Drugs programme activities 1997-2009

01 March 2009

Summary of TNI's involvement on the Drugs issue since 1998 and until March 2009.




March 11-20, 2009


TNI participated at the 52nd UN Comission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna and its High Level Segment to review to progress since the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) and set a framework for the next 10 years through a Political Declaration and Plan of Action.
A clear divide in drug control approaches became apparent between a growing number of countries opt for pragmatic evidence-based harm reduction policies, while at the other side countries desperately cling to a zero tolerance approach that has failed to produce any significant result the past decade. Despite the diplomatic façade, the conclusion cannot be otherwise that the Vienna consensus on drug control that has paralysed progress in international drug control for decades, has fallen apart.
Martin Jelsma of TNI participated Round Table on Alternative Development.
See: Briefings of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) on the 2009 CND.


February 26-28, 2009


The fifth meeting of the Informal Drug Policy Dialogues in Latin America took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was organized by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI), in cooperation with the Department of Mental Health of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice of Brazil.
The discussion focused on the UNGASS review process and the Political Declaration to be adopted at the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held in Vienna on March 11 and 12, 2009. The dialogue in Rio de Janerio focused on three key issues: (1) Latin American Perspectives on the Political Declaration; (2) The Effectiveness of the Conventions: The Case of Latin America; and (3) Human Rights and Policies Related to Drug Law Enforcement.
Final report of the meeting in Rio de Janeiro (>Download PDF)


February 12-14, 2009


The first meeting of the Informal Drug Policy Dialogues in Southeast Asia took place in Bangkok, Thailand, and was organized by Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ, the German government-backed development agency) and the Transnational Institute (TNI).
The dialogue focused on three key issues: (1) Trends in the national drug markets in the region; (2) Causes and consequences of the opium decline in Southeast Asia, and trends in the regional drug markets; (3) Experiences with alternative development in the region, and challenges for mainstreaming; (4) Recent developments around HIV/AIDS and harm reduction; and (5) The UNGASS review process: the thematic debate in 2008 and strategic considerations for the high-level CND segment in 2009.
TNI presented it recent publication Withdrawal Symptoms in the Golden Triangle: A Drugs Market in Disarray.


January 29-31, 2009


CERAI and TNI co-organised the First Global Forum of Producers of Crops Declared to be Illicit. Why peasants from certain regions of the world cultivate plants that international conventions have declared to be illicit? That is the essential question to which the First Global Forum of Producers of Crops Declared to be Illicit (FMPCDI) will try to give an answer. The conclusions of the Forum will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Countering World Drug Problem, to be held in Vienna on March 11-12, 2009, in which international strategies against this kind of crops will be decided.




December 9, 2008


The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), TNI and the George Washington University, organised a seminar in Washington DC on Indigenous Rights in the Andes and Licit Uses of the Coca Leaf. Pien Metaal participated in the panel on The International Debate on the Coca Leaf and Indigenous Cultures.


October 9-11, 2008


The fifth informal drug policy dialogue took place in Berlin in cooperation with the German Federal Health ministry. The principal focus of the meeting was the UNGASS review process, the Political Declaration to be adopted at the next CND meeting in March 2009 and future goals in international drug policy. There were sessions on harm reduction and demand reduction; law Enforcement and supply reduction; decriminalisation and the proportionality of sanctions; and expectations for the future.
See: Final report on the meeting in Berlin


September 4-5, 2008


Martin Jelsma participated at the Second Meeting of Latin American Comission on Drugs and Democracy in Bogotá, Colombia. He was interviewed by O Globo.


August-September, 2008


Tom Kramer and Tom Blickman, traveled through China, Laos, Thailand and Burma for the second phase of the research on opium bans and forced eradication in South East Asia, undertaken by local researchers with support from Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ, the German government-backed development agency). the results of the first phase of the study were published in Withdrawal Symptoms: Changes in the Southeast Asian drugs market. It examines the consequences of opium reductions for poverty levels in the former opium growing regions of Burma and Laos, monitors heroin price and purity trends, and looks at changes in drug use patterns, such as shifts to other substances like methamphetamines and pharmaceuticals.
An Op-Ed appeared in The Nation, a leading newspaper in Bangkok (Thailand) as well as two articles in The Irrawaddy magazine: Burmese Daze by Tom Kramer and Withdrawal Symptoms by Martin Jelsma.


August 29-30, 2008


The fourth meeting in the series of Informal Dialogues on Drug Policy in Latin America was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Bolivia. The dialogue was structured around three sessions covering the following topics: (1) Progress and Challenges in the UNGASS Review Reflection Period; (2) Coca Leaf and Integrated and Sustainable Development: What are the options for the future? / Integrated and Sustainable Development: Can the international community play a new role in supply control policies? (3) No Escape? The Prison Problem and Drug Policy in Latin America: proposals for change.
See: Final report on the meeting in Cochabamba.


July 7-9, 2008


Martin Jelsma participated in the Beyond 2008 NGO Forum. In Vienna 300 delegates met to provide civil society input for the 10-year UNGASS review. It was the culmination of a series of regional NGO consultations that took place over the past six months all across the globe.
The publication, Ten Years: TNI Drugs & Democracy Programme 1998-2008 summarising the lessons of 10 years of work by TNI on international drug policy, was launched at the forum. See: Beyond 2008 – a truly remarkable event, TNI weblog.


July 2-4, 2008


Tom Kramer of TNI was asked to assist the Dutch delegation in the 'Intergovernmental expert working group on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development' to prepare for the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2009.
He raised the issue that the continuing high cultivation levels have created pressure on policy makers and thereby on the drug control and development community to come up with quick fixes and one-size fits all solutions, instead of looking for long-term and sustainable policies to contribute to reduce cultivation levels of illicit opium and coca production. Current drug control interventions have suffered from an unbalanced approach and are often poorly sequenced, with too much focus on law enforcement measures and eradication, and too little investment in sustainable alternative development. The report of the working group did contain many examples of useful analysis and language that could be incorporated into the political declaration and its annex.
See: Experts on Alternative Development meet in Vienna, TNI weblog.


