Friday, March 30, 2012

Transform submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Drug Policy

All written submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Drug Policy have now been published in one mammoth 720-page pdf document which makes for intermittently fascinating reading that would fill many blogs for anyone with the time an inclination (it will certainly be useful reference tool in the future).

Transform's submission is included and we have also made it available to read online in pdf as originally formatted and coming in at a more managable 11 pages. Due to word constraints, our submission mainly focuses on addressing two of the inquiry's key considerations:

  • The extent to which the Government’s 2010 drug strategy is a ‘fiscally responsible policy with strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights’ in line with the recent recommendation by the GlobalCommission on Drug Policy, and:
  • Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002
Our submission also gives an overview of some of the key issues involved in the legal regulation of drugs. Note that although not mentioned in the above terms of reference - the 2002 HASC report recommended 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'. When HASC looked at this topic in 2002 there were few, if any, detailed published explorations of a how a legal system of drug market cregulation might work. This gap in the literature has subsequently been filled by Transform's ‘After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation’, as well as other publications such as those from the King County Bar Association and The Health Officers Council of British Colombia.)

Importantly, the Transform submission also picks apart some of the government's standard responses to calls for debate on alternatives to prohibition and discusses the factors that are currently impeding drug policy reform. Our submission (PDF) concludes by making the following recommendations to the committee:

  • Make a clear call for decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use 
  • Re-state the 2002 recommendation 24, and build on this by calling on the Government to show pro-active leadership in promoting the debate on alternatives to prohibition (including legalisation/regulation) in a range of international fora, including the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, but also a range of other relevant UN and international fora 
  • Call for the establishment of a joint select committee inquiry to conduct a cross departmental inquiry into alternatives to prohibition 
  • Noting that the HASC in 2010 recommended a “a full and independent value-for-money assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and related legislation and policy”, call for a comprehensive independent Impact Assessment of UK drug policy and legislation, both domestic and international commitments. Such an IA should consider alternative approaches, including intensifying the war on drugs, maintaining the status quo, decriminalisation models, and legalisation/regulation models. This undertaking could potentially involve a series of parallel thematic Impact Assessments (ie human rights, health, development, crime etc) 
  • Call for the UN conventions to be revised to remove the stranglehold on individual states exploring models of legal drug market regulation, allowing experimentation by expanding the menu of available options
Download the Transform submission.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Czech Republic backs Global Commission report at the UN

In the run up to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna earlier this month, there were the usual gloomy predictions - and for most of the time this tedious prohibitionist jamboree did not disappoint. Yet, for the jaded NGO veterans of this event there was also something new and highly significant: the first tentative challenges to the global prohibitionist regime appeared in the CND. Some merely called for a debate, Argentina being a notable example, its delegate stating in the plenary session that:

"Argentina adequately meets all its obligations arising from treaties that structure what we usually call the "institutional / legal system of drug control and the fight against drug trafficking".  Regarding this issue, we should perhaps analyse if, after decades and considering the results achieved so far, time has not arrived to start an open debate on the consistency and effectiveness of some of the provisions contained in those treaties."
This statement was particularly heretical as it openly questioned the effectiveness and consistency of the treaties. Uruguay - perhaps less surprisingly given recent events - made a bolder call for 'alternative regimes' to be considered. There were also calls for decriminalisation (specifically of problematic users and harm reduction services) from the Red Cross / Red Crescent and UNAIDS.

CND plenary session (Photo credit Steve Rolles/Transform)

Most striking however, was the statement from the Czech Republic delegation delivered by their national drugs coordinator Jindřich Vobořil. This statement not only strongly supported harm reduction and decriminalisation, but included a Prime Ministerial endorsement of the Global Commission on Drug Policy report, concluding with a clear call that:

"We are convinced that changes in current legal regulations are necessary in certain segments of the countries and the world drug policies. We are ready to cooperate in this field with everybody who feels dedicated to those important changes",  and that; "We feel that the globalised world does not allow us anymore to continue with the expensive experiment of the War on Drugs without a serious international debate." 

