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Looking back to look forward: outlook and options for drugs and development

27 May 2021│2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

In 2016, Drugs & (dis)order started its research in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar. At that time, in each country, political and policy processes of different kinds seemed to offer the chance of a transition from war to peace. We asked ourselves how such a transition – and the peace-building and development policies associated with it – might take into account the realities of how illicit drugs are embedded in conflict, livelihoods and trade in the borderlands of each country.

Fast forward four years. A global pandemic. A military coup in Myanmar. Conflict increasing in Afghanistan, and planned withdrawal of US troops. The Colombian government on the verge of resuming its ‘War on Drugs’ tactic of aerial spraying with glyphosate. In each country, these contextual turning points signal major changes not only in the policy landscape surrounding drugs issues, but also in the prospects for evidence-based policy on drugs and development.

At this event, our researchers share their viewpoints on the implications of current events unfolding in each country for policy concerning illicit drugs. These viewpoints are grounded in detailed analysis of the evolution of policy processes and actors at the nexus of drugs and development, captured in a set of three newly-published Working Papers.

Discussants spotlight comparisons and contrasts in drugs policy processes and outcomes between these three countries, asking why different patterns have happened, and what can be learned from them. They also reflect on the where entry points might lie for research to influence policy around drugs in the rapidly-changing configurations of conflict and drugs policy in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar.


  • Adam Pain (Visiting Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Orzala Nemat (Director, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit)
  • Diana Machuca (Political Scientist, Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
  • Frances Thomson (Collaborative Researcher, SOAS University of London)
  • Patrick Meehan (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SOAS University of London)


  • Jonathan Goodhand (Professor in Conflict and Development Studies, SOAS University of London)
  • Vanda Felbab-Brown (Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, the Brookings Institution)


  • Karen Brock (Policy Engagement and Research Uptake Coordinator, SOAS University of London)

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27 May 2021
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm




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