June 26, 2008


TNI published a Drug Policy Briefing on the 2008 World Drug Report (WDR). In the WDR the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claimed that the international drug control system has succeeded in containing the illicit drug problem across the span of a whole century, as well as over the last decade. TNI concluded that the UNODC tried to hide failures behind a bad history lesson. Instead of a clear acknowledgement that the 10-year UNGASS targets had not been met – on the contrary, global production of cocaine and heroin has increased – the WDR decided to go back 100 years into history claiming success in comparison with Chinese opium production and use in the early 20th century. Twisted logic was used to fabricate comparisons with higher production last century.
See: Rewriting history. A response to the 2008 World Drug Report, TNI Drug Policy Briefing nr. 26
UNODC rewrites history in new World Drug Report to hide failure, TNI press release


June 19, 2008


TNI organised an informal drug policy dialogue in The Hague (the Netherlands) with Dutch drug policy experts and policy makers. Issues adressed where the upcoming evalution of Dutch drug policy, the new drug policy paper of the government expected in 2009 and the 2008-2009 assessment of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 1998.


April 30, 2008


Martin Jelsma participated at the First Meeting of Latin American Comission on Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prominent members of the Commission are three Latin American former presidents: Fernando Henrique Cardoso from Brazil, César Gaviria from Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo from Mexico.
"It is time to develop a proper Latin American response that is detached from the ideology from the United States that has been common in the past decade," Martin Jelsma told the meeting. "It is potentially a good time to try because politically there is now more distance to US policies in a growing part of Latin America and to US domination in general."
See: Latin America needs a new drug policy approach, TNI weblog.


April 14-19, 2008


Pien Metaal and Tom Kramer went on a research mission in Afghanistan.


March 10-14, 2008


TNI participated at the 51th UN Comission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. This CND inititated the review of the implementation of the political declaration and action plans of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 1998. A year long ‘period of global reflection’ will lead up to a Ministerial Segment at the CND in March 2009. TNI launched on new website – www.ungassondrugs.org – with relevant comments and publications, as well as a regular blog on the issues.
Two issues were given broader consideration this session. First, drug control policies should be in line with international human rights standards. The issue of the death penalty, used by some countries against drug offenders, was raised. Second, there was focus on harm reduction measures as an integral part of demand reduction strategies.
Ricardo Soberon of TNI and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDCP) adressed the plenary session with a Statement about the coca leaf in support of the Bolivian announcement to ask for the un-scheduling of the coca leaf from the list controlled substances of the 1961 UN Single Convention.


March 5, 2008


The Transnational Institute condemns the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in their 2007 annual report released today, which calls on countries to "abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea." Read the press release: Abolishing Coca Leaf Consumption? The INCB needs to perform a reality check.
TNI launched a new website - www.ungassondrugs.org - on the 2008-2009 UNGASS review with critical background on the key issues at stake in this process. The review concerns UN drugs policy, as set out in the political declaration and action plans of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 1998.


February 28, 2008


The Dutch Parliamentary Justice Commission devoted its debate to the UNGASS review. Martin Jelsma was invited as one of the experts to share with the commission TNI's views on the importance of the review process. In his contribution he highlights the opportunity to use the 2008/9 period to achieve a breakthrough on harm reduction acceptance at the UN level, to evaluate the performance of UN agencies like UNODC and the INCB, and to open the door for a revision of the UN drug control treaty system. Only available in Dutch.


February 21-23, 2008


The third Latin American informal policy dialogue in Quito (Ecuador) in cooperation with the Ministries of the Interior and Internal and External Security Coordination and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Issues discussed were the 2008-2009 UNGASS review, prisons and drug control, and the problems in border areas such as areal spraying, drug trafficking and displacements.




December 11, 2007


TNI co-signed a letter urging the Dutch government to open international debate about UN drug control conventions. It was sent to the Dutch Prime Minister and relevant parliamentary commissions, stressing the need for an active Dutch involvement in the UNGASS review process and specifically to use the moment to open the discussion about the UN conventions that are an obstacle to further developments in Dutch cannabis policy. The letter presents the resolution that resulted from the October 31 invitational conference on Dutch cannabis policy in The Hague, chaired by Maastricht mayor Leers. (See: Resolutie Cannabisbeleid (in Dutch).


December 6-8, 2007


TNI participated at the Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Orleans (USA) organized by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The conference gathering 1200 activists mainly from the US and several from Canada, Europe and Latin America. TNI spoke at a response panel to the speech by UNODC executive director Antonio Costa and panels on Latin American and global policy trends.
The Executive Director of the UNODC, Antonio Costa, adressed the conference (see his speech Free drugs or drug free? or the video registration) in response to the article Think Again: Drugs, by Ethan Nadelmann of the DPA in the September issue of Foreign Affairs. Pat O'Hare (IHRA) Alex Wodak (Australian Drug Foundation), Craig Reinarman (UC Santa Cruz), Ernest Drucker (Einstein College of Medicine and Columbia University) and Martin Jelsma (TNI), offered a critical commentary on his speech. Costa was challenged, with the example of the Netherlands, on a comment he made about how availability correlates to prevalence of use. The point made to him was specifically that the Netherlands effectively had free cannabis availability, but average to low (European) levels of use. Costa's response was to accuse the Netherlands of 'poisoning the rest of Europe' with its amphetamine production.
See also: UNODC director (lamb) addresses the DPA (slaughter) (Transform Drug Policy Foundation Media Blog) and Mr. Costa Meets the Opposition (Drug War Chronicle).


November 22-24, 2007


TNI, the Catalan Parliament Office for Peace and Human Rights Promotion, CIDOB Foundation, and the Maloka Collective organised the seminar "The illicit drugs economy, sphere of conflict and human rights" in Barcelona. For the programme see: Programa (in Spanish).
Several papers were delivered on the cocaine market, drug trafficking and organised crime, drugs and human rights in Colombia, comparison with Afghanistan, Burma and West-Africa and policy alternatives that will be elaborated into a book early 2008.