Perhaps not the most earth shattering statement, but in the context of the CND, where no one has ever said this kind of thing previously it was positively seismic. It was certainly the first CND mention of the Global Commission report - with a sitting head of state endorsement no less - which amongst its many sensible recommendations includes a call for governments to experiment with models of legalisation and regulation. It may come to be seen as something of a watershed year - and with the rapidly unfolding debate on alternatives to the war on drugs in Latin America it seems safe to say that CND may never be the same again. Next year it may actually be quite interesting.

The full Czech statement is copied below:*

Firstly I would like to thank the secretariat of the UNODC on the hard work in preparing this CND meeting

We are fully in line with the Dutch statement on behalf of the European Union

Nevertheless on behalf of the Czech Republic I would like to take the opportunity and draw attention to the recently released Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, signed by important figures in the world politics, which stated that some important aspects of our countries as well as international efforts of drug policies failed.

Therefore we would like to express that the findings of this Report seem to mark what many of us would like to state but from many reasons are hesitant to state

Czech Prime minister Necas personally supported the Report of the Global Commission on Drug policy considering the report to be an important challenge by the heads of state and politicians who have signed it.

He said: “above all, anti-drug policy should be based on effective and economically efficient preventative and treatment measures, not on criminalisation of people who suffer from drug addiction but often are not causing harm to others. Czech anti-drug policy is basically going in the right direction, but we must not be afraid to promote additional effective solutions and to be inspired by other states as well” (end of quotation)

The Czech Republic advocates balanced approach based on Evidence-Based Drug policy with a strong dedication of regards to human life and therefore we continue advocating for strategies such as Harm Reduction which in our opinion should be having indisputable place in our every day practical measures as well as official policies

The Czech Republic has included harm reduction measures as one of the four pillars of the Czech drug policy since 1999. Its main objective was to reduce the potential risks of all types of drugs and the economic, health and social impacts of their use on individuals and society as a whole. As a result this decision led to success of keeping HIV prevalence among IV [intravenous} users under 1%, reduce Hep C from around 50% to 30% and reduced the average age of engagement of IV users from 28 to 22 years old which led to stabilising the number of problematic drug use with relatively low prevalence.

The attitude of the Czech Republic is based on pragmatic drug policy, which leads the way towards the decriminalization of those addicted to drugs, support for preventative programmes and the minimisation of risks connected with drug use of course not undermining rehabilitation as the best and ultimate goal.

We are convinced that changes in current legal regulations are necessary in certain segments of the countries and the world drug policies. We are ready to cooperate in this field with everybody who feels dedicated to those important changes. We feel that the globalised world does not allow us anymore to continue with the expensive experiment of the War on Drugs without a serious international debates especially on why there is after all so many people dying of HIV?AIDS and other known reasons in connection with the drugs problem and look even more closely on the evidence and take the brave steps towards better decisions that improve significantly the world drugs situation

Thank you, Madame Chairperson

See also: An evidence based experiment in the criminalisation of drug use - Czech it out

*note - this is the transcription of the notes that Vobořil read from, rather than a transcript of his speech

Monday, March 12, 2012

Led by Latin America, debate on ending the war on drugs gains momentum while the UN remains closed to change

The Following press release, quoting Transform, was issued today by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.Transform will be present at the CND this week and also participating in the global Google+ debate.

Led by Latin America, debate on ending the war on drugs gains momentum while the UN remains closed to change

Commission on Narcotic Drugs gathers this week in Vienna; a Google+ event will assemble an unprecedented online audience of hundreds of millions to discuss drug policy on the 13th

March 12th, 2012 - The 55th annual session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) (1) started today in Vienna, Austria with a focus on strengthening the drug programme of the UN. Government representatives from over 100 countries will discuss international cooperation in combating drugs, and the enforcement of the current prohibition model. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime will invite delegates to celebrate 100 years of successful drug control.

