Monday, March 10, 2008

The next ten year UN drug strategy could be the last under absolute prohibition

Transform's CND press release is copied below

UK drug charity: 'The next ten year UN drug strategy could be the last under absolute prohibition'

News release
No Embargo
Date: 10 March 2008

Transform Drug Policy Foundation, the UK's leading source of expertise on drug policy and law reform, in attendance at this week's UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, has highlighted the tensions and conflict within the UN drug enforcement structures. Growing international momentum for more flexibility in drug control policy means that the new 10-year UN drug strategy could be the last to strictly advocate the rigid failed prohibitionist doctrines of the last century.

Steve Rolles, speaking from the CND in Vienna, said:

“We are witnessing a crumbling in the consensus behind a dogmatic prohibitionist approach to drug control. The dramatic failures of global drug prohibition over the last ten years, during which time the problems associated with drug misuse and illicit production have worsened dramatically, demonstrate that the current punitive enforcement led approach to drug control cannot continue for another ten years. The costs of the policy are enormous, and there are no tangible benefits, just further costs in terms of increased drug harms and a violent destabilising illicit trade worth over £300 billion a year. The 'drug free world' called for in 1997 has proved elusive, not to say, absurd.

The UN drug conventions that enshrine prohibition into domestic law across the world were drafted in a different era - some of the 1961 convention was drafted in the 1940s - when the problems we faced were entirely different. The strictures they place on country level policy making, ruling out entire swathes of policy options, are no longer appropriate or relevant in the modern world facing entirely new challenges and threats. Many countries are already pushing at the letter and spirit of the treaties in their pragmatic attempts to address the problems they face. The outdated UN treaties, and the dogmatic approach of the UN agencies that oversee them are increasingly becoming an obstacle rather than an aid in this process. The ongoing failure of the UN drug control agencies to adhere to policy norms such as human rights observance, evidence based evaluation and impact analysis undermines the wider work of the UN.

Whilst parts of the UN drug conventions are valuable, there is a clear need for the UN treaties to be reformed to allow more flexibility for individual states to adopt policies that they deem appropriate to meet the challenges they face. This must involve a removal of the absolute prohibitions on individual states exploring options for legally regulated markets for the non-medical use of some psychoactive drugs. In 2002 the UK Home Affairs Select Committee called for a debate at the UN on alternatives to prohibition. It is an enormous disappointment to many taking part that this debate will not take place at the Vienna meeting.

The prospect of a £3 trillion turnover for international organised crime over the next decade and the devastating impacts of these illicit profits in destabilising nation states and fuelling conflict and corruption across the world from Afghanistan to West Africa and Colombia adds an extra urgency to the need for a meaningful debate around treaty reform. A broad coalition of reform minded countries will be calling for such changes over the coming years and the new ten year strategy currently being rubber stamped in Vienna is likely to be the last to demand such rigid adherence to absolute prohibition.”
Additional note

Mr. Costa, director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) admitted yesterday that:
" drug control has an image problem: too much drug-related crime; too many people in prisons, and too few in health services; too few resources for prevention treatment, and rehabilitation; too much eradication of drug crop, and not enough eradication of poverty .”
Steve Rolles suggested that:
“This is not an image problem, this highlights the UNODC's problem of dealing with reality.”


Steve Rolles, Information Officer for Transform (Mobile contact: 07980 213 943) will be attending the UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs in Vienna (returning to the UK evening of the 13.03.08).

or Danny Kushlick, Transform Director 07970 174747

Notes to editors
  • Transform Drug Policy Foundation has UN ECOSOC special consultative status, and is attending the CND as an accredited NGO.

In 2002 the UK Home Affairs Select Committee Report ( THE GOVERNMENT'S DRUGS POLICY: IS IT WORKING? ) made the following recommendation:
‘We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma.' (paragraph 267)
David Cameron MP was a member of the Committee and supported this recommendation.

Independent reports and news updates on the CND will be posted daily on the:

Transform Drug Policy Foundation Blog

TNI drugs and democracy blog

The International Harm Reduction Association HR2 blog

For extensive background, reports and documentation on the current UN drug strategy review see:

The TNI United Nations drug control review website

International Drug Policy Consortium

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou, Transform, for what you are doing.