MAJOR AUSTRALIAN REPORT WARNS DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES NEED TO DO A LOT MORE TO HELP TO CHANGE ENVIRONMENTS WHERE DRUGS FLOURISH ….FIGURES SHOW UP TO 250 MILLION PEOPLE GLOBALLY CONSUME DRUGS WITH MORE THAN HALF LIVING IN OUR REGION.
PROFESSOR NICK CROFTS BLUNTLY WARNS THE WORLD IS BECOMING TRAPPED IN A VICIOUS CYCLE OF POOR DEVELOPMENT, DRUG PRODUCTION, CONFLICT AND INCREASED POVERTY.
PROFESSOR CROFTS WARNS DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES & DRUG CONTROL AGENCIES MUST LEARN TO LOOK WELL BEYOND THE UNREALSITIC GOAL OF STOPPING DRUGS AND INVEST IN SOLUTIONS THAT ADDRESS THE CLEAR SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FACTORS THAT ULTIMATELY FUEL DRUG CULTIVATION AND DRUG CONSUMPTION.
The Australian based author of a major new report looking at the issue of drugs and development warns the world is getting trapped in a vicious cycle and that we can no longer ignore the clear links between drugs, development and conflict.
Professor Nick Crofts warns that many development agencies need a far greater focus on their role and ability to help to change environments where drug economies flourish.
He also says that drug control agencies need to start to take a clear look at social and economic development and its potential positive impact in places where drug related activities are taking place.
The new report “Dependent on Development – the inter-relationships between illicit drugs and socio-economic development” was funded by the Open Society Institute and carried out by the Nosal Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Family Health International (FHI) branches in both Vietnam and India.
Recent United Nations statistics show it is now estimated close to 6% of the world’s population aged 15 to 64 consumes drugs. That equates to as many as 250 million people using drugs. Closer to home, more than half of the world’s heroin users live in Asia where it has become the dominant form of opiate consumption. Consumption is increasing particularly in countries surrounding Afghanistan which includes Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia. There is also increasing consumption in transit and consumer countries particularly Russia, India and parts of Africa. Similarly the Asian region has almost half of the people who use amphetamine type stimulants including methamphetamine and ecstasy.
Professor Crofts warns drug control agencies must learn to look well beyond the simple rhetoric and goal of stopping drugs and invest in solutions that address the clear social and economic factors that ultimately fuel drug cultivation and drug consumption.
The report highlights that opium production dramatically increased by 80% between 1998 and 2009; with injecting drug use now estimated to account for 10% of all HIV infections across the globe … and 30% of all HIV infections if sub-Saharan Africa is not included.
Professor Nick Crofts will launch the report out of Melbourne with a range of top experts including Professor Robert Ali, Chair of the Asia-Pacific Committee of the Australian National Council on Drugs. Both have extensive experience in advising international agencies and national governments on reducing HIV infections from drug use and increasing the availability of drug treatment.
Professor Nick Crofts said, “Without doubt one of the big issues now is that development aid is often wrongly targeted. Development agencies need to be far more aware and actively engaged in tackling the development problems created by drugs. We know as a fact that there are programs in countries in our region where development agencies are unwittingly funding programs that are leading to people being tortured under the guise of treatment or prevention. These are simply not programs that deal with people’s drug use issues. We also know the large investments that support efforts and to reduce or eradicate the supply of drugs, such as crop eradication, are often corrupted with little positive impact on local communities and the development of the economies.”
“Development agencies need to be taking a hard look at how a development project may actually influence drug production and trade. An increased focus on these factors and the impact on the already harmful discrimination against people with drug dependency problems would be welcome by many people on the ground working with communities on drug problems. In effect, development agencies and drug control agencies need to understand that until farmers who produce opium in Afghanistan have something better to aspire to, then nothing is likely to change. Poverty in Afghanistan has made poppy one of the three biggest crops despite a focus on wiping out opium.”
Professor Crofts highlighted that in Burma it is estimated that 73% of households now rely on income from opium to provide food, shelter, education and health for their families. He says “drug enforcement agencies are trying to wipe out opium in south-east Asia and have got it all ‘backwards’ –the whole point is that the lack of socio-economic development for Burma itself ends up making it vital for many Burmese people to actually produce opium. They don’t have much choice. The government and rebels are both dependent on the drug trade to fund their fight, so this is not a problem that will disappear overnight.”