“No changes to the UN conventions or even constructive discussions on alternative policies on drugs are to be expected at this meeting”, said Ms Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), a distinguished group of international leaders that has called for the end of the global war on drugs.

Ms Dreifuss is attending the CND together with Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive-director of the Global Fund and also a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, to present recommendations on a health-oriented policy that includes decriminalization of drug users, prevention and experiments with regulation of less harmful drugs such as cannabis to reduce the violence and harm caused by the war on drugs. “We believe that the UN should use science as a basis and seek consistency on its approach to drug issues, listening to bodies such as the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, that call for harm reduction and public health as the guidelines for drug policies”, states Ms Dreifuss.

While the UN seems focused on reinforcing prohibition and remains closed to scientific evidence, a high profile debate around decriminalization and regulation of drugs has taken off in the wake of the taboo-breaking report War on Drugs (2) launched by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in July 2011. “There's an obvious disjuncture between the increasingly vigorous public debate on alternatives to the war on drugs, and the continuing failure of the CND to meaningfully engage with that debate - or seemingly even acknowledge that it is taking place”, notes Steve Rolles, from UK NGO Transform Drug Policy.

For Mike Trace, from the International Drug Policy Consortium who is following the agenda in Vienna, “given the limited impact, and negative consequences, of traditional approaches to reducing the scale of the global drug market, national governments need to look at options for drug law reform that suit their own situations and legal structures”.

That seems to be the case for countries in Latin America, the region most affected by the perverse side effects of the war on drugs, such as organized crime and violence. Political pressure has been mounting in the region since last November, when president Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia became the first leader in office to declare that market alternatives to deal with narco-trafficking should be considered. In February 2012, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala stirred the discussion by openly calling for a concrete debate on drug regulation to reduce violence in the region, prompting support for dialogue from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Mexico.

USA vice president Joe Biden acknowledged the debate by visiting and meeting with state authorities in Latin America in early March to address the White House position of sticking to the criminal approach. Presidents from the region, including Felipe Calderón, from Mexico, and president Juan Manuel Santos from Colômbia, agreed to come to Guatemala on March 24 for a wide-ranging debate on the subject. The meeting will set the stage for a formal discussion at the annual Summit of the Americas, to take place in Cartagena, Colombia in April.

In the midst of rapid increasing awareness on the need for alternatives to the drug war, policymakers will have unique insight into public opinion with the upcoming Intelligence Squared and Google+ debate "It's time to end the war on drugs", scheduled to happen on Tuesday March 13th, from 19h-20h30 GMT, at King's Place in London, UK. The debate will be streamed live to an unprecedented audience for a drug policy reform discussion. According to organizers, on the day of the event, anyone visiting YouTube will automatically watch a trailer of the live transmission, reaching as many as 800 million people.

Structured in three acts and presenting debaters and witnesses, the event will feature a statement by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and a panel by Sir Richard Branson, from the Virgin Group and a member of the GCDP. More at

“There is a clear rise in public perception on the flaws of the current approach to deal with drugs in our society”, said president Cardoso. “We can no longer afford the levels of violence in Mexico, Brazil, Central America and West Africa, the trillions of dollars spent on this endless war and the obstacles it presents to harm reduction policies. It is about time that the UN and politicians in office engage on a constructive debate towards decriminalization, regulation and public health programs that may reduce violence whilst preventing and relieving the suffering of drug abusers”.