November 9-10, 2007


The fourth informal drug policy dialogue, an initiative of the Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation (APF) and the Transnational Institute (TNI), took place in Rome in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Social Solidarity. The two-day dialogue had seven sessions focused on (1) New developments in the field of Harm Reduction; (2) Drugs and prisons; (3) Social spending of confiscated criminal assets; (4) Access to controlled medications; (5) Evaluating the UN drug control system and the 1998 UNGASS review; (6) Towards another control model for cannabis and a reassessment of the coca leaf?; and (7) What to expect from the UNGASS review process. See thereport on the meeting


October 30 - November 1, 2007


Tom Kramer of TNI participated in the Global Workshop 'Developing a Strategic Approach to Alternative Development', in Bangkok, Thailand, a policy conference focused on opium cultivation and sustainable alternatives, organised by the FAO, BMZ, GTZ and UNODC and funded by the European Commission. The workshop made several key recommendations to governments, international agencies and civil society, to feed into the deliberations of the UNGASS review. These include the need to develop integrated and common approaches, and ensuring that traditional values and customs of local communities and civil society are reflected in national polices and laws, and ensuring that eradication is not undertaken until households have viable and sustainable livelihoods, and that development assistance is not made conditional on reductions in illicit drug crop cultivation. It also recommended that civil society must be engaged at all stages of the project/investment cycle; and be encouraged and empowered to actively contribute to the development of policy.


October 10, 2007


The second Latin American informal policy dialogue in Mexico City with Mexican government officials, academics and civil society in cooperation with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).


September 27, 2007


Martin Jelsma participated at a marathon interview about the situation in Afghanistan organised by Tumba in Leeuwarden (Netherlands). See the newspaper report: Somber beeld van 'vredesmissie' in Afghanistan, Friesch Dagblad 28 September 2007 (In Dutch).


September 18, 2007


TNI participated at the high-level drugs policy seminar in Lisbon, Portugal, organized by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).
The seminar was attended by 45 civil society representatives from 15 different countries. The objective of the seminar was to share information about the 2008 review of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Illicit Drugs - and to discuss the potential structure and content of any civil society contributions.
The IDPC is preparing The United Nations Review of Global Policy on Illegal Drugs – An Advocacy Guide for Civil Society. The report will aim to provide those working in the fields of harm reduction and drug policy with key information about the UNGASS review processes - as well as advice and ideas on how they can engage in effective advocacy to influence the outcomes.


September 10-12, 2007


The first Latin American informal policy dialogue in Montevideo (Uruguay) in cooperation with the Junta Nacional de Drogas of Uruguay and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). See: Final report of the meeting in Montevideo (PDF)


August 11-31, 2007


Tom Kramer and Martin Jelsma undertake a research mission in South-East Asia (Thailand, China and Laos) looking at the causes, consequences of and responses to the opium cultivation decline in the region.
In the media:
Notorious Golden Triangle loses sway in the opium trade, International Herald Tribune, September 11, 2007
No Blowing Smoke: Poppies Fade in Southeast Asia, The New York Times, September 16, 2007


June 26, 2007


TNI issues a press release, Wishful thinking clouds independent assessment in UN World Drug Report, on the 2006 World Drug Report released on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
See also: The World Drug Report 2007: Still winning the war on drugs?, IDPC Briefing Paper Number 6. The briefing criticises the claims made in the report that international action is successfully controlling the market, and questions the political objectivity of the UNODC as we approach the review of the global objectives set in 1998.


May 14-15, 2007


Martin Jelsma and Tom Kramer of TNI participated in the conference "Fighting Drugs and Building Peace: Toward Policy Coherence" in New York. The conference was organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Open Society Institute, the Fundación Ideas para la Paz*, and the Center on International Cooperation of New York University


May 13-17, 2007


TNI participates at the 18th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Warsaw (Poland).


May 2, 2007


TNI and the members of the Dutch NGO Network for Afghanistan (DNNA) issue a press release: Destroying Poppies Counterproductive in Uruzgan stating that Dutch support to the Afghan Eradication Force (EAF) in destroying poppies in Uruzgan is a mistake.


April 7-24, 2007


Tom Kramer and Martin Jelsma undertake a mission in Afghanistan looking at the opium erradiction efforts in Nangarhar and Badakshan, as well as the traditional use of opium.
They are interviewed by Radio Netherlands: 'Papaverteelt blijft noodzaak. Drugsonderzoekers: Papaververnietiging zal nooit werken, April 23, 2007 (in Dutch).
In the media:
Opium jihad, by Martin Jelsma and Tom Kramer, Red Pepper, June 2007


March 12-16, 2007


TNI participated at the 50th UN Comission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. For a civil society view of the proceedings see: The 2007 Commission on Narcotic Drugs, IDCP Briefing Nr. 5, March 2007.
A key decision this CND had to make is the timing and procedure for the 1998 UNGASS review (see also: The UNGASS Evaluation Process Evaluated, IDCP Briefing Nr. 1, May 2006). A draft resolution tabled by Canada was negotiated and adopted that agrees to maintain the March 2008 CND meeting as the moment to present the UNODC assessment report on "the progress achieved in implementing the declarations and measures adopted by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session," in 1998, and to devote the thematic debate next year to discuss it, "underscoring the value of objective, scientific, balanced and transparent assessment." Following the March 2008 CND, a period of global reflection will start, leading to a high-level segment at the 2009 CND to draw conclusions for the future. The basic idea has thus been approved to separate time-wise the 2008 assessment report from the 2009 moment to adapt new strategies for the future, thereby preventing that documents guiding future steps are elaborated simultaneously with the UNODC assessment report without due time for reflection.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) emitted a clear signal to the governments of Bolivia, Peru and Argentina that growing and using coca leaf is in conflict with international treaties, particularly the 1961 Single Convention. The INCB, rather than making harsh judgements based on a selective choice of outdated treaty articles, should use its mandate more constructively and help draw attention to the inherent contradictions in the current treaty system with regard to how plants, plant-based raw materials and traditional uses are treated. TNI issued a new publication critizing the position of the INCB:Sending the wrong message: The INCB and the un-scheduling of the coca leaf, TNI Drug Policy Briefing 21, March 2006


February 23, 2007


Pien Metaal participated at the seminar Il proibizionismo continua a fare pena at the La Sapienza University in Rome speaking on Tendencies in European drugs legislation.