“The world simply cannot continue to ignore the clear and intricate link between drugs, development and then conflict. Donor agencies need to become much more aware of the role they can play in changing these conditions.”
Professor Crofts also highlighted that the instability coming straight from poor socio-economic development is a huge catalyst for civil conflict, which is often funded by the drug trade.
Professor Robert Ali said, “The Asia-Pacific Committee of the ANCD is acutely aware of the links between development and drugs. This report clearly identifies the issues that development agencies and drug control agencies have to confront and address. The current review of the strategic and funding priorities of AusAID provides a real opportunity for Australia to take a leading role in the region by allocating sufficient development resources to address the problems associated with drugs. Directing our attention to this crucial link of drugs and development will allow Australian aid money to start to make sustainable inroads into the poverty, discrimination and violence that affects far too many communities, and disproportionately impacts on women, in our region,”
Professor Crofts added, “Ultimately this is a very vicious cycle. Poor development simply fuels conflict. That then fuels the drug trade. That fuels more conflict. That fuels poverty and the cycle goes round and round.”
Mr Gino Vumbaca, Executive Director of the ANCD added “this report highlights the need for all development agencies in the Region to ensure they address the impact of drug production and consumption on their current aid projects as well as developing new projects to reduce the harmful link of drugs on socio-economic development. It also highlights the critical importance of donor agencies working closer together to achieve a consistent approach on development goals with the relevant international agencies on drug issues, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Health Organisation and UNAIDS. Addressing drug use and some of its harmful consequences in a humane and evidence informed manner will have a profound impact on the development opportunities for many communities.”
The new report, which will be launched by the Nossal Institute, ANCD, Oxfam and Dr Richard di Natale who was elected to the federal parliament in 2010 and is the Greens first Victorian Senator, highlights a failure to acknowledge the connections between illicit drug production trade and socio-economic development is clearly hindering the effectiveness of both drug and development policies.
The report also says:
Poor social economic development clearly fuels illicit drug production.
Rural under development, conflict and economic crises are all factors contributing to the farming of illicit drug crops.
Evidence suggests that countries actively cultivating illicit drug crops (such as Afghanistan, Columbia, Morocco and Myanmar) are geographically and/or socially isolated, under developed with few economic opportunities and violent conflict is often present.
Conflict helps to facilitate illicit drug economies, which in turn sustain conflict.
Conditions that contribute to weak socio-economic development may create vulnerable environments for illicit drug use in both wealthy and less developed countries, including the US and the UK, where illicit drug use has been clearly linked to economically deprived urban settings.
The sheer volumes of money flowing from illicit drug economies encourage corruption – for instance in Mexico there have now been 28,000 drug related killings in just 4 years.
By adopting approaches to drugs that ultimately are ‘narrowly defined goals’, the report says these approaches weaken the economies of communities. The report says – for instance – in Afghanistan trying to wipe out poppy farmers destroys the livelihoods of poor farmers, who then start farming again from survival necessity.
The report highlights that human rights has become a forgotten victim. It says that eliminating families’ incomes without offering viable alternatives removes livelihood and dignity.
It says harsh law enforcement and militaristic approaches sometimes leads to physical abuse, pubic humiliation, sexual assault and killings with drug users in some countries being forced into so called “treatment” which is not even evidence based.
The report concludes the clear links between illicit drug economies and socio-economic development are very real and very complex.
It says illicit drug policies which only focus on reducing demand and supply through law enforcement often end up having an adverse impact on the development of the country, as well as violating human rights.
To read the full report please find it at: Drugs and Development
Media enquiries to: Media Key 03 9769 6488
“… until farmers who produce opium in Afghanistan have something better to aspire to, nothing is likely to change …”
“… drug enforcement agencies are trying to wipe out opium in south-east Asia and have got it all backwards – the whole point is that the lack of socio-economic development for Burma itself ends up making it vital for many Burmese people to actually produce opium.”