Christian Aid is urging the international community to change the way it tackles illicit drugs trades across the world.
Its new report warns that vulnerable people in some of the world's poorest countries have little choice but to work in the illegal drugs trade because there is no other economic or social support.
The charity says there should be a peace and development approach to tackling drugs rather than simply a focus on law enforcement.
The report, published by Christian Aid as part of a Global Challenges Research Fund consortium alongside SOAS University of London, examined marginalised groups in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar where illicit drug economies are prominent.
It warns that 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 peacebuilding.
Dr Paul Quinn is Christian Aid's Head of From Violence to Peace.
He told Premier:
“We recognise that this is something that needs to be addressed urgently and that there aren't easy solutions. But the simple fact is that the War on Drugs isn't working.
“We want the international community to acknowledge that vulnerable communities in areas affected by violence have little choice but to engage with the illicit economy. In the absence of their basic rights being met, such as land access or access to credit or social protection, it was really unsurprising that they turned to illicit crop and cultivation in order to survive.
“This is a coping and survival strategy by some of the world's poorest people."
Christian Aid is urging the EU to end traditional counternarcotics measures and instead use indicators such as access to public services, poverty reduction, respect for human rights, human security, confidence in the state and access to meaningful employment.
Dr Quinn added:
“Christian Aid believes we need a new, alternative approach to drug policy that is linked to development, peacebuilding, the eradication of poverty and the rights of people most affected.
“Like other multilateral institutions, the EU does not have a unified approach to considering drugs and peace and instead the issue is still viewed through a security lens. To really help the most vulnerable around the world, the EU must show leadership and change.”