At NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Spring Session in Madeira, ICOS made a presentation during the “Drugs, Development and Security” session of the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimensions of Security.
ICOS’s presentation focused on the ways in which the current counter narcotics policies being applied in Afghanistan are at odds with NATO’s stabilisation mission in the country. Mr Emmanuel Reinert explained to the NATO Parliamentarians that it is impossible for NATO troops to win the hearts and minds of the local populations whilst those people are experiencing aggressive eradication policies neither designed nor implemented by NATO. Mr Reinert showed two short ICOS Film videos about the negative impact of poppy crop eradication in Afghanistan, and introduced the Council’s Poppy for Medicine Project as an alternative counter-narcotics project which would support the work of NATO in the country.
NATO Parliamentarians display active interest in ICOS’s Poppy for Medicine initiative
The presentations were followed by an interesting question and answer period during which several important Committee members expressed their support for ICOS’s recommendations to NATO and the Council’s Poppy for Medicine initiative.
Committee members stressed the need to learn from past counter-narcotics experiences, particularly those in Colombia, and urged UNODC to do more to support the security efforts in the southern part of the country. They noted that the last thing Afghanistan needs is a ‘Plan Colombia.’ A number of Committee members emphasised the need to increase Afghan farmers’ access to alternative development programmes, and several Parliamentarians asked about the possibility of subsidising new crops to help end farmers’ reliance on illegal poppy cultivation.
A number of detailed questions were raised about technical aspects of the Poppy for Medicine initiative. A question regarding the likelihood of the big pharmaceutical companies allowing Afghanistan to join the supply market provided the opportunity for Mr Reinert to explain that medicines produced through Afghan village-based Poppy for Medicine projects would be supplied to countries with un-met pain needs through a second tier system of supply, similar in spirit to existing two-tier systems such as the European Union banana trade regime with ACP countries.
Several Parliamentarians emphasised the need to link counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan with international initiatives such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and other drug addiction treatment policies. This allowed ICOS to introduce to the discussion the clear need for a public health focus in modern drug policies. In closing the session, Mr Reinert reiterated the importance of implementing pilot Poppy for Medicine projects to further investigate the capacity of innovative counter-narcotics policies to positively impact on NATO’s stabilisation and security mission in Afghanistan.
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