Undermining development and security, fuelling conflict
The war on drugs is actively undermining development and security in many of the world's most fragile regions and states.
Drug traffickers can be more confident of a reliable, cheap supply of coca leaf, poppy or cannabis if government employees, honest politicians and armies can be kept at bay, and if farmers have few alternatives to drug production because they have little access to alternative sources of credit, and have to pay high prices to transport fertilizer or ship bulkier non-drug crops to market.
As a result, traffickers prefer it if there is little economic infrastructure or governance in producing and transit areas. So they target weak states through equipping private armies, financing or merging with separatist and insurgent groups, and simultaneously corrupting politicians, police, judiciary, armed forces and customs officers. Key examples include the internal armed conflicts in Colombia and Afghanistan.
Once an area is sufficiently destabilised, it deters investment by indigenous or external businesses and restricts the activities of international development NGOs and other bodies. It also diverts large amounts of valuable aid and other resources from health or development efforts into enforcement – often through the military, which can undermine accountability.
The same corrosive consequences for health, governance, public authority, and democracy are replicated as traffickers trans-ship heroin, cocaine and cannabis through the Caribbean, Central America, Central Asia and West Africa.
In short, the profitability of illegal drugs encourages traffickers to lock producing or transit areas into multi-dimensional underdevelopment.
– Jonathan Glennie, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and former head of Christian Aid in Colombia, 2010.
(Updated development briefing coming soon)