Thursday, March 05, 2009

UN bodies betray principles of peace by supporting the war on drugs

UN bodies betray principles of peace by supporting the war on drugs

Transform Drug Policy Foundation: media release 05.03.09

As the member states gather in Vienna for next week’s meetings to set a new 10 year UN drugs strategy, it is clear that rather than supporting the fundamental UN objective to broker, maintain and promote peace and wellbeing, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (the Commission) will announce their continued support for an unwinnable war on drugs. This is despite even Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNODC admitting that the current drug control system has huge negative unintended consequences including:

  • a huge criminal market
  • policy displacement, whereby public health is displaced by enforcement
  • the ‘balloon effect’ where enforcement just shifts trafficking routes and production from one location to another

Transform Head of Policy, Danny Kushlick said;

“Every state that signs up to the Political Declaration at this Commission recommits the UN to complicity in fighting a catastrophic war on drugs. It is a tragic irony that the UN, so often renowned for peacekeeping, is being used to fight a war that brings untold misery to some of the most marginalised people on earth. 8000 deaths in Mexico in recent years, the destabilisation of Colombia and Afghanistan, continued corruption and instability in the Caribbean and West Africa are testament to the catastrophic impact of a drug control system based upon global prohibition.”

“It is no surprise that the Declaration is unlikely even to mention harm reduction, as it runs counter to the primary impact of the prevailing drug control system which, as the past ten years demonstrate, increases harm.”

This latest failure of leadership at the Commission highlights how the entire UN drug control infrastructure is not fit for purpose and should be completely over-hauled.

Transform has three calls for the UN:

  • A year-long moratorium on strategic drug policy commitments at the global level

  • A full impact analysis of the ‘unintended consequences’ of the drug control system to feed into a genuine review in 2010

  • A commission to explore alternatives to the failed war on drugs

Danny Kushlick added;

“The unwillingness of the UNODC and other international bodies to formally evaluate the negative impacts of the war on drugs is the classic modus operandi of bodies scared of letting the outside world know that their policies are failing. As a result the Commission will be a succession of speeches that amount to little more than self-congratulatory propaganda or bellicose exhortations to fight the war with more vigour.”

“ A year long moratorium on global drug policy commitments would allow a meaningful process of evaluation on which to build a policy based on principles of peace, security and wellbeing, as opposed to militarisation, securitisation and incarceration - especially in light of a change in tone on drug policy from the Obama Administration.”

“This is a watershed moment for the UN, member states and the NGO world. The last ten years has seen a continuation of the war on drugs and a complete stasis in progressing more effective, just and humane policies. World leaders need to take a stand for the principles upon which the UN was created and provide the leadership required to end the war on drugs. If not, we risk finding ourselves in a decade’s time seeing the UN as a war council not a peace making body.”



Danny Kushlick, Head of Policy and Communications 07970 174747

Steve Rolles, Head of Research 07980 213943

Notes for Editors:

  • The 52 session of the CND will be meeting in Vienna. First the government ministerial High Level Segment (11th –12th March 2009) will sign off the Political Declaration, and then the CND meeting itself (16th-20th March 2009) will debate the details.

  • The global market in illegal drugs is estimated at £160 billion a year. If the current regime remains in place for the next decade, the total could approach £2 trillion.

  • The crime costs accrued over the last ten years in the UK alone, are estimated to be in the region of £100 billion.

  • Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime declares international drug control system is not ‘fit for purpose’


Anonymous said...

What may force the reality of the failure of drug prohibition into the consciousness of politicians in democratic nations engaging in drug prohibition is the fact that the global financial system is disintegrating before our eyes, and with it the means of nation-states to engage in the DrugWar.

The global liquidity crisis is but the natural outcome of profligate spending by the US on all manner of things...including the DrugWar.

But that spending was itself derived from borrowing vast amounts from creditor nations; the US tax base is not able to support those spending levels. In essence, the DrugWar was paid for with borrowed money...and that's drying up.

As the economic crisis worsens, demands for the re-allocation of funding into social welfare programs will become greater, and that will cause debate as to which programs should be cut so others may be supported. And no program provides less utility for the American taxpayer than the DrugWar. Of which cannabis prohibition is the foundation.

Remove this cornerstone, and the entire edifice is endangered. Which American DrugWarriors have been acutely aware of for some time, as witnessed by the almost monomaniacal obsession of US policy organs such as the ONDCP in demonizing cannabis despite all the studies that prove that demonization unwarranted. The only two things that allowed that process to continue had been a robust economy and political imprimatur which was derived from the reigning party's exercise of power. Which has now been supplanted, courtesy of the last national election.

Science, not ideology, the new President has stated, will now govern policy formulation. But one cannot also help but notice that this is said at a time when ideology has already created a huge deficit, thanks to various foreign wars engaged in by the ideologues. Science is basically cheaper than ideology, now. And the science never justified drug prohibition...which now no nation can afford to engage in without some domestic political backlash taking place.

The global economic crisis may yet do what all the appeals to sweet reason never have been able to accomplish. If so, it will be a sad commentary upon human nature...but not one without precedent.

mickhumphreys said...

Read Ed Howker in the Independent page 27 today, 9 March.

He says it all - again.

Anonymous said...

We are living in a dictatorship world, how democratic is the UN? Less toxic than tobacco but has more benefits to society than the use of tobacco and is so heavily disliked due to old misinfomed ideals of old times when slavery was still legal in some countries back when the prohibition laws were first introduced, are the governing bodies of world this blind? Yes the drug policy does need to be reformed as this was a gift, for medical treatment of conditions for which it does treat!