Notes to the editor:
(1)  The Commission on Narcotic Drugs was established in 1946 as a functional Commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to supervise the application of international conventions and agreements dealing with narcotic drugs. CND it is the principal policy-making body within the UN system on drug control issues.
(2)  Download the Global Commission on Drug Policy report here:

Transform at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meets in Vienna this week for its annual gathering of UN members states, to discuss 'global drug control'. According to the UNODC:

The Commission reviews and analyses the global drug control situation, considering the interrelated issues of prevention of drug abuse, rehabilitation of drug users and supply and trafficking in illicit drugs. It takes action through resolutions and decisions

Transform has had UN ECOSOC special consultative status since August 2007 so is able to send up to five representatives to the CND. Transform will this year be represented by CEO Caroline Pringle for the first half of the week, handing over to senior policy analyst Steve Rolles on Wednesday. The remaining places are used to support colleagues attending. 

The CND takes place at the UN complex in Vienna

Much of the official business of the CND is bureaucratic tedium and political posturing, frequently appearing, to observers and participants alike, as a bit of circus (although without the entertainment value). The plenary 'debates' in particular involve no actual debating, being essentially a procession of prepared statements, only very rarely diverging from a predictable set text.

In 55 years there has been zero debate on the issues of decriminalisation and legalisation/ regulation and whilst it won't happen this year, it is highly likely that the Latin American-led debates around substantial reform will hit the floor of the CND in 2013.

Meanwhile in so-called 'real world', an estimated 70 million people will tommorow tune into the biggest ever global debate on ending the war on drugs - hosted by Google+ and YouTube (Danny and Steve from Transform are participants). The disjuncture between the public debate and the peculiar anachronistic world of the CND could not be more stark.

This might be the last CND to pass by unnoticed in the world of elite politics.

The Committee elements of the CND are generally a bit more interesting, with a series of resolutions being debated in forensic detail over the five days. You can read the draft resolutions here. These debates can often produce some interesting dynamics between the more progressive and conservative leaning states - especially when issues such as human rights or harm reduction crop up.

NGO input to plenary sessions is marginal and tokenistic, and similarly negligable in the committees, although we are allowed as observers, we can of course work with and lobby national delegations, and some delegations have included NGO representation (including the UK in the past - although not this year for some reason). Compared to other comparable UN bodies (e.g. UNAIDS), meaningful civil society participation and involvement, although certainly improving slowly with the help of the Vienna NGO committee, remains inadequate.

CND 2011

Much more interesting then, and correspondingly more a useful reason for attending, are the range of side events, amongst which are those organised by civil society groups. Transform has run a number of these in the past - including last years launch of the Count the Costs initiative. There is a list of these events for the 2012 CND provided by the VNGO committee here. It is an interesting mix and these events usually allow a far higher level of discussion and engagement.

Perhaps most useful of all is the mere fact that such a diverse range of expertise and interests is gathered in one place. It is one of the few occasions when civil society groups can engage directly with such an array of government and UN officials. The reform oriented groups are also in the same space as many of the prohibition groupings, and whilst this sometimes leads to tension, it is actually a rare opportunity to try and find some common ground - rather than the more commonly polarised 'debates'.

We will update this post with links to useful material, analysis and discussions as they happen but if you are interested in staying in the loop we would recommend:
You can get much more detail on the strange machinations of the CND  from the UNODC CND page and the VNGO website.

*pics by Steve Rolles, Copyright Transform 2012

Friday, March 09, 2012

Twelve UN agencies: Joint statement calling for closure of compulsory drug detention centers

Twelve United Nations agencies, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UNAIDS, UNHCR, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF have issued a joint statement in the run up to next week's Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, unambiguously calling on member states to 'close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the  community' .

The full text of the statement is available in pdf here and is copied below.

This is a very welcome response to a serious and long overlooked human rights issue, and the agencies involved are to be congratualted for making this clear public statement.

It is notable the International Narcotics Control Board (whilst unlear if they were apporached to add their name to this initiative) have never made such a clear call. Indeed, in the recent 2011 report they note the existence of such centers, but fail to condemn them, or mention the abuse that routinely takes place in them. Worse, in the section on Viet Nam (a country with tens of thousands in such centers), the INCB report states that it ‘welcomes the steps taken in Viet Nam to improve the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers’ and that it ‘encourages the Government to reinforce and support existing facilities’. That these publications come within weeks of each other shows just how bizarrely out of kilter the INCB is with the rest of the UN and its established thinking on human rights issues.