February 1-3, 2007


Pien Metaal and TNI consultants Ricardo Soberón and Thanasis Apostolou participated at the Wilton Park Conference on How can international drug policies succeed? Ricardo Soberón presented a paper entitled The Drug’s Legal Nightmare: An Andean Perspective




December 5, 2006


Publication of Losing Ground: Drug Control and War in Afghanistan, Drugs and Conflict Debate Paper 15. An OpEd is published in NRC Handelsblad by Tom Kramer and Martin Jelsma (in Dutch).
Press Release: Eradication could undermine Afghanistan reconstruction, new study warns.


December 4, 2006


Martin Jelsma particpates at the Beckley International Drug Policy Seminar in the House of Lords in London on the forthcoming global review of the international drug control system. He gave a speech on un-scheduling the coca leaf from the UN Conventions.


November 23-25, 2006


Ricardo Vargas participates in the conference ¿Hacia donde va Colombia? Centro Cívico Pati Llimona, Barcelona, Spain


November 13-14, 2006


Pien Metaal participates in the conference Mama Coca. Feria Íbera del Akhuliku Andino, Barcelona, Spain.
See also: Las virtudes de la Mamacoca, El País, 16 de noviembre de 2006. [Spanish]


November 9, 2006


Conference HIV/AIDS in Burma and neighbouring regions: Widening the space for harm reduction, Amsterdam


November 6-7, 2006


The third informal drug policy dialogue, an initiative of the Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation (APF) and the Transnational Institute (TNI), took place in Bern. The meeting was co-hosted by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health which generously provided hospitality and logistical support. Participants, most of whom are actively involved in policy, included over forty people from 21 countries, six inter-governmental organisations, five international NGOs and several academics. The two-day dialogue had four sessions focused on (1) the effectiveness of law enforcement in supply reduction, (2) recent developments around HIV/AIDS and harm reduction, (3) Bolivia and legal options for the coca leaf and (4) preparations for the 2008 UNGASS Review. In addition, participants were invited to visit the Bern city drug injection facility, where managers explained how the facility functioned and gave a guided tour of the premises. See the report on the meeting (Also available in Spanish.


October 14-15, 2006


Martin Jelsma, Pien Metaal and members of the International Coca Commission that has been set up by TNI discussed with Bolivian government officials the necessary steps to unschedule the coca leaf from the 1961 UN Convention.
See: ONG apoya al Gobierno para despenalizar la coca, Los Tiempos, 17 de octubre de 2006 [Spanish]
See also: Coca unscheduling


October 6-8, 2006


Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal participated in the II International Forum on the Coca Leaf: "The Frontiers of Coca" in Buenos Aires. They presented a new TNI-briefing on the cocaine base paste market in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil: El paco bajo la lupa: El mercado de la pasta base de cocaína en el Cono Sur, Drogas & Conflicto 14. The briefing is based on two studies carried out in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this report examines the origin, characteristics and impact of the explosive increase in cocaine base paste - “paco” - in urban areas. It also questions the possible cause-and-effect relationship between this increase and the transformation in the structure of drugs trafficking in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil.
See the press release: El mercado de la pasta base de cocaína en el Cono Sur, October 6, 2006. [Spanish]


July 18, 2006


Radio Netherlands (Spanish section) broadcasts interview with Cristian Rivier on Afghanistan.


June 26, 2006


UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the 2006 World Drug Report. The UNODC struggled to fabricate success stories about the effectiveness of the global drug control regime. Flawed comparisons were constructed with higher opium production levels a century ago, with higher prevalence figures for tobacco, and biased claims were made about cannabis. Martin Jelsma, coordinator of the Transnational Institute’s Drugs & Democracy Programme considers it to be "full of scientific insults". TNI released a press statement and a Drug Policy Briefing, International drug control: 100 years of success? TNI comments on the UNODC World Drug Report 2006.
The press release was quoted in: Cannabis, al tope del consumo, in Pagina/12, Buenos Aires; UN Drug Report Claims Crackdown is Paying Off, by the Inter Press Service News Agency; Westeuropa ist ziemlich verschnupft, in the German Tageszeitung; and Reefer Madness from the United Nations on International Anti-Drug Day, in the US DRCNet's Drug War Chronicle.


May 29-June 1, 2006


Martin Jelsma and Tom Kramer attended a 4-day policy conference on Development in a Drugs Environment: Beyond Alternative Development?, organised by the European Commission, the German Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at the GTZ-Haus in Berlin. Some 60 policy makers from around the world (UNODC, EC, OAS/CICAD, FAO, Worldbank, Afghanistan, Andean region, Laos/Thailand, UK, Germany) discussed concepts and future direction of alternative development strategies in the Andean region, Afghanistan and South East Asia. Tom Kramer gave a workshop on Burma.


May 26, 2006


TNI released Drug Policy Briefing 17, HIV/AIDS and drug use in Burma/Myanmar TNI/BCN, May 2006; just prior to the 2006 UNGASS Review from May 31-June 1 in New York, the follow-up to the 2001 UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.


May 8-17, 2006


Mission to Afghanistan: Tom Kramer and Cristian Rivier visit Kabul and Nangarhar province for interviews on opium eradication and on counternarcotics support by foreign military forces in the country. See their weblog Mailtje uit Afghanistan in the NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch).


