In May 2018 GPDPD organized an exchange visit on alternative development in the peace process between Myanmar and Colombia. Both countries are in a process of ending decades of internal armed conflict closely linked to the illegal cultivation of coca and opium poppy.
Myanmar and Colombia are currently in a process of ending decades of internal armed conflict. In both countries, armed conflict is closely interlinked with the illegal cultivation of coca and opium poppy. In addition, the centres of civil wars in both Myanmar and Colombia are concentrated in rural regions.
Against this background, GPDPD organised an exchange of experiences on Alternative Development (AD) in the peace process in May 2018. Eleven representatives of the Myanmar government and of civil society organisations travelled to Colombia. The training was conducted in cooperation with the GPDPD implementation partner Transnational Institute (TNI).
In order to address the problem of drug cultivation, Colombia has been taking AD measures for many years, adopting an integrated approach that also aims at forest, environment, and climate protection. The political basis is the implementation of Chapter 4 of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former FARC guerrilla. The measures include the formalisation of land rights to replace drug cultivation and a one-year transitional payment, as well as technical support for the establishment of legal livelihoods for former coca farmers.
A governmental AD pilot project has also been underway in Shan State, Myanmar, since the beginning of 2017. With more than 50,000 hectares, the region is one of the main opium poppy cultivation areas in Myanmar. The biggest challenges there include poverty and lack of health care, education and infrastructure, such as road networks and telecommunications. The government is tackling the problem by the introduction of a new national drug strategy only this year.
The Myanmar delegates have now benefited from Colombia's experience and gained insights into the Colombian government's sustainable, development and community-based measures. These insights will be incorporated into the reform process of current drug policy legislation in Myanmar, which has been underway for several years. Further training visits for delegates from Colombia and Myanmar are planned for the current year.