An opportunity lost

Guiding Principles on Alternative Development and the ICAD Conference in Lima Peru
Monday, November 19, 2012

At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held in Lima from 14 to 16 November, the Peruvian Government supported by the UNODC claimed that currently in Peru the surface planted with alternative development crops is superior to the amount of coca, used for the production of cocaine. Allegedly, the 80 thousand hectares with cocoa and coffee have successfully replaced an illicit economy, or prevented it to establish itself.

This fact, in itself questionable, should show the success of their model to counter the lack of development in the regions where coca is cultivated, and inspire the international community to invest more money into the development of these regions. The media reflected an unequivocal praise about the results of this model. In the words of the president of the Peruvian drugs agency DEVIDA, Carmen Masías: "We all need to commit to alternative development, because with it, the farmers can provide their children with a licit and dignified life, give them a future and present, without being subjected to drug trafficking."

There are many relevant facts DEVIDA did not share with the representatives of the international community present in Lima. The event which formally was meant “to improve the implementation of alternative development programs, and conclude with the drafting of a set of guiding principles” not only lacked the presence of experts and community representatives affected, but it ignored much of the input given at the first part of the ICAD process, a workshop organized by the Thai government in November 2011. The outcome of this workshop gave a good impulse to more effective and just crop control policies, improving the intimate relation between rural underdevelopment, illicit cultivation and conflict, something the global community agreed in the 2009 Political Declaration and Action Plan on International Cooperation Towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.

Unfortunately, Peru has not used this opportunity to take the policy debate to a higher level, but prefered to promote a model that has worked for some, but not for most. The Miracle of San Martin and similar experiences reveal just a small part of the realities of the Peruvian coca producing regions. There has been no debate in Lima, since the outcome was previously secured: the Ministerial Declaration was already forced to a consensus in Vienna in the past few weeks. No country is expected to reopen discussion on politically sensitive issues that were raised, negotiated down to compromises or deleted by diplomats in Vienna, such as traditional use, access to land and markets by small farmers, and the conditioning of participation in AD programs to prior eradication.

On 9 and 10 of November this document was subject to a critical analysis by a group of experts from Asia, Latin America and Europe, convened by the Observatory of Crops Declared Illicit (OCDI) based in Valencia, Spain. The group spent two days comparing the UN document that reflects the outcome of ICAD 1 with the draft Declaration of Lima, and reflected its opinion into a the Valencia Declaration on Alternative Development.

According to the group, of which TNI was part, the document conceptualizes alternative development still in a specific narrow view, with one clear stated aim: namely the elimination of illicit cultivation. This focus has proved to be ineffective, unjust and counterproductive in the past 40 years in many regions in the world. As the words of Carmen Masías reflect, the issue is reduced to a simplistic and ideological framework, where 'commitment' is the core, and peasant families to be blamed, while ignoring the complex nature of the problems surrounding illicit cultivation, and the need to broaden the focus towards integrated rural development policies.

Still, the final faith of the Guiding Principles will be decided in March 2013 at the CND in Vienna, where they should be approved. This could provide a new opportunity to question the ICAD outcome, and the process leading to it. Perhaps also the OAS/CICAD study, designed to evaluate the effectiveness of drug policy in the America’s that is currently in the making, could provide one such scenario, with a focus on the America’s. In one of its key documents on social inclusion existing concepts on alternative development are treated as well, gives valuable input to the pending debate.