Thursday, March 26, 2009

UNODC remains shy about publishing report on Dutch Coffee Shop system

Dr Frederick Polak and others have been trying to get the UNODC to publish their discussion document on the Dutch coffee shop system for some time now. Here's the latest attempt to get some answers about the report.

Last May at the international harm reduction conference in Barcelona, Mr. Costa had promised to publish the report “very soon” - it still hasn't been released. You can see Dr Polak's previous attempts to get Costa to respond to his questions about the paper here.

This time, Mr. Costa did admit that there are some discussion papers produced by his agency that “were eventually quashed” and “remained an internal document never published”. However he claimed that he had given a detailed answer regarding the document on his website.

In fact there was a 'leaked' report written by Costa following his visit to the Netherlands, that was published (and scrutinised) on this very blog, before being rather begrudgingly published on Costa's own site (not really a 'blog' in the traditional sense as it does not accept even moderated comments). This report, however, was clearly his personal views and was a long way from an objective piece of policy analysis, being, as it was, entirely reference free and replete with subjective opinion and unevidenced assumptions and inference. Introducing this report he not only refers again to the 'pro-drug lobby' but notes that:

According to economic science, the greater the availability of a commodity on the market, the more likely its consumption (via the price effect, but also thanks to psychological factors). Does this only apply to normal markets? My Office has examined whether there is a statistical relationship between availability of drugs and their use, and reached the same conclusion.
This is important work, that should be informing important decisions (not least around the now completed 10 year review and political declaration), but has similarly never been published and made available for public scrutiny, even to member state Governments. 'Scientists' actually publish work, so that their statistics, methodologies and conclusions can be discussed, scrutinised and learnt from. This is the very essence of scientific and social policy discourse, something Costa parades the trappings of whilst simultaneously ignoring its most basic principles.

Hopefully someone at the UNODC will see fit to release both the Netherlands study and statistical analysis on drug availability into the public domain so we can see what it reveals reveals and why the UNODC have chosen to go against there own promises and scientific (and indeed UN) principles of free debate, by suppressing the work. Hopefully member states - particularly the UNODC funders (prominently including the UK and the Netherlands) who of course fund such work in the first place - will demand that the reports are published so they can be subject to public scrutiny and contribute to public debate. This is what the rational policy development within UN forums should be all about.

1 comment:

novparl said...

The "coffee shops" sell cannabis, not the hard drugs you want legalized. They're not even allowed to sell alcohol any more.