The future of alternative development

Organized by the Governments of Austria, Colombia, Germany, Peru and Thailand, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Sustainable Livelihoods Unit, and Research and Trend Analysis Branch, the European Union, and the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage.

AUSTRIA: [opening remarks and gratitudes] The future of the international community lays within sustainable development. This is our blueprint to achieve a better future for all. It has been due time for UNODC and the CND to put adequate focus on the nexus between drug control and development cooperation. We must think out of the box. It may seem that drug policies at the international drug control system are not directly addressing such ambitions goals (SDG) like poverty (1) and zero hunger (2) but indirectly we have to think about effective, scientific evidence based and human rights drug policies contributing to bringing us closer to achieving those goals. Austria and EU MS discussed the promotion of alternative development as a standard policy measure of the common EU drug policy. This underscores the strong commitment of the EU in implementing chapter 7 of the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document [OD]. Austria is very satisfied with the recently published UN system common position on supporting the implementation of the international drug control policy through effective interagency cooperation and among other the importance of alternative development (AD).

UNODC/ MIWA KATO: MS have repeatedly reiterated that AD oriented drug control policy plays an important part in both normative and technical assistance strategies. MS have also reaffirmed that AD is firmly anchored within the international drug control conventions. Development oriented drug control policies and programmes also have much to offer in the context of our collective efforts to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda. It is wonderful to have our partner countries as UNODC, Colombia, Thailand, Germany, Peru where we are in various discussions are looking at the livelihood aspect of the drug debate. The question of AD is lingering the minds of many. As you will recall not too long ago the discussions centred around AD being at crossroads. We believe that AD cross that intersection and that the current issues facing AD squarely places them into a few areas: (1) on how best we can use our relevant expertise of so many decades on agriculture based development in illicit crop growing regions, (2) on how can we take some of the lessons learned or best practices on AD but utilised them to address the drug problems in urban context which is an increasing priority many countries face and (3) on how do we make AD an urban-context drug problem livelihood’s aspect which ties into the bigger trade issue because we see so many great activities under the name of AD that really needs to link into the commercial trade in a bigger scale so that it really becomes a sustainable livelihood. I wish to thank our partners for working hand in hand to refine our approach to AD and to make it an instrument not only to reduce illicit crop cultivation but to do so in a sustainable manner fostering peace whereby communities can live in dignity and prosper economically.

THAILAND: Thailand believes that AD is one of the most important instruments to tackle illicit drug problem in a sustainable manner recognising that poverty and lack of opportunities are among the main drivers of illicit drug crop cultivation. Thailand has promoted the implementation of AD by adopting his majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy along with the UN guiding principles on AD and the 2016UNGASS OD. Up to present Thailand has been actively sharing its best practices with the international community and driving forward international policy dialogues. Most recently Thailand in collaboration with UNODC, Germany, Peru and the Mae Fah Luang Foundation co-organised the expert group meeting on AD in Vienna, July 2018. AD removes the dependance on illicit crop cultivation as a form of livelihood by creating a wide range of livelihood options, income diversification and value addition activities. Market oriented approach is another key success; products must meet domestic and foreign market demands and be in compliance with manufacture standards in response to market needs, therefore the involvement of the private sector is crucial. AD should carry human centric indicators assessing people’s improving overall well-being including social, environmental and cultural aspects, not illicit crop production alone. Thailand believes that a long term people centred development oriented approach can address vulnerabilities and lack of opportunities in rural settings, however [this] needs to be adapted to include the geo-socioeconomic and cultural priorities of urban communities. AD must go hand in hand with law enforcement to help people get our of the circle of illicit activities, keep our communities out of the crime and create a culture of lawfulness were the rule of law is not only imposed by authorities but fostered by people on the ground.

COLOMBIA: AD and its measures aiming in strengthening the rule of law, help promoting the protection and security with the objective of guaranteeing a comprehensive approach in facing all the challenges that may be constituted by the possible links between illicit drug trafficking, corruption and the different types of organised crime and terrorism. Today we put an emphasis on telling you that Colombia is initiating the transformation of those territories most impacted by violence with a long term vision focused on the victim’s rights and supporting those who adhere to legality. We seek to modify the living conditions of those dedicated to illicit cultivation, implementing infrastructure projects and working on social development, public services, security and citizen coexistence. We are moving forward towards a comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable transformation of the territories as a basis for a development that promotes entrepreneurship and fairness. It is also important to encourage and support the marketing of alternative development products in order to boost legal economy. AD policies should contemplate elements of innovation and flexibility, they should be sustainable, inclusive, differential and focused on the territories. AD should count on the participation of the affected population or those who are under the risk of becoming such and they should be articulated. [Also] it is our obligation to include environmental protection as a model for AD and because of this we hope to continue working hand in hand for this purpose.

