by Eurad

A summary of the recent Alternative Development Conference which took part in Thailand in November.

As part of the preparations for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy (UNGASS) which will take place in New York in April 2016, ACTIS and EURAD recently took part in an international conference in Thailand. The conference (ICAD 2) had the objective of assessing alternative development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda and to make initial preparations on the thematic priority area of Alternative Development, in the run-up to April’s important UNGASS event in New York.

Actis and EURAD representative Fay Watson took place in both the conference in Bangkok as well as the fieldwork component which involved visiting development projects in the Golden Triangle region, to view how development programmes had helped the rural poor move away from Opium cultivation to more sustainable products. The group visited the Doi Tung Development Project near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, which was once at the heart of the Golden Triangle and where over 11,000 villagers are now involved in sustainable agriculture, as well as similar development projects near Chiang Rai and Myanmar.

During the course of the fieldwork and conference, participants were able to identify crucial success criteria for alternative development projects, such as ensuring access to citizenship, access to credit, local infrastructure and community ownership of programmes. Participants were also reflecting on the high level of political will that Alternative Development programmes are seeing at the moment, on the back of some well documented success stories. However, unfortunately that political will is not enough as international funding for alternative development programmes has decreased dramatically by 51% since 2009, as presented by the UNODC during the conference.

In terms of outcomes from the conference, delegates prepared feedback into both March’s Commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna and the UNGASS event itself, which will be held in April in New York.

Fay Watson, Secretary General of EURAD and Representative of Actis noted that “There is a clear need to start to see alternative development not just as a form of crop substitution and something that happens on the other side of the world but as a vital drug use prevention tool. Here in Europe we are funding many international development programmes and so we have an important role in ensuring that those programmes tackle some of the most challenging drug production environments”.

The main conclusions of the conference were:

  • The need to mainstream Alternative Development into national development plans
  • Involve all levels of government
  • Need strong political will and long term financial commitment from central governments
  • Alternative Development programmes need to be people centred and needs based
  • Need to link Alternative Development with environmental sustainability (i.e. reforestation, land use planning )
  • Cannot be considered development on its own – security, governance and rule of law are needed to provide the environment for AD programmes
  • Peace and stability and trust are at the core of AD programmes (the communities need to be able to trust the governments)
  • Need to foster environment where local communities are empowered to take ownership of AD programmes
  • There needs to be a strong connection between AD programmes and markets (products need to be competitive and marketable)
  • Efforts are needed to enhance local, regional, sub-regional and international initiatives together with the political will
  • There needs to be flexible and long-term funding and this should work alongside Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives
  • Further forums need to be provided to share best practice between countries
  • Need to address the discrepancy between political will and funding
  • Support the development of co-operatives for farmers
  • Address land ownership issues
  • Enable diversification of income generation (not just base product but value added along the supply chain)

A paper from the ICAD2 was submitted to the Reconvened Session of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs in December 2015 and a complete report will be available to the Commission of Narcotic Drugs in March 2016. A further report will be submitted to the UNGASS Board.

To learn more, you can download a copy of EURAD’s new publication, “Alternative Development: Providing Viable Alternatives To Illicit Drug Production“.

Photographs from the fieldwork and conference can be found here.

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