May 10-12, 2006


The TNI drugs programme participated at the alternative EU-LAC Summit in Vienna, Enlazando Alternativas/Linking Alternatives. Pien Metaal hosted a panel on coca issue with Dionisio Nuñez (Bolivian farmer leader, government official and member of our Coca Commission), presenting the briefing ¿Coca Yes, Cocaine No? Legal Options for the Coca Leaf, Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 13, May 2006. A new section on the website on Coca/Cocaine was launched as well.


March 13-18, 2006


TNI participated at the 49th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. TNI co-organised and spoke at the parallel NGO Forum on Alternative Development and presented outcomes of the discussion in name of the UN NGO Committee at the CND Thematic Debate on Alternative Development. TNI lobbied for acceptance of a Harm Reduction resolution tabled by Brazil and for adoption of a EU resolution with a proposal for the evaluation of the 1998 UNGASS. Martin Jelsma was included in the Dutch governmental delegation as an NGO advisor.
In May, Tom Blickman co-authored a briefing The UNGASS Evaluation Process Evaluated, published by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) describing the fortunes of the resolution and as well as puttig forward proposals to strengthen the upcoming UNGASS evaluation process.


February 24, 2006


Martin Jelsma speaks at International Forum Drogas y Democracia en América LatinaTNI, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Enlace organised an International Forum "Drogas y Democracia en América Latina" in La Paz (Bolivia). WOLA presented their book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy. TNI presented proposals on options for coca decriminalization and the opportunities with the new government of president Evo Morales, a former coca grower. (See the Jornada and La Prensa press reports in Spanish) On the 25th there was a meeting at the Bolivian Foreign Ministry to discuss a coca diplomacy strategy.


February 20-22, 2006


TNI organised a workshop in Bolivia to establish a Coca Commission on options for coca decriminalization. On the 23th Pien Metaal of TNI participated at a live talk show on coca on Bolivian television.


February 9, 2006


Martin Jelsma of TNI presented an expert opinion at a hearing about regulating the supply of cannabis to coffeeshops and international implications in the Dutch parliament.


February 3-5, 2006


Martin Jelsma of TNI participated at the Wilton Park conference on International Drugs Policy: Setting the Agenda for UNGASS 2008. He chaired the session on "Reducing Supply: Dilemmas in Producing Countries".


January 26-27, 2006


Martin Jelsma and Tom Blickman participated at the the conference on Civil Society and Drugs in Europe in Brussels, organised by the Directorate-General for Freedom, Security and Justice of the European Commission.




December, 2005


In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken. However, a decision in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study. The US representative threatened that "if WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programmes should be curtailed". This led to the decision to discontinue publication. A part of the study has been recuperated and made available in a new section on the WHO Cocaine Project of the website.


December 16, 2005


TNI released a press statement about the arrest of the Peruvian coca-leader Nancy Obregón Peralta. (Only available in Spanish) TNI urged the Peruvian government to continue the dialogue with coca growers and expressed its concern about the increasing criminalization of social movements and the broken promises to the coca-farmers by the Peruvian government. Coca-leaders Nancy Obregon and Elsa Malpartida, who is also indicted, were interviewed in the book Hablan los diablos that was published in July 2005 by Abya Yala in cooperation with TNI.
See also: Broken Promises And Coca Eradication In Peru, TNI Drug Policy Briefing 11, March 2005. The forced crop eradication policy implemented by the Peruvian government over the past 25 years has failed. The official strategy has exacerbated social conflicts; contributed to various types of subversive violence; jeopardized local economies, also affecting the national economy; and destroyed forests as crops have become more scattered. Worst of all, it has not resolved any of the underlying causes of drug trafficking, such as poverty, marginalisation and government neglect. (More information in: Drugs and Conflict in Peru).


December 6, 2005


Pien Metaal spoke in Palermo (Sicily) at a workshop on Drugs and Globalization organised by "Diritti di strada", a consortium of civil society organisations in Italy in protest against the proposed new drug laws in Italy. Other speakers were Giusto Catania (a Member of the European Parliament for the Confederal Group of the European United Left), Dioniso Nuñez (cocalero and member of parliament for the MAS in Bolivia), Giuseppe Lumia (member of the opposition Democratici di sinistra and ex-chairman of the parliamentary Anti-mafia Committee), and Antonio Ingroia (a judge with the prosecutors office in Palermo).


November 20, 2005


The Beckley Foundation hosted network meetings in London of the International Drug Policy Consortium, a group of non-governmental organisations and professional networks, and the International Network for Drug Policy Analysis, a network of more academic drug policy analysis experts. TNI attended both meetings to discuss future directions of these new initiatives.


November 10-12, 2005


Martin Jelsma participated at the biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference organised by the Drug Policy Alliance in Long Beach, California. He spoke at four panel sessions on European trends, Latin American developments, global trends and the UNGASS review. On the final day, Martin Jelsma received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship, according to the press release "he is increasingly recognized as one of, if not the, outstanding strategists in terms of how international institutions deal with drugs and drug policy."


October 27-28, 2005


Pien Metaal presented "Hacia Viena 2008: Avances y dificultades en la plataforma de despenalización" at the international seminar on Depenalisation of the Coca Leaf in La Paz (Bolivia) as part of the second annual campaign Coca Sovereignity (Coca Soberanía).


October 24, 2005


Martin Jelsma participated at the annual conference of the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions (ICAA) in Budapest. He was invited to speak on the opening day devoted to policy evaluation, in a panel with the Deputy Director of UNODC, on The UN Drug Control Debate. Current Dilemmas and Prospects for 2006.


October 21-22, 2005


A second meeting of the informal drug policy dialogue, an initiative of the Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation (APF) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) was held in Budapest, where the Department for Drug Strategic Affairs of the Hungarian Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities generously provided hospitality and logistical support. As in 2004 on the isle of Crete, the meeting had an informal nature. The two-day dialogue was focused on three themes: (1) harm reduction developments at the regional and UN level; (2) alternative development: dilemmas around coca and opium reduction efforts; and (3) preparations for the 2008 UNGASS review. The aim was to come to workable suggestions and ideas that can be used in the ongoing policy debate. See the report on the meeting [Also available in Spanish].


