UNODC has placed greater focus on the role and impact of participation in alternative development in line with the Action Plan on International Cooperation and Eradication of Illicit Crops and on Alternative Development, endorsed by Member States at the twentieth special session of the General Assembly, in 1998.
As the 10-year period came to an end in 2008, the international community assessed the progress made in reaching the goals and targets set in 1998. At the fifty-first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2008, Member States reviewed progress made and discussed future steps. In March 2009, at the fifty-second session of the Commission, a high-level meeting adopted a the outcome document of the 10-year assessment and considered further future action by the international community on the world drug problem.
As called for in the Action Plan, "participatory approaches that are based on dialogue and persuasion and that include the community as a whole" have been UNODC's favoured methodology and an indispensable instrument for sustainability. Encouraging the direct involvement and participation of farmer organizations, cooperatives and community-level committees has helped ensure that UNODC programme interventions and outcomes embody the aspirations of the local community and receive its active support and acceptance, particularly with respect to drug control objectives.
Opting for a participatory, community-based approach has been particularly relevant in areas characterized by limited government involvement. Community organizations play an important role in alternative development initiatives, not only as economic production units (e.g. cooperatives in Peru), but more importantly as influential social institutions (e.g. village development committees in the Lao People's Democratic Republic). In addition to the obvious financial benefits provided by economies of scale, gaining market power and access to services and lowering production and delivery costs, these organizations can also function as a cohesive platform for social and political action and for influencing individual attitudes towards illicit drug crop cultivation and drug trafficking.