For now though, we should celebrate this important initiative and hope that it helps lever change with key governments.

Joint Statement
Compulsory drug detemtion and rehabilitation centers

United Nations entities call on States to close compulsory drug  detention and rehabilitation centres and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community

The continued existence of compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres, where people who are suspected of using drugs or being dependent on drugs, people who have engaged in sex work, or children who have been victims of sexual exploitation are detained without due process in the name of “treatment” or “rehabilitation”, is a serious concern. Compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres1 raise human rights issues and threaten the health of detainees, including through increased vulnerability to HIV and tuberculosis (TB) infection. Criteria for detention of individuals in these centres vary within and among countries.However, such detention often takes place without the benefit of sufficient due process, legal safeguards or judicial review. The deprivation of liberty without due process is an unacceptable violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Furthermore, detention in these centres has been reported to involve physical and sexual violence, forced labour, sub-standard conditions, denial of health care, and other measures that violate human rights.

There is no evidence that these centres represent a favorable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence, for the “rehabilitation” of individuals who have engaged in sex work, or for children who have been victims of sexual exploitation, abuse or the lack of adequate care and protection.

The UN entities which have signed on to this statement2 call on States that operate compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres to close them without delay and to release the individuals detained. Upon release, appropriate health care services should be provided to those in need of such services, on a voluntary basis, at community level. These services should include evidence-informed drug dependence treatment; HIV and TB prevention, treatment, care and support; as well as health, legal and social services to address physical and sexual violence and enable reintegration. The UN stands ready to work with States as they take steps to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and to implement voluntary, ambulatory, residential and evidence-informed alternatives in the community. Where a State is unable to close the centres rapidly, without undue delay, we urge that the following be established immediately:

  • a process to review the detention of those in the centres to ensure that there is no arbitrary detention and that any detention is conducted according to relevant international standards of due process and provides alternatives to imprisonment. This review will allow the identification of those who should be released immediately and those who should be referred for voluntary, evidence-informed treatment programmes within the community;
  • a process to review conditions in compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres with a view to immediately improving those conditions so as to meet relevant international standards applicable in closed settings, including access to quality and evidence-informed health care, social and education services, and the elimination of inhumane and degrading treatment and forced labour,3 until the centres are closed;
  • provision of health care services pending closure of the centres, including for treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), TB and opportunistic infections, as well as health and legal services to respond to physical and sexual violence;
  • judicial and other independent oversight and reporting over the review and closure process of the centres; and
  • moratoria on further admission into compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centre of people who use drugs, people who have engaged in sex work and children who have been the victims of sexual exploitation.
Evidence demonstrates that the most effective responses to drug dependence and the healthrelated harms associated with it, such as HIV infection, require treating drug dependence as a health condition through evidence-informed and rights-based approaches, which in many cases need to be established. All health care interventions, including drug dependence treatment, should be carried out on a voluntary basis with informed consent, except in clearly defined exceptional circumstances in conformity with international human rights law that guarantees such provisions are not subject to abuse. Responses to drug use and health-related harms associated with it should include evidenced-informed prevention and treatment of HIV, other STIs and TB, for those engaged in drug use. Where sex workers benefit from due process, protection from discrimination and violence, and access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, they have been able to dramatically reduce their vulnerability and that of their clients to HIV and other STIs.

In the case of children under the age of 18 years, the most effective and appropriate responses are those that are family-based and build on the strengths of local communities.4 These should be the first option in full compliance with their rights to welfare, protection, care and justice.

Children who are, or have been, involved in sex work should be treated as child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the child(1989) and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No 182), not as offenders liable to criminal penalties. Those children who are dependent on drugs should benefit from rights-based and evidence-informed programmes to facilitate their recovery and reintegration into families and communities.