August 10-11, 2005


Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal participated at the Third National Conference on Drug Policies in Buenos Aires (Argentina) organised by Intercambios. Martin Jelsma delivered a key note speech: Las políticas de drogas de Naciones Unidas. Una visión crítica (only available in Spanish).
Jelsma was interviewed for the newsletter Intercambiando and by the Argentinian newspaper Pagina/12 (La trama de la "lucha contra el narcotráfico", Página/12, 28 August 2005).


June 26, 2005


TNI press release on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking: International Day for Humane Drug Policies


June 25, 2005


TNI/BCN Press Release: Opium Bans Will Cause Human Misery in Afghanistan and Burma. On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking on 26 June 2005, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), one of the rebel groups in Burma, has declared opium free the areas under their control in northern Burma. In Afghanistan, the opium ban issued by President Hamid Karzai in 2002 will be enforced more rigorously. These bans are in response to pressure from the international community. Banning opium has an immediate and profound impact on the livelihoods of 4.3 million people. Many more are indirectly dependent on income generated on the illicit market. The consequence will be a downward spiral of poverty in the opium growing regions of both countries.
The Press release accompanied the publication of Downward Spiral: Banning Opium in Afghanistan and Birma, TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Briefing 12, June 2005, and the publication of Trouble in the Triangle: Opium and Conflict in Burma, edited by Martin Jelsma, Tom Kramer, Pietje Vervest, and published by Silkworm Books in July 2005.


April 21, 2005


Pien Metaal commented on EU action plan on supply control strategies at a Public Hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels on the EU Drugs Action Plan for 2005-2008 put forward by the European Commission.


April 4-8, 2005


Pien Metaal and TNI consultants in Peru, Hugo Cabieses and Ricardo Soberón, participated at the International Forum on the Coca Leaf at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima (Peru) during the manifestation "A Week of Peace with Coca" organised by Comunidad Tawantinsuyu. (See the final declaration).


March 31, 2005


The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) released a study on the effects of glyphosate spraying of coca crops in Colombia. This Environmental and Human Health Assessment of the Aerial Spray Program for Coca and Poppy Control in Colombia reached the surprising conclusion that glyphosate does not represent a risk to human beings and the environment. TNI Associate Fellow Ricardo Vargas commented on the study: A Few Comments about the OAS-CICAD Study of the Impact of Glyphosate used in the Eradication of Illicit Crops in Colombia; and a Drug Policy Briefing was published: The Politics of Glyphosate. The CICAD Study on the Impacts of Glyphosate and the Crop Figures in June 2005. See also CICAD Study on Glyphosate.


March 21-23, 2005


Martin Jelsma, Thanasis Apostolou and Tom Blickman participated at the Wilton Park conference Drug Abuse: How can it be reduced?, the third one devoted to the global drug policy debate. The conference was organised in co-operation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Beckley Foundation, DrugScope, Open Society Institute and TNI. Martin Jelsma gave one of the opening speeches on Key Policy Dilemmas in Coca and Opium Reduction Strategies.


March 7-11, 2005


TNI participated at the 48th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. Much activities were devoted to an urgent lobby, mobilisation and media campaign to counter the US pressure on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to withdraw support from needle exchange and other harm reduction approaches. TNI outlined in detail the background to the US pressure on UNODC and the emerging contradictions within the UN system in a Drug Policy Briefing, The United Nations and Harm Reduction, published in March 2005. Governments were urged to stand up to defend harm reduction at the upcoming CND meeting. The campaign had a tremendous impact. The CND session turned out to be a massive endorsement of harm reduction measures to counter the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In terms of formal outcome, however, the results were most disappointing as the US delegation proved intransigent and blocked the adoption of any harm-reduction friendly language. TNI issued a detailed report in The United Nations and Harm Reduction - Revisited; An Unauthorised Report on the Outcomes of the 48th CND Session. A new TNI web section was set up on The UN and Harm Reduction.
Prior to the CND, on 1 March 2005, 334 organizations (including TNI) and individuals in 56 countries released a An Open Letter to the delegates of the Forty-eighth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that denounced US pressure against harm reduction policies. The Open Letter stated that: "In a year when the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is chair of the governing body of the UN's Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), we write to express concern about U.S. efforts to force a UNODC retreat from support of syringe exchange and other measures proven to contain the spread of HIV among drug users. [..] As you gather this year to debate HIV/AIDS prevention and drug abuse, we respectfully urge you to support syringe exchange, opiate substitution treatment and other harm reduction approaches demonstrated to reduce HIV risk; to affirm the human rights of drug users to health and health services; and to reject efforts to overrule science and tie the hands of those working on the front lines. No less than the future of the HIV epidemic is at stake."
See also:
TNI Press Release US pressure against harm reduction backfires at CND 9 March 2005
TNI Press Release The United Nations and Harm Reduction 6 March 2005


February, 2005


Martin Jelsma joined a research mission on drugs and conflict to Afghanistan. The three-person visit was organised by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) as part of a European Commission Project for Alternative Livelihoods (PAL). The aim was to obtain an overview of the inter-linkages between the opium economy and conflicts of various natures in the country, with a focus on Nangarhar and Laghman provinces in Eastern Afghanistan. Key national and international actors were interviewed at length, including Counter-Narcotics Minister Qaderi, Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics Gen. Daud, Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development Hanif Atmar, Counter-Narcotics Police, the US, EU, German, British and Dutch embassies in Kabul, ISAF, UNODC, USAID, World Bank, and several NGOs.


