Home » Side event: Alignment and implementation – Evidence to develop sustainable and conflict-sensitive drug

Side event: Alignment and implementation – Evidence to develop sustainable and conflict-sensitive drug

Organized by the Government of Switzerland, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, Programme Development and Management Unit, and the London School of Economics Global Challenges Research Fund.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director, Division of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, UNODC (Chair): you might wonder what the title is about, it is the reality for many of us who work in drug policy because much of the illicit cultivation and trafficking does happen in places with weak enforcement and opportunities are abused by those committing illicit activities. Research is moving forward to explore how we can bring that closer together with the Sustainable Development Goals. We used to have a coffee programme in Myanmar, and we used a range of indicators including education and health, alongside our work on drug policies. But the question was often whether this approach was reducing the overall cultivation, and whether people are ready to give up cultivation. It’s a difficult discussion. We will hear from speakers today about how research and evidence can inform our discussions on this and how our drug policies can align with the SDGs. There is also discussion on the extent to which the UNODC is a development agency, we are not but we contribute to the development approaches. There are also many human rights issues. We are also involved in peace and security, as when I was working in Afghanistan together with agencies including the DPA. How do we ensure drug policies are complementary and conducive to conflict resolution approaches, and aligned with human rights and development. I now introduce John Collins from the LSE. I also thank the government of Switzerland for co-sponsoring this event.

John Collins, London School of Economics: I don’t have answers to the questions raised, my role is much more functional and I am here to present some evidence on these topics. My presentation doesn’t offer any answers, you might be disappointed, but it at least sparks some discussion on where this 4-year project can go, and we welcome inputs to ensure our research is relevant. Our project is focussed on transforming war economies into peace economies, and research on this topic is not possible without looking at drugs – it is necessary to understand the role of illicit economies. This research project is funded by the UK government, from the Global Challenges Research Fund, and focussed on Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar, it runs until 2022 with a budget of GBP7 million. Our partners include Alcis (a spatial imaging company), AREU, Christian Aid, Kachinland, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, LSE, OSDR, Positive Negative (working on animations), Shan Herald Agency of News, SOAS, among others. By 2030, 50% of the world’s poorest are estimated to live in fragile and conflict-afected states. Many of today’s armed conflicts are fueeled by illicit drug economies in borderland regions. Trillions of dollars have been spent on the ‘war on drugs’, but securitised approaches have manifestly failed. Often increase state fragility and adversely affect the health and livelihoods of communities and households. In light of these failures, recognition that drug policies need to be more pro-poor and aligned with the SDGs. But the evidence base for policy reform is patchy, politicised and contested. Our aims: Drugs and (dis)order aims to help transform debates, practices and policies relating to drugs and development in post-conflict states. To do this we will:
Generate a new evidence base on illicit drug economies and their effects on armed conflict, public health and livelihoods
Identify new approaches and policy solutions to build more inclusive development and sustainable livelihoods in drug-affected contexts. Build a global network that live beyond the project. The research is focussing on major drug-producing countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar). The geographical concentration of a problem with truly global dimensions. There will be four key research strands: histories and social transofrmations and the emergence of borderland drug economies, current trajectories and outcomes: mapping the contemporary drugs economy, health, livelihoods and vulnerabilities including access to harm reduction services, and organisational ethnographies and programmatic case studies.

