Alternative Crops Vital to Fighting World’s Drug Problem, Promoting Progress, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council

15 July 2014
ECOSOC/6644

Alternative Crops Vital to Fighting World’s Drug Problem, Promoting Progress, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council

15 July 2014
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6644
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2014 Substantive Session

43rd & 44th Meetings (AM & PM)


Alternative Crops Vital to Fighting World’s Drug Problem, Promoting Progress,


Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council

 


Organized crime and illicit criminal activity undermined essential institutions like the rule of law and delivery of education and health, the United Nations leading expert on drugs and crime told the Economic and Social Council today.


Opening a high-level panel discussion entitled “Sustainable development and the world drug problem:  challenges and opportunities”, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that drug cultivation hindered growth of legitimate economies and businesses.  Alternative development strategies promoted by UNODC had reduced cultivation, but farmers also needed infrastructure in order that the new crops they produced could be marketed and income generated.


Joining Mr. Fedotov in making opening statements were United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Economic and Social Council President Martin Sajdik.


On the panel were Khaled Abdel-Rahman Shamaa, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Norachit Sinhaseni, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations; Mary Chinery-Hesse, Commissioner, West Africa Commission on Drugs; Lochan Naidoo, President, International Narcotics Control Board, Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive-Director, UNODC; and Alberto Otárola Peñaranda, Executive Director of DEVIDA.


Mr. Ban agreed on the negative impact drugs and organized crime could have on people’s lives and on societies.  Drugs and crime were corrosive and harmed justice systems, State institutions and communities.


“That is why it is so important to help farmers choose alternative crops,” he said, stressing the need to stabilize markets and create decent jobs.  “When we take these measures, we do more than fight drugs and crime — we promote progress and peace.”


Panellists shared their experiences in addressing the drug problem from the State and regional level, as well as from within international institutions.


Mr. Shamaa said alternative development featured heavily in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation, which promoted an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.  In preparations for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, he had seen the link between sustainable development and the drug problem repeatedly raised.  There was also broad international agreement on the need to tackle the problem, even if differing views remained on how the issue should be integrated into the post-2015 development agenda.


Mr. Sinhanesi described Thailand’s efforts to apply supply side alternative development.  Crop substitution, allied with efforts to improve health care and education in rural communities were central to the strategy.  An enormous decline in opium cultivation had been recorded, from 17,920 hectares in the 1960s to an insignificant level in 2001.  Decreased opium cultivation was matched by increased income, showing the importance of efforts to address root causes, such as poverty.


Ms. Chinery-Hesse said Africa’s voice had been muted in the past, but its full participation had to be ensured during the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.  In the past, West Africa was known as a transit point, but consumption and production were now increasing.  She called on Governments to deal with that as a health issue, rather than putting extra pressure on their criminal justice systems.


The Economic and Social Council also took up several reports relating to social and human rights questions, with Mr. Naidoo presenting the International Narcotics Control Board’s Annual Report for 2013 and Mr. Shamaa introducing the report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its fifty-seventh session (document E/2014/28).  Vladimir Galuska, Chair of the twenty-third session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, introduced the report of the Commission on its twenty-third session (document E/2014/30) and Jay Karia presented the report of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute on behalf of the President of the Board of Trustees of the Institute.


During a discussion of social and human rights questions, Mexico’s delegate noted that it was crucial to properly prepare for the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs slated for 2016.  It must be inclusive and based on scientific evidence.  The involvement of the General Assembly President in preparatory work was vital as resolving the drug problem required concerted international action.


Her counterpart from the Russian Federation emphasized the threat posed by illicit production of narcotic drugs to international peace and security.  He was concerned particularly about the situation in Afghanistan, where international troops were withdrawing.


Following that discussion, Simona Petrova, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the “Annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2013” (document E/2014/69).


In an ensuing discussion, the representative of Cuba praised the Chief Executive Board’s work to promote coordination and coherence and to simplify institutional practices, saying that would increase administrative efficiency.  Action and initiatives that the Board undertook had to be aligned with the priorities of Member States.


The Council postponed action on 10 draft resolutions and six draft decisions contained within the recommendations of several reports because it did not have a quorum present.


The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 July, to take action on drafts and continue its coordination and management segment.


Panel Discussion


Oh Joon ( Republic of Korea), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the panel, “Sustainable development and the world drug problem: challenges and opportunities”.


Opening statements were made by Martin Sajdik ( Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, via video message, and also via video message by Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).


On the panel were Khaled Abdel-Rahman Shamaa, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Norachit Sinhaseni, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations; Mary Chinery-Hesse, Commissioner, West Africa Commission on Drugs; Lochan Naidoo, President, International Narcotics Control Board; Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive-Director, UNODC; and Alberto Otárola Peñaranda, Executive Director of DEVIDA.


