Alternative Development on the border of Iran and Afghanistan


Afghanistan ist der größte Opiatproduzent der Welt; laut UNODC...

According to UNODC, in 2016 Afghanistan was responsible for around 87 % of the global poppy cultivation, which makes it the biggest opiate producer in the world. Its neighbouring country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is the first of many transit countries on the Balkan route – the main trafficking route for opiates to West and Central Europe. According to the Iranian authorities round 2.8 million people consumed drugs in 2016, which equals 3.5 % of the overall population of 80 million.

In this context, the UNODC office in Iran conducted a study called Feasibility study for proposed alternative development of sustainable livelihood model, financed by the German Foreign Office. In September this year, the study was presented and discussed at a conference on alternative development in the borderland of Iran and Afghanistan, organized by the Iranian drug control authority, UNODC and the German Foreign Office. During this occasion, GPDPD presented the approach of alternative development of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and its extensive and long-term experience in the respective field.

The presented study suggests that mostly developmental deficits – such as marginalization and poverty –underlie the illegal drug economy in the borderland of Iran and Afghanistan. The lack of access to food and health care, little employment prospects in the legal economy, widespread corruption and active recruitment of young men by structures of organized crime lead to the participation of local communities in organized drug trafficking.

Previous projects aiming at creating alternative income sources in the region were mostly unsuccessful. This is mainly due to the projects’ characteristics – short-termed, with lack of systematic planning and a strong focus on hierarchical operated and formalized processes. Therefore, the BMZ approach was very well received. In contrast to former strategies, it focuses on a sustainable and long-term method in addressing the causes of illegal economies as well as on participation and ownership of the involved communities.

The participants of the conference agreed largely on the fact that the promotion of participatory and local projects with the goal of generating alternative livelihoods is essential for weakening the drug economy in the borderland. Furthermore, state funded mutual legal trade is perceived to play an equally important role.

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