Catalina Mahecha Cruz, Universidad de los Andes: The first thing that is important for a research to do is to give you a conceptual framework. One of the main things we want to look at is this conception of order. Our research Ana has been working on that, where her main thesis is that even in conflict there is order. Where there is order, we have to measure that. Space and time horizon of conflict actors and others in the community is measured, along with shifting the attention from violence to the actions of political actors. This shift is important because it informs our work in Colombia. ‘Rebelocracy’, a book written by Ana, is very interesting. It discusses the options available to civilians during conflict. We want to know the different paths we have if there are illicit economies and armed groups in the community. Taking into account that framework, we are looking at rebel governance and how communities have their own institutions and able to negotiate with conflict actors. We are looking at how do peace economies impact war to peace transitions? We have wartime dynamics, and we have a peace agreement with FARC, and then we have a big variation in Colombia. We have some municipalities and communities where there is engagement in production, trafficking, and some with no illicit drugs. We are looking at how transitions from wartime to demobilization to peace time interact with engagement in illicit economies. We look at citizen behaviour by measuring their political attitudes, and attitudes towards rule of law and democracy, and the cooperation between them. We also look at local governments, how the power and authority left by armed actors that ruled communities during the war are now ruled by other actors and the presence and extent of illicit crops. There are big variations between communities, so we compared two communities in one municipality and looked at the presence of non-state armed groups, and illicit economic activities. How to collect this data? Ana is an economist and a political scientist, she is an academic that can really see how to combine quantitative and qualitative data. So for ‘Rebelocracy’ she had been doing field research for 10 years, including longitudinal surveys amongst families to see how they change over time. So our research will also take this approach to see how communities changes before and after the peace agreement. It will also trace the effect of illicit drug production and trafficking on war to peace transitions, communities where paramilitary group (2002 – 2006) and FARC demobilized, and compare borderland and non-borderland communities. Looking at how political life is configured will help see the effects of illicit economies.
Deborah Alimi, Universite Paris I: Sorry Jean-Luc I don’t have any answers either. I am a political scientist and I am interested to see how policies happen on the ground. There is a growing body of evidence on the impact of illicit economies on conflict. There is evidence on the relationship between trafficking and development of conflict, and on how illicit economies undermine development objectives. As we hear that by 2030, 50% of the world’s poor will be affected by conflict, looking at this topic is important but it is also important to open up to other sectors and involve other actors. I’m just starting this research on how far the illicit drugs economy are considered a development issue, and if so, how can we define it and with whom can we do it. I’m looking at the different actors that might be involved in this agenda, and started to look at development actors operating in fragile and conflict settings, to see how they confront the constraints presented by illicit drug economies and how they may affect future programming. My research question is to what extent has the illicit drug economy become a part of the development equation? To do that, my methods involve looking at how the problem is framed and how the agenda is constructed, so I’m looking at program review documents and reports. I am focussing on the Sahel region. It is another dynamic where the problem is quite different and complex. My preliminary findings came from speaking with development actors in the field, and they include that there is raising awareness of the role of illicit drug economies, but the other issue is how they have been left out of the response to drugs which is led by law enforcement agencies. In fragile contexts where everything is a priority, how do you prioritise? Constraints around collaboration abound. How do we define a development approach to the problem? There is a lack of data, and this is where UNODC is helping to bring more understanding of what is happening at the local level. There is multiple analysis of what is happening in the field but there is limited use of joint analysis and no sharing of available information. On the process, when the strategy of intervention is defined, there is disconnect between teams and knowledge doesn’t necessarily flow well. When there is difficult access to the field, how do you define your strategy? A lot of development agencies rely on local partners and implementers, so there is a question of trust-building and partnership-building, and sharing the same vision of the response. There are rising opportunities, and some knowledge practices already exist along with tools to share such knowledge. There is a changing pattern on how fragility is understood at the global level and development actors are more focussed on helping communities deal with shock and risks. So there is new understanding on ‘resilience’ and prevention, adopting people-centred approach and adopting different dimensions of risk. The question is how do you go beyond the analytical step and transform it into programme and strategic planning. Here are the questions, how to duplicate existing efforts and merge information across and within agencies? How to make research such as this one available to the actors implementing policies, and how do you take better account of those surviving on illicit economies and the drug trade? How to map out the existing programme where drug issues appear but they are not really taken into account in the programmes? So there is a need for mapping and modelling of policies. Although there are some entry points, such as on awareness-raising and tools such as on resilience, how to connect the different actors and make cooperation happen more smoothly? The SDGs, especially 17 (on partnership), can help with this. Anja Korenbijk, UNODC: I’m going to present the research findings on the links between SDGs, drugs and conflict. But now that you have heard the earlier speakers on what is missing, and how we can work better together, we can now just look at what the UNODC has been doing on research. I will talk about our global work first, where UNODC has been mapping drug trafficking follows and conflict, along with high homicide rates and the UN peace missions. An overlap between there is obvious. At the local level, I will present on Afghanistan as we have a lot of information on it. It is quite clear that there is a connection between persons killed in terrorist attacks and drug cultivation levels. In a map from 2016 on areas under control of insurgent groups and areas under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, between 26 – 90% of the area might be controlled by the Taliban. What does it mean at the village level? Every year we do socio-economic surveys, and we ask village headmen about their level of security. In opium cultivation areas, the level of security perceived is much lower. The main mode for solving disputes was through government officials in non-cultivation areas, but this likelihood was much lower in cultivation areas where it was more likely resolved through anti-government organisations. However this latter mode is not perceived as effective by most research respondents. Opium poppy villages have less access to help through the organised community (Shura). We have also done a baseline study for alternative development projects for UNODC in Afghanistan, and got data from 16,000 households. The baseline survey findings included that half of the households were involved in drug cultivation. We also did a socio-economic survey that mapped the achievement of the SDGs in the poppy cultivation villages, it showed the largest gaps in SDG 3 (health), 4 (education) and 16 (rule of law, and government control). One particular poppy village showed higher cash income, despite having poorer development outcomes. The cash is used mostly for food (food security is a problem), medical expenses and paying debt. Other items included on house and property. Those in poppy villages need to pay taxes to those who control the area: the Taliban (32%), Insurgency (22%), and ‘the powerful’ (17%). We don’t really know who ‘the powerful’ are. We have to find programmes and policies that break this vicious cycle that opium poppy cultivators are in: weakening of the rule of law –> reduction in overall growth of the licit economy –> reduction of investment into licit sectors –> strengthening of organised crime and increasing violence –> rising illicit drug production. We need to work out how to break this vicious cycle by working with the researchers as well.

Question: this is the type of research we need, so this is just a compliment.

Question: in the US, I really see what it is like to be in a state where cannabis is legalised. There, black people have almost no chance to enter the market. If this happens in other jurisdictions, we also need to look at how we can include marginalised groups in these legal markets. My question is how we can help ensure this without them fearing legal consequences?

Deborah: that depends also on the model of legalisation adopted, eg. whether it is driven by the market or state. When the legal framework is designed, there is a need to take account of these marginalised groups. The reform needs to aim to take organised crime actors out of the market. Research on legalised markets so far have not shown that organised crime actors have been taken out of the market.

Catalina: I went to San Francisco, and I used to work with inmates and now they are free and talking about reparations. The companies are also talking about how the African-American populations can participate. But this group is also talking about memory, so we can support them in telling their stories and granting them reparations. Another issue in Colombia, where there is a law that invites the companies to buy at least 10% of the production from Colombian peasants. This helps the groups that have been left behind.

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