Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to open this exhibition celebrating 50 years of alternative development in Thailand and the work of the Royal Project Foundation. I am particularly pleased do so with His Excellency Privy Councillor General Kampanat Ruddit, Chairman of the Royal Project Foundation Executive Board, who is here as a representative of His Majesty the King of Thailand.
Royal Project Coffee is a powerful symbol of hope.
It stands for lifting generations of families out of poverty and breaking free from decades of opium poppy cultivation in Thailand, with the addiction, insecurity and corruption that comes with it.
Going from 100,000 hectares of opium poppy to under 100 hectares in 50 years shows that alternative development is a long-term yet sustainable approach requiring sustained attention and investment, and it really works.
Royal Project Coffee is the fruit of a pioneering project which combines several key ingredients of alternative development success.
The first factor is political will: very strong determination since the beginning to eradicate opium poppy cultivation and enable people to find licit incomes.
The second factor is a comprehensive approach. Alternative development is much more than switching from one crop to another. It requires creating products for which there is market demand, supporting entrepreneurship, involving civil society, empowering the disenfranchised and preserving the environment. And this is truly sustainable development.
The third factor is partnerships. UNODC is very proud to be your partner on this remarkable journey.
We have a long history of collaborating with, and learning from, the Royal Project Foundation.
Together, we have advanced alternative development to assist communities and farmers trapped by poverty in drug production, always keeping the needs of the people of Thailand front and centre.
We have also been promoting the outcomes and learnings of our alternative development work internationally, at major events like the CND, but particularly in the Mekong region.
For many years, UNODC has been helping countries establish and implement development-oriented drug policies. Working in partnership with organizations like the Royal Project Foundation, we have had significant impact, including through our growing number of programmes in Southeast Asia.
While opium poppy production is declining in Myanmar and in Lao PDR, Myanmar remains the second largest producer globally. UNODC is helping reduce production through dedicated alternative development programmes assisting farming communities and families in the north of both countries.
We have an agreement and a workplan in Myanmar where we draw the Royal Project in to advise on our programme to assist farmers to transition from opium to high value coffee. This programme is now assisting over 1100 farmers and their families in 55 villages, with the impact felt by many, many thousands beyond.
We also work closely together in Lao PDR assisting hundreds of farmers and their families, and the Royal Project contributes to our annual regional alternative development dialogue, including the most recent one in Luang Phrabang.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world still has a lot to learn from Thailand's alternative development success. UNODC and the Royal Project Foundation share this belief and will continue to develop their collaboration to help countries overcome the many challenges posed by opium poppy cultivation. I encourage Member States to support UNODC's alternative development projects, which require sustainable, long-term planning and funding.
In this Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, pursuing effective alternative development strategies is our chance to make a decisive contribution to peaceful, safe, prosperous and inclusive societies.