The 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) will see a strong lobby in support of development oriented responses to the problem of drug supply, including from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The promotion of Alternative Development (AD) programmes that provide legal, non-drug related economic opportunities for drug crop cultivators reflects the limited success of enforcement responses, greater awareness of the development dimensions of cultivation activities and the importance of drugs and development agencies working co-operatively in drug environments.

Evidence from thirty years of AD programming demonstrates limited success in supply reduction and that poorly monitored and weakly evaluated programmes cause more harm than good; there has been little uptake of best practice approaches, cultivators rarely benefit from AD programmes, the concept of AD is contested and there is no shared understanding of ‘development’.

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