Mr. SAJDIK, opening the panel, recalled that, in 2009, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs adopted the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.  The Declaration called on the Council to devote a session and to contribute to the preparations for the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.  He highlighted several key points to consider in the run-up to the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda and the 2016 special session.


First, he said, drug addiction was a health problem and many States had achieved significant success in reducing demand by adopting national drug strategies, including primary prevention, early intervention, treatment, care, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration measures, as well as steps aimed at minimizing the public health and social consequences of drug abuse.  Effective national drug control strategies must be further strengthened based on scientific evidence.  Second, alternative development was vital to counter the world drug problem as it drew together sustainable development and the challenge of illicit drugs and organized crime.  In that regard, the work of UNODC in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and many other places was commendable.


Third, he said, all relevant efforts must respect human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, solidarity, the rule of law and human rights.  Lastly, tackling the world drug problem required international cooperation.  Civil society, including the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and young people had an important role to play.  Cooperation between relevant United Nations bodies and entities were also essential.  “Throughout the world, illicit drugs and organized crime weaken democratic institutions, undermine peace and hinder sustainable development, particularly ongoing efforts to rid the world of poverty, conflict and inequality.”  That highlighted the need to deal with development and illicit drugs as a single holistic issue.


Mr. BAN said that delegates met today as the international community worked to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 — and shape a new long-term vision for sustainable development.  Illicit drugs and organized crime undermined people’s lives and devastated societies.  Drugs and crime corroded fragile countries.  They weakened criminal justice systems and other State institutions.  And they destroyed communities.  Development activities could address those concerns.


“That is why it is so important to help farmers choose alternative crops,” he said, stressing the need to stabilize markets and to create decent jobs.  “When we take these measures, we do more than fight drugs and crime — we promote progress and peace.”  Today’s discussion would help pave the way for success at the General Assembly’s Special Session on the World Drug Problem in 2016.  That would be a valuable opportunity for Member States to openly exchange ideas and lessons on what works in addressing the drug problem.


Mr. FEDOTOV said that organized crime and illicit criminal activity undermined essential institutions like the rule of law and delivery of education and health, including efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.  Drug cultivation hindered growth of legitimate economies and businesses and interfered with efforts to improve education and protect the environment.  The importance of alternative development had been stressed at the High-level Review of the Fifty-seventh Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March.


Alternative development strategies promoted by UNODC had reduced cultivation, and in Myanmar and Afghanistan it had loosened the grip of drug lords.  Equally important as providing farmers with alternative crops was the provision of infrastructure, so that the crops they produced could be sold and income generated.  He said that $32 million worth of alternative development had been delivered in Colombia, helping 136,000 families, and similar work was under way in Peru.


Mr. SHAMAA said replacing illicit crops with legal ones would help tackle hunger and promote sustainable development.  Alternative development had featured strongly in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation, which promoted an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.  The midterm review of progress in March had resulted in a ministerial statement reflecting a global commitment to tackling the problem.  In preparations for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, the link between sustainable development and the world drug problem was repeatedly raised.  States had differing views on integrating efforts to tackle the problem in the post-2015 development agenda, but broad support existed for a focus on practical, operational, field level work that supported Member States in fulfilling the goals of the Political Declaration.  The youth dimension had been stressed, as was the need to engage a broad range of stakeholders in efforts to address the problem and promote sustainable development.


Mr. SINHASENI shared Thailand’s experiences in tackling the drug problem through supply side alternative development strategies.  Lack of development and opportunities had promoted illicit drug cultivation and Thailand’s efforts had sought to address that.  In the 1960s, 17,920 hectares of opium was cultivated, but by 2001, UNODC considered Thai opium production to be insignificant.  Crop substitution was central, as were efforts to improve health care and education in rural communities.  As opium cultivation had decreased, incomes in the highlands had increased tenfold, showing the importance of sustainable development and addressing root causes, like poverty, to tackling the drug problem.  Thailand’s strategies had been applied in Myanmar, Aceh and Afghanistan.  His country advocated for alternative development internationally, having helped establish the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development, and called for including alternative development strategies in the post-2015 development agenda.


Ms. CHINERY-HESSE said that Africa’s voice had been muted in the past and the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs must ensure full participation of African stakeholders in all fora.  West Africa achieved fast economic growth.  In 2013, the West African Commission on Drugs had been established so that the drug problem did not disrupt that positive trend.  In the past, West Africa was known as a transit point.  But, consumption and production were now increasing.  The Committee’s June 2014 report, titled “Not Just in Transit”, reflected the changing landscape.  The Commission had worked with non-governmental organizations, regional entities and other partners.  Its work had been adequately plugged into international efforts.  There was a need to move from anecdotes to concrete evidence, as well to target those running the drug network rather than the “foot soldiers”.  Drug money could undermine development and derail democratic processes.  She said tackling the drug problem required a shift in thinking.  Rather than putting pressure on the criminal justice system, Governments must consider the problem as a health issue.  The United Republic of Tanzania initiated efforts to send drug users to hospitals rather than prison.


