Drugs and development: the great disconnect

Research output: Book/ReportOther reportpeer-review


Key Points
• The 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem
(UNGASS) will see a strong lobby in support of development oriented responses to the problem
of drug supply, including from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
• The promotion of Alternative Development (AD) programmes that provide legal, non-drug
related economic opportunities for drug crop cultivators reflects the limited success of
enforcement responses, greater awareness of the development dimensions of cultivation
activities and the importance of drugs and development agencies working co-operatively in
drug environments.
• Evidence from thirty years of AD programming demonstrates limited success in supply
reduction and that poorly monitored and weakly evaluated programmes cause more harm
than good; there has been little uptake of best practice approaches, cultivators rarely benefit
from AD programmes, the concept of AD is contested and there is no shared understanding
of ‘development’.
• AD was popularised in the 1990s when development discourse emphasised participatory
approaches and human wellbeing. This is distinct from the development approaches of the
2000s, which have been ‘securitised’ in the aftermath of the Global War on Terror and which
re-legitimise military participation in AD.
• UNGASS 2016 provides an opportunity for critical scrutiny of AD and the constraints imposed
by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs on innovative, rights based and nationally
owned supply responses. Cultivation is a development not a crime and security issue.
Consideration must be given to a reconfiguration of institutional mandates, with supply and
cultivation control removed from the UNODC and brought into the remit of development
• Deliberation around the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals provides an entry point
for new approaches to drug issues in the Global South and an opportunity to reverse the
human, development and public health harms caused by current counter-narcotics policies.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSwansea
PublisherGlobal Drug Policy Observatory
Number of pages66
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • Political science
  • Engineering ethics


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