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UNODC Lao PDR briefs the international community on the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Opium Production and the Illicit Drug Situation

Mini dublin GroupVientiane, August 21 2009- A briefing session on the impact of the financial and economic crisis on opium production and other illicit drug situation in the Golden triangle was held at the Vientiane Novotel and was marked by the participation of key representatives of the diplomatic corps and the international community as well as the UN agencies. Dr. Tom Karmer, an expert and well known author on illicit drugs in the Golden Triangle and Afghanistan whose recent publications include "Neither War nor Peace", "From the Golden Triangle to the Rubber Belt" and "Withdrawal Symptoms in the Golden Triangle" has spent the last four weeks working with UNODC in Lao PDR with support of the Global Partnership on Alternative Development (GLO/I44 Project) to conduct an impact assessment of the global financial crisis on opium reduction and alternative development efforts in Lao PDR and Myanmar.

In his presentation, Dr. Kramer shed the light on the principle of Alternative Development with an integrated approach that addresses all key factors causing illicit crop production. The findings of the impact assessment were presented. He highlighted the risks in the local communities posed by the falling prices of licit cash crops while prices of common household commodities are on the rise. This directly affected the income and expenditure of the local farmers.

Lack of food security and of alternative sources of cash income, insufficient development assistance, unsustainable foreign investments in commercial plantations coupled with the increased pressure of the global drug market and the increasing price of opium are factors that make the situation of the ex-opium farmers a volatile one. Many are at risk of reverting to the cultivation of the illicit crop.

Having officially reduced opium poppy to insignificant levels as of 2006, the Government of the Lao PDR in cooperation with UNODC has developed the National Drug Control Master Plan, a five-year comprehensive strategy to ensure the sustainability of opium elimination and to address the emergence of new drugs trends in Laos.

The importance of timely action in order to sustain the recent successes in illicit crop elimination was emphasized in the discussions that followed the presentation.

The current global financial crisis and economic recession, although initially thought not to have a significant impact on rural community development and poverty reduction, has been found a major factor in putting further strains on the already difficult situation of the ex-poppy farmers who are facing with declining availability of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), lack of access to land and micro credit, lack of technology and lack of communication and transportation infrastructure. The impact assessment revealed the critical needs for food security and sustainable livelihood for the former opium farmers to prevent recultivation of opium poppy in the Golden Triangle.

The Government of Lao PDR in partnership with UNODC and the international community has developed 2 priority programmes on sustainable livelihood and alternative development for the strategic target areas in-line with the National Drug Control Master Plan, that cover the northern former opium growing communities in Phongsaly, Oudomxay, Houaphan, Borkeo, Luang Namtha and Xiengkhouang provinces.