|Vienna, 11 March, 2002
Dear ladies and gentlemen:
Our Coalition, composed by
114 NGOs from 28 countries across the world, represents, among others,
millions of citizens who experience the day-to-day reality of the drug
problem, and failing drug control policies, in their own lives. We
propose policies that are based on public health, science, sustainable
development and human rights. With this letter, we wish to make some
recommendations related with the topic of Alternative Development, which
occupies a central place in the current meeting of the UN Commission on
The root cause of many of
the problems surrounding the production of and trade in drugs is the fact
that they are illegal. In our view, the global regime of drugs prohibition
urgently needs to be replaced with national or regional drug policies that
are primarily shaped from the perspective of public health and sustainable
Obviously, when prohibition
is replaced by more efficient ways of regulating the drugs market, this
may not be as profitable for small peasants and traders as the illegal
activities that we witness in the present situation. This underscores
the importance of Alternative Development, which should be a core ingredient
of any drug policy, and an important tool to accompany the transition towards
a more just and effective drugs policy.
Alternative development (AD)
should contain measures in the economic, political and social field, taken
in consensus with all the involved sectors, in order to diminish the dependence
on the cultivation of plants used in the production of illicit drugs by
small peasants in developing countries, safeguarding the licit and culturally
accepted use of these plants.
These measures are, of course,
incompatible with operations of forced eradication and with strategies
aiming at the destruction of crops. These approaches, aiming at the
complete elimination of drug-linked cultivation, such as the devastating
practices of aerial fumigations with chemical herbicides and the considered
use of biological agents for eradication, have an extremely negative impact
on the environment and human health.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
In the political declaration
of UNGASS, agreed upon in June of 1998, emphasis is put on the need to
establish political and financial long term commitment between donor and
recipient countries to a balanced approach of AD and law enforcement in
order to confront illicit cultivation. Four years later, neither
the AD programmes nor the operations of forced eradication have had a significant
impact on the production of drugs at global level. According to figures
of the UNDCP, the production of cannabis, coca leaves and opium has remained
stable in recent years. The only exception has been last year's dramatic
decrease of opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which, however, will not
be sustainable. On the main consumption markets, the wholesale and
retail prices have decreased while purity increases. This means that
there is no shortage on the market, and there rather exists a trend of
increasing drugs supply.
In the UNGASS declaration,
reference is also made to the need to establish a balance between measures
of supply and demand reduction. We conclude that the figures of the
main consuming countries (United States and Europe) demonstrate that demand
has not fallen. Here, there is also a slight tendency of increase.
It should be added that access
to data on the drugs market continues to be extremely difficult.
For example, the official figures that are published on illicit cultivation
are not reliable, and the various sources often contradict each other.
Their value for the debate about the effectiveness of policies is therefore
limited. We request more sincerity in the handling of these data
by national and international authorities.
The structural problems that
derive from poverty in the countries that produce coca leaves, opium poppies
and cannabis are determining factors for the increase of this cultivation;
consequently, AD should become a core element of national plans of integrated,
sustainable and concerted development in the corresponding countries.
In this sense we consider
that a philosophy of harm reduction could well be applied to the policies
towards drugs producing countries. In those European countries and
cities where harm reduction forms the basis of rational policies on the
drugs consumption side, the incompatibility with repressive focuses is
obvious and explicit.
Governments should not criminalize
small farmers. As in the approach of the reduction of harm for drug
abusers, they should try to provide conditions that allow farmers to diminish
their financial dependence on illicit crops. If that does not work,
farmers should not be killed, imprisoned or fumigated, but receive assistance
in order to continue in a way that reduces the damages for themselves and
society in general.
Our concrete recommendations
to improve AD programmes are:
Finally, it is important that
the international community establishes financing mechanisms that allow
the implementation of alternative development programmes and guarantee
access to the market for alternative products. However, we also recommend
improving the transparency in the use of funds for AD, the participation
of local farmers in the implementation of programmes and a greater coherence
of international economic and financial policies with the objective of
promoting Alternative Development.
Programmes should neither be
made conditional to a prior elimination of drug crop cultivation nor should
a reduction be enforced on small producers.*
In no case should the land be
fumigated with the result that nothing can be grown on the area attacked.
Research needs to be urgently carried out to make those areas which have
already been subject to biological and chemical attacks cultivatable again.
Programmes should be designed
through open spaces for dialogue with small producers without deadlines
nor 'zero option' philosophies.
Programmes should reduce the
harm done to environment resulting from illicit cultivation and the use
of chemical precursors in the manufacturing of drugs.
Options should be explored to
establish direct links among the reduction of harm on the supply and demand
side. For example, use of raw material produced by communities in
developing countries to supply the programmes of controlled distribution
of drugs in countries where their use is accepted (e.g. papaver somniferum
as the source of opiates for medical purposes such as analgesics).
Programmes should contribute
to a climate where illicit drugs are no longer demonised, and information
is available on their potential damages and benefits, on the basis of scientific
studies. One way of doing this is to allow the export of beneficial
coca leaf products to the international markets, through so-called 'Fair
We hope that these concerns
and recommendations are considered when you decide on future policies and
would be happy to further discuss the approaches described above, or to
provide further information on them.
International Coalition of
NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ICN)
* The first recommendation
is literally taken from the Declaration of Feldafing, edited by about 80
international experts in Alternative Development who were united by the
government of Germany and the UNDCP in a Conference in January 2002.
The other recommendations, we feel, largely coincide with the spirit of