Alternative Development programmes, aimed at encouraging peasants to switch from growing illicit drugs-related crops, play an important role in UN drug control strategies. The record of success, however, is a questionable one. Decades of efforts to reduce global drug supply using a combination of developmental and repressive means, managed to shift production from one country to another, but have failed in terms of global impact. TNI argues for delinking alternative development from the threat of forced eradication and law enforcement and guaranteeing peasants the support required for a sustainable alternative future.

  • Alternative Development or Business as Usual?

    China’s Opium Substitution Policy in Burma and Laos
    TNI Drugs Policy Briefing Nr. 33
    November 2010

    The Chinese Government's opium substitution programmes in northern Burma and Laos have prompted a booming rubber industry, but the beneficiaries have been a small few with many others losing their lands as a result.

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    application-pdfChinese version (PDF)

  • An Assessment of the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Sustainable Alternative Development

    Key Determinant Factors for Opium Poppy Re-cultivation in Southeast Asia
    Tom Kramer
    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
    May 2010

    This study looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on alternative development initiatives in the Golden Triangle region, but also identifies the key determinants of opium poppy re-cultivation as well as possible solutions. Governments in the region have adopted national policies and strategies to counter the problem, however long-term political and financial commitment together with increased international support will be required to address the issue.

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  • Development First

    A More Humane and Promising Approach to Reducing Cultivation of Crops for Illicit Markets
    Coletta Youngers John Walsh
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
    March 2010

    Development First demonstrates why it is no coincidence that policies that worsen poverty and undermine governance cannot achieve their drug control aims. This report identifies ten lessons learned for promoting alternative livelihoods, based on decades of evidence in countries from Thailand and Burma to Afghanistan and the Andes. Among the lessons is that proper sequencing is crucial: development must come first. Also, development assistance should not be made contingent on the prior elimination of coca or poppy crops. As has been the case in Colombia, such policies deny aid to precisely those communities most dependent on growing crops for illicit markets and in greatest need of assistance.

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  • From Golden Triangle to Rubber Belt?

    The Future of Opium Bans in the Kokang and Wa Regions
    Tom Kramer
    TNI Drugs Policy Briefing Nr. 29
    July 2009

    In the Kokang and Wa regions in northern Burma opium bans have ended over a century of poppy cultivation. The bans have had dramatic consequences for local communities. They depended on opium as a cash crop, to buy food, clothing, and medicines.

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  • Alternative development should be unconditional

    Martin Jelsma
    Statement of the Transnational Institute
    Commission on Narcotic Drugs 52nd Session, High-level Segment
    Round Table D - 12 March 2009, 2.30-5.30 pm
    Countering illicit drug traffic and supply, and alternative development

    Martin Jelsma of TNI expressed the disappointment with the agreed texts on alternative development in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) dedicated to the 1998 UNGASS review. No consensus could be reached on the issue of drug control conditionality in development assistance, despite the outcomes of expert evaluations that recommended to "not make development assistance conditional on reductions in illicit drug crop cultivation”, and to "ensure that eradication is not undertaken until small-farmer households have adopted viable and sustainable livelihoods and that interventions are properly sequenced."

    He further referred to the outcomes of the first World Forum of farmers of coca, cannabis and opium poppy from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

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  • Withdrawal Symptoms in the Golden Triangle

    A Drugs Market in Disarray
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    January 2009

    Drug control agencies have called the significant decline in opium production in Southeast Asia over the past decade a 'success story'. The latest report of the Transnational Institute (TNI). based on in-depth research in the region, casts serious doubts on this claim noting that Southeast Asia suffers from a variety of 'withdrawal symptoms' that leave little reason for optimism.

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    application-pdfThe ATS Boom in Southeast Asia (PDF)
    application-pdf Conclusions and recommendations (PDF)
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  • Alternative Developments, Economic Interests and Paramilitaries in Uraba

    Moritz Tenthoff
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 27
    September 2008

    The following document analyses how the Forest Warden Families Programme and the Productive Projects of the Presidential Programme Against Illegal Crops in Colombia have been used to legalise paramilitary structures and implement mega agro-industrial projects in the Uraba Region.

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  • EU New position on Alternative Development

    Open-ended intergovernmental expert working group on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development
    Vienna, July 2-4, 2008

    The “Open-ended intergovernmental expert working group on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development” was one of the five working groups that were organised as part of the UNGASS review process. The working groups prepared for the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2009. The EU experts present at the meeting drafted a new text with the key points to be included in the conclusion of the working group, complementing the existing EU position on alternative development (CORDROGRUE 44, 18 May 2006). The two texts were combined in one document as a new EU position on alternative development. 

  • Broken promises and coca eradication in Peru

    Ricardo Soberón
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 11
    March 2005

    The forced crop eradication policy implemented by the Peruvian government over the past 25 years has failed. The official strategy has exacerbated social conflicts; contributed to various types of subversive violence; jeopardized local economies, also affecting the national economy; and destroyed forests as crops have become more scattered. Worst of all, it has not resolved any of the underlying causes of drug trafficking, such as poverty, marginalisation and government neglect.

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  • Cross Purposes

    Alternative Development and Conflict in Colombia
    Ricardo Vargas
    TNI Drugs and Conflict Debate Paper 7
    June 2003

    The anti-drug strategy in Colombia limits the establishment of the basic political conditions necessary to attain the socio-economic goals of alternative development in the midst of war. President Álvaro Uribe's strategy only serves to make the ground fertile for more violence and instability.

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