SOAS University of London

GCRF Drugs and (dis)order Research Project

GCRF Drugs and (dis)order: Building sustainable peacetime economies in the aftermath of war

‘GCRF Drugs and (dis)order: Building sustainable peacetime economies in the aftermath of war’ is a major new £7million research project led by Professor Jonathan Goodhand in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS University of London. It is funded by The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund.

The project asks: ‘How can war economies be transformed into peace economies in regions experiencing, or recovering, from armed conflict?’

Many of today’s armed conflicts are transnational civil wars, fuelled by war economies that are located in borderland regions. The project will focus on one of the principal commodities that drives war economies – illicit drugs.

Trillions of dollars have been spent on the ‘war on drugs’, but securitized approaches have manifestly failed. They often increase state fragility and adversely affect the health and livelihoods of communities and households in drug producing countries.

There is growing recognition of the need for drugs policies that are more pro-poor and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But the evidence base to support such policy reform is patchy, politicised and contested. How in practice can these fundamentally opposed policy fields – drugs and development – be reconciled?

In order to answer this question there is a need for more rigorous, empirically-grounded evidence,based on methodologically robust research, conducted by researchers from drug-affected countries.

This project aims to:

(1) Generate a robust evidence base on drug and illicit economies and their effects on armed conflict, state-society relations, public health and livelihoods. This will be done through comparative empirical research on borderland regions in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar, which together produce the vast majority of global illicit heroin and cocaine.

(2) Generate new practical approaches and policy reforms, that are based on improved understandings of the relationship between drugs, conflict and development and a knowledge of ‘what works’ in particular drugs affected contexts.

(3) Build a global network of researchers and research institutions from the UK, Afghanistan,Colombia and Myanmar. This project will focus on drugs, but will widen the field of study to incorporate other illicit economies. This agenda will be driven forward through the establishment of a Research Consortium for the Transformation of Illicit Economies by the end of the project.