Mr. NAIDOO said that the International Narcotics Control Board was mandated to monitor and promote the three international drug control conventions.  The objective of the global drug control system was twofold — to ensure availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific use while preventing their diversion to illicit channels, trafficking and abuse.  As for alternative development, efforts had evolved from straightforward crop substitution to promoting rural development and provision of sustainable livelihoods for those growing illicit drugs.  The concept must expand to include urban societies.  Those efforts would only be viable they were implemented as part of a comprehensive national development programme that raised the economic and social well-being of the entire population.


Mr. LALE-DEMOZ described lessons he had learned supervising large-scale alternative development programmes with UNODC.  The viability and sustainability of programmes aimed at preventing, reducing or eliminating illicit crops had increased in proportion to the presence of sound drug control policies, a strong commitment to multisectoral social and economic rural development and the full participation of local farm communities in designing and implementing schemes.  Despite diverse realities seen in different countries, international standards like the 2009 Political Declaration and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development could apply.  Outlining successes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru and elsewhere, he described how reductions in illicit crop cultivation were possible if farm communities were empowered to meet broader development goals.  The strategies used to combat the world drug problem were valid for counteracting other forms of organized crime.


Mr. PEÑARANDA outlined results yielded by Peru’s alternative development efforts, including coca eradication efforts that had been heralded as a “historic breakthrough” by UNODC.  State policies to tackle drug production had been backed by a 300 per cent increase in the budget for implementing the national strategy.  Eradication had to be accompanied by alternative development if the strategy was to work.  Under the Government’s strategy, illegal crop producers were presented with alternative, sustainable development opportunities; the Government had extended the rule of law, with interdiction, prevention and treatment of drug use; and there was a cross-cutting commitment to linking international and national efforts.  In Monzon, a rapid change had occurred in the last three years.  The area had been considered impregnable because of the presence of subversive groups that impeded Government efforts to extend its authority and institutions, but the Government policy had seen a reduction in coca leaf cultivation from 7,000 hectares in 2011 to 227 hectares in 2014.


In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation noted the key role alternative development could play in addressing the world drug problem.  In Afghanistan, the largest producer of heroin, farmers needed alternative livelihoods following the withdrawal of the international forces.  He hoped that the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs would provide an opportunity to give a clear definition of alternative development.  Further, the drug issue should be included in the sustainable development goals.


The representative of Iran stressed that his country wished to strengthen cooperation with European countries.  About 4,000 Iranian soldiers had been killed in the fight against illicit drugs.


The representative of Cuba said tackling illicit drugs required a multidisciplinary approach based on shared but differentiated responsibility, taking into account different realities of States and respecting full sovereignty of each country.  She asked panellists what challenges lie in international cooperation and technical assistance.


The representative of Colombia noted that, with the support of UNODC, her country had implemented a programme on alternative development aimed at reducing coca crops.  The General Assembly Special Session would provide an opportunity for transparent evaluation of existing strategies and help find new ways to deal with the drug issue.  Her delegation, however, felt it was counterproductive to include drug control in the sustainable development goals.


The representative of China described how his country had stepped up its international cooperation efforts through bilateral and multilateral frameworks, most notably by providing funding and technical assistance to help poppy producers find alternative cultivation in the Golden Triangle area consisting of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.


The representative of Guatemala asked panellists if a strategy to find alternative livelihood in drug producing countries could be applied in transit countries, where trafficking was a primary source of income for a large portion of the population.


Mr. PEÑARANDA said that Peru had seen cocoa production replacing coca cultivation due to such schemes as supporting smallholder farmers, improving the soil and providing technical training.  The process of switching to alternative crops would be a success if products became competitive in markets.


Mr. LALE-DEMOZ highlighted challenges, including implementation of the international conventions, coordination of work between many stakeholders and engagement of civil society.  Alternative development could apply to transit countries, as well.


Mr. NAIDOO said profiling drug users could be an effective way to counter trafficking.  In high security risk areas, it was also vital to find crops that could grow quickly.  It all came down to consistent implementation of the global treaties.


Ms. CHINERY-HESSE stressed shared but differentiated responsibility because imperatives differed from place to place.  West Africa would carefully examine the question about alternative livelihood in transit countries posed by the delegate of Guatemala as the subregion was a transit point.


Mr. SHAMAA emphasized the need for a hybrid approach that took into account each country’s specificity while using existing regional and global regimes.  On the question of alternative livelihood to traffickers, careful consideration was necessary as it entailed implications on the criminal justice system.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.