UNODC/ YURY FEDOTOV: Enabling sustainable livelihood away from illicit cultivation is widely recognised as a fundamental pillar of the global response to drug challenges. The drivers that are pushing farmers to engage in illegal crop cultivation are mainly poverty, food insecurity and access to land. To be successful AD must therefore go beyond just crop substitution and build broader policies addressing infrastructure, health, education, economic growth and social inclusion. Such comprehensive/integrated approaches to AD where outlined in the 2016UNGASS OD along with the 2009 Plan of Action providing solid foundation for effectively supporting sustainable licit livelihood. In our own experience in collaborating with our partners has made it clear that in order to be successful AD must be comprehensive, must be backed by political will and long term planning and needs to have sustainable funding. Access to markets and support for entrepreneurship are crucial. Evidence based policies encouraging south-south cooperation should be prioritised and interventions should promote and endure environmental conservation. Above all it is essential to gain the trust of the communities involved. Going forward, UNODC is as committed as ever to support integrated comprehensive AD and will continue to work together with EU and other partners in tackling the world drug problem.

GERMANY: Drug conventions serve one common goal: safeguarding human health and wellbeing. This sight should be present when disgusting future drug policies. Germany remains committed to supply reduction however drug policy must not be reduced to this one principle. At the same time therefore Germany has committed to an approach that is people centred, health and development oriented as well as designed for the long term. This implies 2 central messages: 1) drug dependance; when we look at the users [their use] must be understood as a disease and 2) drug cultivation: when we look at the origin of the drugs, this must be understood as a development problem. Diseases and development challenges cannot be successfully addressed when bans and law enforcement alone. Instead modern drug policy must integrate various measures available. The respect for human rights it’s a precondition for balanced health and people centred drug policy. 2016UNGASS OD reference to AD serves as a motivation and an obligation at the same time to embrace AD and support the commitment of others in the field. Actually, drug policy is also development policy and the SDGs abundantly prove this. Germany has been working hard to strengthen development cooperation in European and global drug policy. A milestone of these efforts are the Conclusions of the Council of the EU on AD; the federal government adopted this instrument in 2018. Germany is not expecting any reduction in illicit cultivation any time soon. After all we know this is driven by many factors: these include poverty, such of perspectives, no access to resources and markets as well as armed conflicts. It is these root causes that we must address. Time and time we know that many cliches, prejudice and half-truths regarding AD still persist so let us debunk them by showcasing examples of actual practice on the ground. In pursuing the global partnership on AD we break new ground. The global partnership allows the exchange [best practices] between drug cultivating countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe allowing us to learn from one another. Germany has decided to extent the programme until 2020.

EUROPEAN UNION / CHRISTIAN LEFFLER: Without the creation of alternative sources of income, alternative activities or alternative livelihoods any intervention to address illicit crop cultivation -we believe- is condemned to fail. The EU and its MS puts AD clearly and firmly at the centre of our international drug policy agenda. One of the objectives of the 2013-2020 EU Drug Strategy has been to further strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the EU and other countries and international organisations on drug issues. The 2017-2020 European action plan on drugs outline specific actions to reach this objective. Among these specific actions is ensuring that the policy priorities and the balance between demand and supply reduction are well reflected in the options and the way forward on our external assistance through projects involving notably AD measures. The specific actions also include promoting and implementing the EU approach to the AD in cooperation with various countries around the world. Our political support to these actions notably translated into the adoption, last year, by the Council of Ministers of the EU central conclusions on AD which now serve as the guiding framework for taking further action in this area. These conclusions encapsulate the EU perspective on AD. In particular, the MS emphasise that we consider AD as an important strategy to address the underlying root causes of illicit drug economies, through an integrated approach to alternative and rural development. This approach combines efforts of rural development, alleviation of poverty, promoting access to land and land rights, protection of the environment, work to counter climate change, and equally important to promotion of rule of law, security, and good governance in full respects of human rights obligations and commitments to gender equality. Furthermore, in these Council conclusions the EU and its MS emphasise the key principles, which we believe alternative development should be based. In particular, programmes need to be non conditional and non discriminatory. If eradication is scheduled it needs to be properly sequenced as to forced eradication, It should be pursued only when ground conditions ensure that small scale farmers have had access to alternative livelihoods for a sufficient period of time. AD programmes also need to be based on realistic Rural Development related objectives and indicators for success ensuring ownership, amongst the target communities. Finally, the EU and its MS reiterate in these conclusions that alternative development programmes should support local development, while considering interaction with other factors such as human security, governance, prevention of violence, development of human rights, health, education, and food security. Without conviction that if we do not seek to address those different goals in an integrated manner, we are doomed to fail in the specific targeted actions.