States increasingly acknowledge the concerns associated with these compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres, including their lack of effectiveness in preventing relapse, their high costs, and their potential negative impact on efforts to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We note with appreciation that some countries are in the process of scaling down the number of such centres and building greater capacity for voluntary, evidence-informed, community-based approaches. These positive steps are critical to expanding understanding and building support for an approach to drug dependence, sex work and child sexual exploitation that is based on available scientific and medical evidence, ensures the protection of human rights and enhances public health. We are committed to work with countries to find alternatives to compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres, including through technical assistance, capacity building and advocacy.

Forms of support might include the following:
  • sharing of information and good practices on voluntary, evidence-informed and community- and rights-based programmes for people who use drugs, those who engage in sex work, and children who have been victims of sexual exploitation;
  • dialogue with policy-makers to increase support for voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based treatment and programmes for drug dependence;
  • multisectoral collaboration among law enforcement, health, judiciary, human rights, social welfare and drug control institutions to assist in developing frameworks of action to support voluntary and community-based services for people who use drugs, those who engage in sex work and children who have been victims of sexual exploitation; and
  • establishment of services to address the root causes of vulnerability (e.g. poverty, gender inequality and the lack of sufficient family and community support structures). 
1 Various terms are used for these centres.
2 International Labour Organisation; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; United Nations Development Programme; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation; United Nations Population Fund; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; United Nations Children’s Fund; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; World Food Programme; World Health Organisation; and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
3 For more on a rights-based approach to HIV in the context of labour, see ILO recommendation of HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No. 200).
4 See also UNICEF “Position on compulsory detention centers in East Asia and Pacific”. Available at

March 2012

More can be found on compulsory drug detention centres, and on the other human rights abuses carried out in the name of the war on drugs, in the recent Count the Costs human rights briefing.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Transform join incredible line-up in global Google+ drug debate

On Tuesday 13 March, at 7pm, Transform will take part in the most high-profile public drug reform debate we've ever been invited to (and as far as we can tell, that has ever been staged). The event, "It's Time to end the War on Drugs", is being hosted by Google+ and the world's largest debating forum Intelligence². Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst and Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs, will join an eclectic mix of celebrities, public figures and politicians, speaking either for or against the title motion. Among them are Sir Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Julian Assange (unclear what his position is on this), author Misha Glenny, former president of Mexico Vincente Fox, Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday, two senior figures from the UNODC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair. (For the full list of participants, see the event page.)

Overtly adversarial debates such as this aren't necessarily the best way to shed light on the issue - the aim seemingly being entertainment rather than illumination.  We ideally want to move beyond polarised viewpoints and have a more nuanced discussion that helps both sides of the reform debate find some common ground. Indeed, it's a bit of a shame that the Google+ debate describes the reform position as "liberalisation" when Transform and other groups are specifically calling for stricter and better regulation of drug markets (for more on this, see one of our past blog entries from 2007 which features an extract from our book on debating this issue). 

But that gripe aside, the event looks like it will generate significant exposure for the issue of drug policy reform and, we hope, Transform's work too (even if we're only able to make a limited contribution when on a bill with so many high-profile public figures). Google predict that tens of millions will see the event online, as they'll be promoting it on YouTube and various other sites.

Tickets for the event sold out immediately, but you can watch it live on the Google+ Versus YouTube page

For updates about the debate, follow the Google+ Versus account, which is posting relevant videos and links in advance of next Tuesday. Transform will also be tweeting about the event, so keep an eye on our Twitter account throughout the evening.

