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close this bookIllicit Drugs and the Development Assistance Programme - Strategy Paper (DFID, 1999, 18 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSummary
View the documentBackground and purpose
View the documentLegal and policy basis
View the documentDrugs and poverty
Open this folder and view contentsThe response
View the documentEvaluation and performance measurement (bilateral activities)
View the documentCo-ordination within Whitehall
View the documentAnnex : The European Union's support for combating drugs

Drugs and poverty

6 Poverty is one of the root causes of the drugs problem in many developing countries. By tackling poverty and helping to develop legitimate livelihoods for poor people we can help to stem the international trade in drugs.

7 At the country level, the short-term financial and employment benefits (or apparent benefits) of the illicit drugs trade have tended to obscure the long-term negative effects on the economy and the adverse social, environmental, governance and health impacts. The illicit drugs trade can crowd out legitimate investment, shifting scarce resources towards high risk short-term investment including the labour and savings of already vulnerable groups. Labour productivity may be lowered, and the risk of AIDS increased. Deforestation and water pollution often occur. Emerging financial markets may be destabilised by money laundering activities, and fragile democracies damaged. In some countries, drugs are a significant source of finance for war lords, and therefore sustain armed conflicts. The security forces of some countries may have links with the drugs industry. All these effects are likely to have an adverse impact on the poor.

8 In general, drug crops are grown in remote, marginal, underdeveloped areas of poor countries, where government institutions are weak or absent. Poor people are attracted into the industry by the lack of alternatives. Drug crop farming often appears a more attractive option than legal alternatives to poor people living in remote areas with poor natural resources. Markets are too far away for farmers to use for the sale of licit crops. Typically, remote areas are neglected by governments, so have little in the way of public services (including education and health services) or infrastructure.

9 Turning to drug crop production does not, however, improve life for poor farmers. Their incomes tend to be unstable and are offset by insecurity, low levels of human development, environmental degradation and often violence. They receive a low proportion of the profits from the production and sale of drug crops. Commercial transactions associated with drug crop farming are increasingly made in kind (drugs), forcing farmers into the circuit of trafficking and consumption. Land often becomes degraded, in some cases because of the adverse environmental effect of the run-off of precursor chemicals used in drug manufacture. When governments try to eradicate drugs crops, (often done forcibly without the offer of alternative livelihoods), a climate of fear and insecurity develops. This can discourage investment in education, health, etc. Alcoholism and prostitution often flourish.

10 Drug crop farmers often suffer from human rights abuses. Government repression may be an explicit strategy, compounded by poor quality policing, crude eradication targets or police corruption. Production and trade in illicit drugs is often coercive and exploitative; drug traffickers, organised groups (such as coca unions) and terrorist groups may also commit human rights abuses. The absence of human rights institutions and accessible justice means that human rights abuses are neither recorded nor punished. Unpaid family and child labour is often used for drug crop farming and processing.

11 The drugs problem is not just a problem of the industrialised countries. Drug trafficking has grown in transit countries (e.g. the Caribbean). Routes are multiplying. Drug abuse is increasing in both producer and transit countries, where it is associated with urban poverty and violence. Poverty has become both a cause and a consequence of the drugs problem. Approaches to drugs control, therefore, must be part of a wider agenda for poverty reduction.