Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here today to promote inclusive alternative development strategies.
I want to thank the representatives of the drug agencies of Germany, Peru, and Thailand for their continued commitment to providing sustainable livelihoods for farmers in Southeast Asia.
I am especially pleased that today’s discussions presented the results of last year’s 7th expert group meeting held in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, which focused on the gender and ethnic dimensions of alternative development.
Such meetings are a vital platform for dialogue on advancing development-oriented drug control strategies that empower communities, while ensuring that both men and women benefit equally.
The development-oriented approach is also reflected in the resolution being discussed this year at the CND, which places the protection of the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples at the center of alternative development efforts.
If this resolution is agreed by the Commission, you can count on UNODC’s full and active support in its implementation.
UNODC’s World Drug Report 2022 showed that the illicit drug economy can have a detrimental environmental impact at the local and individual level.
Indigenous peoples are at particular risk when it comes to environmental harm, and they need our support.
With illicit crop cultivation often taking place in remote areas, it can damage fragile ecosystems, forest reserves and natural parks. We simply cannot afford to ignore this threat any longer.
Many of UNODC’s alternative development projects now incorporate environmental protection, providing incentives such as credit schemes, special protected areas, and payments for environmental services, to help offset some of this damage.
In place of illicit crops, we must plant the roots of a sustainable future.
This includes protecting future generations and young people who will suffer the greatest consequences of environmental degradation, and who are at great risk of drug-abuse.
Inclusive development provides them with an alternative path, one charted away from violence and towards opportunity.
Later this year, we will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development.
Alternative development has been a key ingredient in improving the lives of thousands of farming families in the Golden Triangle region, by helping them remove themselves from the cycle of poverty, conflict, and underdevelopment, and giving them the tools to pave their own sustainable path.
I witnessed this first-hand during my visit to Thailand last year, where I had the honour of meeting with farming communities and UNODC beneficiaries.
In Bangkok, I was proud to launch our new regional programme for Southeast Asia for 2022 to 2026. Through it, UNODC will expand its work in Lao PDR and Myanmar, the two remaining opium cultivation areas in the Golden Triangle.
Between 2014 and 2021, UNODC assisted over 4,000 opium farming families in the region, helping them move to sustainable economic alternatives and protect the environment.
UNODC’s alternative development support also continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with technical assistance amounting to 70 million dollars from 2020 to 2022 in Bolivia, Colombia, and Nigeria.
Our programmatic support has gone beyond crop or income substitution, by also addressing some of the root causes of local communities’ dependence on illicit economies.
But we cannot do this alone. We need partnerships, including with civil society and the private sector. Earlier this year, UNODC celebrated five years of cooperation with the Malongo coffee roaster, which exported over 300 tons of fair-trade coffee to Europe in 2022.
This collaboration has generated profitable and sustainable income for thousands of farming families in Bolivia, Myanmar and Lao PDR, and will soon be expanded to Colombia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With your experience and knowledge, we can give farmers an alternative path. This will serve the Sustainable Development Goals, by reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and promoting peaceful and inclusive communities.
By planting the seeds of inclusive alternative development, we can turn from poverty to long-term, sustainable prosperity, and ensure no one is left behind.