January 26-31, 2005


At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in Brazil, TNIs Drugs and Democracy programme and Crime and Globalisation project presented a briefing on the drugs and crime situation in Brazil, A Pointless War: Drugs and Violence in Brazil. Jointly with the Brazilian partner Koinonia presentations were held at two different panels on the drugs and conflict situations in Brazil and Latin America with the participation of about 150 people.
TNI invited some of their Latin American partners (TNI Associate Fellow Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina Colombia, Ricardo Soberon from Peru, Adriana Rossi of Acción Sur from Argentina) and some Latin American parliamentarians involved in drug issues (Dionisio Nuñez of the MAS from Bolivia and Luis Guerrero of Peru Ahora). All of them held presentations at the WSF seminars in addition to two of the authors of the briefing, Jorge Atilo Iulianelli of Koinonia and Paulo Fraga of the Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz (UESC) in Bahia. In addition Italian social forum spokesperson and Aids campaigner Vittorio Agnoletto was invited to talk about European drug policies, as well as Sandra Batista, the director of the Latin American Harm Reduction Network (RELARD) on harm reduction in Latin America.
The briefing was also presented in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro, with the participation of some state (Carlos Minc and Chico Alencar of the PT in Rio) and national representatives (Fernando Ferro of the PT in Pernambuco). While in Rio a trip was organised to the favelas Vicario Geral and Furquim Mendes with the help of a local NGO, the Instituto Brasileiro de Inovações em Saúde Social (IBISS) in order to put the partners and parliamentarians in touch with the realities of gang and police violence in the favelas.




October 18-19, 2004


Pien Metaal speaks on "Coca, Cocaina y Convenciones" at the international seminar Despenalización de la hoja de coca: Hacia políticas estatales soberanas at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz (Bolivia). The seminar is part of the first annual campaign Coca Sovereignity (Coca Soberanía).


September 15-19, 2004


Pien Metaal participated at the Foro Andino Amazónico - Encuentro Regional de la Comisión Mundial Independiente in Popayán (Colombia).


July 14-16, 2004


Martin Jelsma participated at the Workshop: "Balance and Prospects of the Political and Cooperative Relations between the European Union and Colombia", Lleida (Lerida, Spain) and presents Political and Cooperative Strategies of the European Union in the War on Drugs (only available in Spanish).


June 4-5, 2004

Martin Jelsma, Thanasis Apostolou and Alexandros Papaderos

An informal drug policy dialogue takes place in on the island of Crete, as a result of a joint initiative by TNI and the Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation. The meeting is hosted by the Orthodox Academy in Kolymbari, and is guided by "Chatham House Rules" to encourage a free exchange of thoughts. The thirty participants include ministerial officials from several countries, representatives from UN and European institutions, and non-governmental drug policy experts engaged in an open-minded debate about ongoing drug policy trends.


May 26-27, 2004


TNI participated at the conference Cultivos de uso ilícito en la región andina. Implicaciones políticas, movimientos sociales y desarrollo alternativo in Paris, organised by the Grupo sobre Actualidad Colombiana (GAC). Pien Metaal, TNI Associate Fellow Ricardo Vargas, Hugo Cabieses and Amira Armenta organised a panel during the conference.
At the conference TNI presented its recent publication Coca or Death? Cocalero movements in Peru and Bolivia, TNI Drugs & Conflict 10, April 2004.


May 10-11, 2004


Martin Jelsma speaks at the Irish EU Presidency Conference "EU Strategy on Drugs - The Way Forward" about the EU drugs strategy 2005-2012, in Dublin (Ireland).


April 14-16, 2004


Martin Jelsma participated at the Wilton Park Conference on Tackling Problem Drug Use in Europe: What Responses are Appropriate?.


March 26, 2004


Martin Jelsma and Tom Blickman participated at "Drugs & Drang" conference on drugs and security, in Rotterdam. The conference was convened by the scientific bureaus of some Dutch political parties and originated from a report in 2003 by a working group on drugs policies of the scientific bureau of the Green Left Party in which TNI participated.


March 16-20, 2004


Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal participated at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. The briefring Cracks in the Vienna Consensus: The UN Drug Control Debate, published in the Drug War Monitor of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in January 2004 was distributed among the delegates.
Arguments about inconsistencies within the UN system highlighted in TNIs publications have been well read and taken into consideration. Over the past two years, TNI brought these arguments directly into policy circles through speeches at high-level conferences and many conversations with UN and national officials. Meanwhile a growing global consensus around the Millennium Development Goals stressed the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention, for which harm reduction measures amongst drug users plays an important role. Taken together, these efforts resulted in marked shifts in the tone and language of UN drug control documents. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) adopted a more humane and pragmatic approach to drug users, especially for the sake of HIV/AIDS prevention. But this development also triggered a fierce reaction from the US side, which promotes a zero-tolerance approach. In late 2004, the US threatened to cut UNODC funding unless it distanced itself from needle exchange and other harm reduction practices.


February 18-20, 2004


Pien Metaal participated at the National Coca Farmers Convention in Lima, Peru.


February 9-12, 2004


Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal participated at the Latin American Harm Reduction Conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil.




December 14-15, 2003


TNI and the Burma Centrum Netherlands organised a unique international conference Drugs and Conflict in Burma: Dilemma's for Policy Responses at the Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, which brought together, for the first time, people from ceasefire regions and exile groups, international experts on the drugs issue, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Burma solidarity organisations in Europe and representatives of European ministries and development NGOs. The closed conference clarified the issues at stake, frankly discussed the delicate political situation, and explored possibilities for a more humane drug policy that would secure the longer-term sustainability of alternative sources of income for poppy farmers.
In preparation of the seminar a new issue in Drugs and Conflict series was published. A report of the conference Harm reduction for poppy farmers in Myanmar? appeared in the AHRN (Asian Harm Reduction Network) Newsletter 34, April 2004 [PDF document].
The book Trouble in the Triangle: Opium and Conflict in Burma, contains the proceedings of the conference and the papers presented. It was edited by Martin Jelsma, Tom Kramer, Pietje Vervest, and published by Silkworm Books in July 2005.