The EU notably seeks to contribute to addressing the wider root causes of the cultivation of illicit drugs. An emphasis being placed on increased access to land with agricultural production purposes, alternative income generation for rural populations, as well as better opportunities for them. The EU bilateral engagement with specific Latin American countries is complimented through regional programmes. Notably the COPOLAD programme which is now in its second generation and aims at improving the coherence balance and impact of drug policies in Latin America and the Caribbean, including in the three countries that I mentioned. Related activities also include the exchange of best practices and technical expertise as well as peer to peer learning processes. AD being part of this is also promoted through the framework of EU select coordination and the coordination and cooperation mechanism on drugs and we have in the EU select framework.

A key factor in ensuring success of AD has proven to be the commitment of the authorities of countries facing illicit crop challenges. Central authorities have an important role in bringing scale to local success and in avoiding that illicit crops end up being simply moved from one part of the country to another. It’s also important to ensure that AD programmes contribute to the strengthening of relevant government institutions at national, regional, and local level. In that respect, the need to involve local communities and relevant organisations is imperative, including working with producers or associations in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of AD programmes, while promoting through them also community cohesion. [These programmes] need to rely equally on partnerships and innovative cooperation and initiatives with the private sector, working equally with civil society, and where appropriate, with international financial institutions. For AD efforts to be successful is also key to ensure that small scale farmers have access to markets for their products. In order to contribute to increasing this access the EU is applying since 2005 the so called additional generalised scheme of preferences -what we call GSPplus- to the countries concerned. The scheme allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU, given them vital access to EU markets and contributing to their growth. This scheme offers preferential conditions for inputs of agricultural product into the EU, including from countries exposed to the challenges of illicit crop productions. It enhances the opportunity for more viable prices of legal agricultural products and we hope may therefore benefit the affected communities, even in a very short time perspective.

Looking ahead, we will need to reflect on the possible geographical expansion of our AD programmes. In that context, it will be particularly important to take into account local and regional circumstances. Similarly, we will need to adapt the scope of AD to new challenges. The EU and its MS were delighted to see that the UNGASS OD broaden the scope of the AD, notably to include drug trafficking in urban drugs markers, as potential fields of development oriented drugs policy interventions. This broadening was particularly timely, as we are facing a surge of synthetic drugs produced mainly in urban environments. However, it is urgent to invest in further research and debate in order to effectively start applying AD models to these new challenges.

As a conclusion I ll mention two points: (1) building on our efforts so far the ultimate objective of the EU will remain the promotion and implementation of the Council conclusions I mentioned and the relevant international recommendations on AD. The latter, notably stem from the UN guiding principles, relevant resolutions of the CND and the 2016 UNGASS OD. (2) in regards to the SDGs, we will continue to promote a better alignment of EU’s efforts and our collective efforts on drug control systems including AD strategies with the SDGs. In particular AD and sustainable development in the field of poverty reduction, food security, climate change, environment, life on land, peace and justice are areas which needs to and will remain inextricably intertwined.

PERU: In recent years we have an increase in the numbers of potential coca consumers. EU and US market demand has also intensified. We observe an increase in coca production with new areas added [bordering with Colombia]. Our national strategy is focused of course in reducing demand and supply but of course is also on AD in agreement with the 2009 Plan of Action. Since 2013 we managed a 16-hectare decrease in a coca production area at the Northeast. Now [this area] is producing coffee and cacao. As it has already been discussed, AD has to be integrated and comprehensive in order to tackle the social gap, the economical gaps and those in infrastructure. In addition private sector needs to be included with further investments. One clarification. The problem is not on the production of coca leaves [by communities in a small scale]. The problem arrives with the production of cocaine and trafficking and with that [comes] human trafficking, prostitution, child [exploitation], money laundering, arm trafficking, etc. The problem is complex so it is important to note the security-aspect of the AD strategy. [In that context] is quite difficult for the population, for the communities, for the peasants to work in an environment of insecurity and crime. Therefore apart from the social and economic angle we need to consider the security aspects [of AD programmes]. We are also in need of the international assistance, not only financially but also technical and a sustainable access to markets.

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