Below is some of the promotional blurb from the Intelligence²/Google+ event page:

"To liberalise or prohibit, that is the question. And to answer it the masters of live debate have joined forces with the masters of web technology to create a never-seen-before combination of Oxford debating and Silicon Valley prowess. 
Prohibitionists argue that legalising anything increases its consumption. The world has enough of a problem with legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, so why add to the problem by legalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin?
The liberalisers say prohibition doesn’t work. By declaring certain drugs illegal we haven’t reduced consumption or solved any problem. Instead we’ve created an epidemic of crime, illness, failed states and money laundering.
Julian Assange and Richard Branson; Russell Brand and Misha Glenny; Geoffrey Robertson and Eliot Spitzer. Experts, orators and celebrities who’ve made this their cause – come and see them lock horns in a newIntelligence²/Google+ debate format. Some of our speakers will be on stage in London, others beamed in from Mexico City or São Paulo or New Orleans, all thanks to the “Hangout” tool on Google+.
The web will have its say, and so can you at the event in London. Be part of the buzz of the audience, be part of an event beamed across the web to millions. Come and witness the future of the global mind-clash at the first of ourVersus debates, live at Kings Place."


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Chatham House launches project on Drugs and Organised Crime

The world-renowned Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as Chatham House) has announced its new project on drugs and organised crime.  It is yet another example of the ever expanding body of organisations outside of the drug policy field - in this case security - recognising the importance and urgency of the need to explore alternatives to the war on drugs.  Increasingly prohibition is recognised as having an overwhelmingly negative impact in a wide range of policy areas, as demonstrated by the Count the Costs initiative.

The areas of security and conflict have already generated significant scrutiny through the work of numerous organisations, including the upcoming Adelphi Publlication from the International Institute for Strategic Studies titled 'Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States: The Problems of Prohibition', due to be launched on 17 April.

The following text is taken from Chatham House's website:

This project seeks to explore alternative options to the drug and organized crime policy challenge and provide a distinctive contribution to the debate. The project will provide a forum for open discussion and alternative policy approaches. Through the establishment of a broad and varied network of senior individuals and organizations involved in the field, it aims to develop a comprehensive assessment of potential policy responses. It seeks to highlight the local, regional and international dimensions of the topic and how they relate to one another for government strategies. Moreover, the project will explore the overlap and importance of areas including public health, education, international law and civil society efforts in informing a comprehensive and more effective approach to drugs policy.
There is a general recognition that conventional crime and drugs policy is failing to protect the security of societies and local communities. The traditional response of the 'war on drugs', formulated under the United Nations Drug Control Convention has long focused on criminal legislation and law enforcement, but over the last forty years it has become apparent that this approach no longer meets the evolving challenges associated with the burgeoning global drugs trade or its impact on society and security. Irrespective of international investment in counter-narcotic strategies, global trends in drug production, consumption and distribution show no signs of diminishing. Despite the potential harm that organized crime and drugs can do in terms of social impact, economic costs and security implications, it remains relatively low on risk registers and government priorities, often overshadowed by more high-profile risks such as terrorism. 


Drawing on the independent and impartial forum of Chatham House, practitioners, officials, academics and policy makers will be asked to think innovatively about what policy makers should do to meet the drugs and crime policy challenge and how any responses relate to the local, national, regional and international level. Through events and publications it aims to raise the prominence of drugs and organised crime within the international policy and mainstream security agenda. 

Independent Advisory Panel

This project is assisted by an Independent Advisory Panel of experts from different related fields. Members include: 
  • Damon Barrett, Senior Analyst, Harm Reduction International 
  • Bob Baxter, Associate Fellow, International Security, Chatham House
  • Vanda Felbab-Brown, Fellow, Brookings, USA
  • Bill Hughes, Director, BlueLight Global Solutions and Former Director of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)
  • Danny Kushlick, Founder and Director, Transform
  • David Livingstone, Associate Fellow, International Security, Chatham House
  • Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexican Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  • Andrés Rozental, Senior Fellow, Brookings, USA


 27 March 2012
Drugs and Organized Crime: Challenges and Policy Objectives 

This event will set out the challenges related to drugs and organised crime and seek to establish the state of the current landscape and the interconnectedness of policy approaches. 


For more information please contact Claire Yorke.