Two United Nations agencies have joined forces today in an effort to wean poor rural communities off of their dependency on drug crop cultivation through initiatives spurring economic growth and sustainable development.
An agreement signed in Vienna between Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), will set up a partnership that promotes industrial development, job creation, drug control and crime prevention as vehicles for rural poverty alleviation and development around the world.
“I am confident that the first and ultimate beneficiaries of our joint work will be those living at the grass-root level, the poor rural communities that often find themselves dependent on the cultivation of drug crops,” stated Mr. Yumkella.
“We need to ensure that they are provided the tools to support their livelihoods, through capacity building activities and job opportunities,” he added, suggesting that Afghanistan, a country afflicted by the widespread cultivation of opium poppy from which the drug heroin is obtained, could host a joint UNODC-UNIDO pilot project.
The new agreement builds on a previous collaboration between the two agencies which sought to provide opium poppy growing communities in Laos with alternative livelihoods as well as rehabilitating opium addicts.
“The memorandum of understanding will help establish a strategic partnership in the spirit of One UN that supports sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in countries such as Afghanistan,” added Mr. Fedotov.
Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Thailand are among other counties that have already successfully implemented development-oriented drug control programmes. In the Andean countries, in particular, jobs have been created through forestry activities and vocational training, while food security and nutrition have also been enhanced.
In addition, the weaning of rural communities off of the cultivation of illicit drug crops has also resulted in the empowerment of women, who have set up their own businesses through micro-credit initiatives.
The new joint UN venture will focus on private sector development by placing special emphasis on micro-, small and medium enterprises, agro-business development and environmental management.