. In the past years, we have engaged Colombia in different activities. For instance, a study mission to Colombia. 2 Colombian delegations have visited programmes in Thailand. High level meetings took place during the visit, between Eduardo Diaz Uribe and the Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs of Thailand, and the Thai ONCB, to discuss collaboration at the government level. The trips were not just site visits, but provided important opportunities to interact with people on the ground and share about programme implementation. Colombian delegates were inspired by the Thai context. It proves that countries that share common problems learn from one another. A similar study visit took place in Myanmar. Participants of the visit reflected key points on the UNDP’s on AD, on the importance of the document. AD needs to be looked at as part of longer-term development strategies. Focus not only on economic development, but on social development. Requires participation of the communities. Also important to highlight the role of marketing. We also have indicators to measure how the lives of people have improved. We will continue partnering with other countries on the matter.

Eduardo Díaz, Colombia: In August 2017, I participated of study visits in Thailand. I must confess that this has been one of the most enriching experiences in my professional career. I was impressed by the role of the private sector, and how with the public sector, alliances have been created to support progress. I was also impressed by the environmental aspect of the project: community projects to better handle soils and water sources, and alliances with companies, pioneering marketing strategies. What I found the most impressive was the comprehensiveness. The achievements in Thailand is a step forward in traditional forms of AD as I knew them. I asked my team to develop a report with the lessons. Drug control policies need to be anchored in all institutions coordinating actions. We are talking about transforming territories. Not just small alternative development projects. As I have said in the past side event, thanks to the Peace Agreement with the FACR, for first time in history we’re reaching places were mistrust and illicit crops grew. 123,000 families have expressed their will to be involved in the transformation of their territories. Thousands have concluded agreements already. These are families living in poverty. We are deploying initiatives in a comprehensive manner with all relevant departments, the private sector, international sector (…). The Programme has addressed historical demands, like the need for participation; they are now main players of the change they want to see. (…) These projects are being framed in a national development agenda led by several ministries. Highlighting the comprehensive nature of our strategy, I’d congratulate the Ministry of Defence, who works in seizures and interdiction; and the Vice President. Our law enforcement bodies are recording record numbers in blows against drug trafficking. It shows our commitment in fighting trafficking, cooperating with growers agains trafficking. Fighting the strongest links in the transnational business. From the control of production with a focus on development and human rights, Colombia is proving to be one of the states most committed to the tasks. Cooperation with community, fighting networks. The transition to peace will not be easy but I want to reiterate Colombia’s commitment to fight drug production, based in evidence, and in full compliance with human rights and the SDGs. This commitment incorporates our commitments in the Outcome Document of UNGASS 2016. Deepening the trilateral programme is of the utmost importance. I am sure Colombia has a lot to learn from Thailand, Morocco, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and others were poorest populations have suffered the scourge of drugs. I am convinced our experiences will also contribute and inform future efforts.

Ambassador, Germany: In 2017, Germany and Thailand commemorated 60 years of joining forces to foster development in the country in many fields. The successful highlands programme (81-98) made a meaningful contribution to addressing illicit drug crop cultivation. Based on our experience, we decided to join forces to give advice and support on implementing AD successfully. Colombia is also a longstanding partner of Germany. Bilateral cooperation has increased in the past year, in the context of UNGASS and the framework of the Peace Process. The role of development efforts in international drug policy has increased. Chapter 7 of UNGASS reflects increased interest by Member States on the issue. More and more, countries advance to incorporate development efforts to their drug policies. Historically, alternative development focused on North-South dialogue. While a few countries in South America and Asia used to implement drug policy, there was little exchange of learning. The trilateral exchange mitigates that gap. In 2013, GIZ was commissioned to implement GPDPD. Flaghsing programme to promote development in drug policy. Jointly implemented with the Mae Fah Luang foundation, the UNODC and (….), the IDPC and TNI. (…) Other countries have also benefited from our partnership. (…) The SDGs request member states to promote partnerships beyond traditional partnerships. Building partnerships with UNODC and civil society is the right way to continue. If the drug economy is globalised, our responses should be alike. I assure you of our commitment to continue our work with Thailand and Colombia and thank their efforts and spirit of partnership.


Matt Wilson, Global Drug Policy Program (OSF): When we look at the Thai model, we see quite different political positions. Support by his excellency, the King. Funding not just to farms, but also infrastructural assistance. In Colombia, the political condition seems different. What would it take to replicate this?
Eduardo Díaz (Colombia) – Answer: Colombia doesn’t have a King. Time is different. Resources are different. We are not copying models, though. We are learning and exchanging lessons. And some of these experiences are very useful to us. We also have a political determination to transform the communities in these territories. The experiences in Thailand will be of great inspiration. We are moving to action.
Deputy Prime Minister (Thailand) – Answer: Our late King used a philosophy of economic sufficiency to solve the problem of drugs in rural areas. It’s maybe difficult to replicate the situation. Some of the experience can be shared. It will require plenty of adaptation. Our experience is not a standard to fit all. (…) It’s worth noting also that this is not a short-term strategy. It will take probably more than 5 years.

Indonesia: You turned a drug war into a development programme. Who was the leading sector turning this war into regional development?
Deputy Prime Minister (Thailand) – Answer: It’s very difficult to control supply in the Golden Triangle. The Ministry of Defence and National Police, and Ministry of Interior, and Justice, and Healthcare, and Education, support and work together to advance these efforts. And also the private sector. And neighbours. And ASEAN countries.

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