A new report has warned that the so-called "war on drugs" is counterproductive and may harm the world's poorest and most marginalised groups.
The report, published by Christian Aid, says ill-conceived approaches of criminalisation and enforced eradication of illicit croplands destroy livelihoods and exacerbate human rights violations of already stigmatised and marginalised groups.
According to the report, some marginalised groups in countries like Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar, illicit drug economies are a means of survival and these groups often suffer from blind spots in development practice that fail to recognise this.
The report says while the criminalised nature of illicit economies exposes poor communities to high levels of violence, coercion and exploitation, they can also provide income, employment and protection amid violence, insecurity and poverty.
The report's authors say failing to consider the tackling of illicit drug crop economies as part of development, rather than simply a law enforcement issue, leads to missed opportunities for both development and peace-building.
Report co-author Karol Balfe said: "Illicit drug economies are sometimes the only way out for people who find themselves in desperate circumstances because they have been excluded from markets and unable to obtain state protection. There is no easy answer to this. But any potential solution by development actors must include the needs and views of those from marginalised territories for whom this is a daily reality.
"They are the real experts in resilience and survival. Peace agreements are more likely to build sustainable peace if they address marginalisation and exclusion, particularly in forgotten borderlands. They must provide people with secure land tenure, access to public services, and alternative economic opportunities to address the factors that attract poor subsistence farmers to illicit activities in the first place.
"We need a clearer, more rounded picture of how illicit economies really work, and the costs and benefits, before we can meaningfully explore ways in which drugs policy and development policy could be brought together in a complementary way to tackle these issues."