Events Geneva Peace Week Coverage

Drugs and (dis)Order: How do we Build Peace in Drug Affected Borderlands?

By Aditi Rajendra Joshi

The second event on the first day of Geneva Peace Week focused on the problems of drug affected borderlands with specific attention on the situation in Colombia, Afghanistan and Myanmar. The format of the event was as follows: Presentations by speakers, discussion among participants, sharing of reflections.

Jonathan Goodhand (Principal Investigator, SOAS) initiated the session by stating that drugs drive war economies that need a transformative change process to be turned into peace economies. He pointed out that drug economies are not inherently violent; violence stems from the security measures employed in these regions. He ended by putting forth the question of how drug policies can help achieve the SDGs.

Orzala Nemat (Director, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit) took the event forward by introducing the situation in Afghanistan. She said that the counter narcotics policies have treated the opium/poppy economy as a criminal and security issue. Afghanistan has stepped into a new phase post 2016. Before, there were two worlds: one of the policy makers and one of the people. Now, even though development is not just a law-and-order issue, the Afghani government is not in a position to deal with the narcotics problem. There is a lack of coherence between major policy actors and governmental branches.

Then Junior Alexander Cabrejo Maldonado (Peasant leader, human rights defender and youth activist, Catatumbo Peasant Association – ASCAMCAT) addressed the situation in Colombia. He talked about how illicit crop cultivation has become a means of survival for borderland communities because of neglect from the government which in turn also fuels the arms conflict in Colombia. He invoked the need to re-evaluate international policies on illicit drugs as a strategy for peacebuilding.

After him, Paul Quinn (Head of From Violence to Peace, Christian Aid) and Florence Foster (Representative for Peace and Disarmament, Quaker United Nations Office) presented their experiences with communities in drug affected borderlands. These regions are highly complex and the problems arising are different in each context, in fact, the ‘one size fits all’ approach will only provide wrong solutions. The process of peace building in drug affected borderlands needs to be centered around the dignity of people. The approach needs to be not just ‘human rights compliant’ but ‘human rights empowering’.

As soon as all speakers had finished their presentations, the participants were divided into breakout rooms with one of the speakers in each room. What took place after that was a rich exchange of ideas, understanding, perspectives, and experiences of students and professionals from different parts of the globe working in diverse fields.

The discussions ended with a plenary session in which idea boards with sticky notes from each discussion were shared and the discussions were summarised. Many fundamental issues came to the fore from this exchange. For instance:  Human problems cannot have technical solutions; The borderland communities must not be viewed as a threat, but at threat. Moreover, we should focus on the two main subjects of drug consumption and drug production as a means of livelihood; consider the role of political elites; and lastly,  include affected communities in dialogue.


Geneva Peace Week 2021 will be held between November 1st and 5th covering four thematic tracks: Creating a Climate for Collaboration, Moving beyond Securitization, Harnessing the Digital Sphere for Peace, and Confronting inequalities and advancing inclusion, peace, and SDG16. Find more information and registration links here.

1 comment on “Drugs and (dis)Order: How do we Build Peace in Drug Affected Borderlands?

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