October 23-26, 2003


The Lisbon International Symposium on Global Drug Policy organised by the Senlis Council. During the Workshop International Cooperation on Drug Policy, TNI fellow Martin Jelsma concluded that there was a need for a roadmap for change. A precondition, of course, being political will. The view was taken that change would best be founded on collective action based on ad hoc alliances between like-minded states.


October 10, 2003


Presentation of the new Drugs and Conflict publication, Forward Operating Locations in Latin America: Transcending Drug Control Salon Latino, Amsterdam.


September 2003



TNI research mission to the Shan region and the Thai border area in Burma. Meeting with ceasefire and armed opposition groups, political opposition and civil society groups, poppy farmers, local and international representatives of drugs control and alternative development agencies.


June 16-20, 2003


Martin Jelsma presented an analysis of the UNGASS Mid-term Review, Global Trends: Lessons from Vienna, at the Thematic World Social Forum Cartagena (Colombia).


April 8-17, 2003


Martin Jelsma in ViennaTNI participated at the 46th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) dedicated to the UNGASS Mid-term Review. TNI had a measurable impact on the debate in Vienna as evidenced, not least, by the attempts to counter our arguments which officials of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) admitted they felt sufficiently challenged to do, and the extent to which TNI's views were carried in the international and specialist media, helping to stimulate debate around the Vienna Review.
In a well co-ordinated effort during the previous months, TNI produced a number of informative briefings widely distributed amongst drug policy officials. In July 2002 the briefing Breaking the Impasse: Polarisation & Paralysis in UN Drug Control was published and in March 2003 Change of Course: An Agenda for Vienna. On April 8, 2003, the report Measuring Progress: Global Supply of Illicit Drugs was published, as a critical reaction on the report "Encouraging progress towards still distant goals" of the Executive Director of the UNODC, Mr Antonio Maria Costa.
A special web page was launched on United Nations Drug Control serving as an essential source of background for many around the world preparing for the Vienna event. An intensive round of lobby meetings was held with high-level officials of many countries in Europe and Latin America, including a number of meetings with representatives of the four Dutch Ministries attending the mid-term review in Vienna. TNI also hosted and lent its expertise to two major Dutch political parties preparing a parliamentary debate on the issues in the Netherlands.
Martin Jelsma of TNI published an important background article, Drugs in the UN system: The Unwritten History of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in the influential International Journal on Drug Policy on the eve of the Vienna Review, and was widely cited in specialist media in Spain, Italy and The Netherlands and through stories put out by the UN wire service. During the Review Conference itself, TNI was quoted in The Economist, die Tageszeitung (Germany), The Guardian (UK), and numerous radio and press agencies in Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland and Mexico.
The outcomes of the 46th CND session and the mid-term review were most disappointing. The absence of significant progress over the past five years did not leed to self-reflection and evaluation. The goals and targets of the UNGASS were simply re-affirmed. Most countries concentrated on a stock taking halfway of the implemented measures, without an honest analysis of the impact these measured have had. The result was a distorted picture of virtual progress in order to justify to stay on the same course. The illusion was kept alive that reality will somehow fall into line with wishful thinking. See: Cracks in the Vienna consensus, TNI Press Release, 17 April 2003.


March 28-29, 2003


Seminar "From Venezia to Vienna: for a pragmatic andeffective alternative to the war on drugs", organised by Forum Droghe in Venice (Italy). Martin Jelsma delivered one of the key-note speeches Change of Course: An Agenda for Vienna.


March 6-7, 2003


TNI participated at the EU Presidency High Level Conference "Towards an Effective Policy on Drugs: Scientific evidence, day-to-day practice and policy choices", organised jointly with the EMCDDA and the European Commission, Athens. Martin Jelsma delivered one of the key-note speeches on Supply Reduction and Law Enforcement.
The report Change of Course. An Agenda for Vienna was distributed to all participants in preparation to the UNGASS Mid-term review at the forthcoming 46th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to be held in Vienna from 8 to 17 April 2003. The aim of the Conference was, among other things, to contribute to the establishment of an EU position at the UNGASS Mid-term Review (see under paragraph 3 of the Report of the Greek Presidency on the High Level Conference on Drugs).


March 4-5, 2003


Hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels: "Vienna 2003: A Chance for the world - For Another Drug Policy" organised by the International Coalition of NGOs for a Just and Effective Drug Policy (ICN). Martin Jelsma delivered one of the key-note speeches Change of Course: An Agenda for Vienna.


February 26, 2003


In the Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2002 the president of the Board, Dr. Philip O. Emafo from Nigeria, launched a strong attack against groups that advocate legalisation or decriminalisation of drug offences, as well as groups "that favour a crusade" focusing only on harm reduction. TNI sharply critizised this position in a press release and the briefing The Erratic Crusade of the INCB.




During 2002, the Drugs & Democracy programme largely focussed on drug policy reform options within the European Union and the United Nations. Many activities were directly linked to preparations for the UNGASS mid-term review in April 2003 in Vienna. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs took place in 1998. The mid-term review in Vienna provides a global opportunity to re-examine and challenge current international drug policies. Such an opportunity was lost in 1998.
A separate programme component was implemented by our partner Acción Andina in Colombia in the context of illicit crops, armed conflict and alternative development, following up the drugs and peace activities in the Andean region of preceding years.



December 2-5, 2002


Virginia Montañés participated at the XI Jornadas de debate sobre la legalización de las drogas, organized by Bizitzeco, Bilbao. She presents the paper El prohibicionismo en el mundo después del 11-S (in Spanish).


October 14-15, 2002


Tom Blickman makes presentations on 'Breaking the Impasse: Towards a New Global Drug Policy' and 'Which Alliances to foster a New Global Drug Policy are thinkable?' at the Berlin Drug Conference, organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).


September 26, 2002


Martin Jelsma presents Diverging Trends in International Drug Policy Making: The Polarisation Between Dogmatic and Pragmatic at the 2nd European Conference on Drug Trafficking and Law Enforcement, organised by DrugScope in Paris.


July, 2002


TNI launched its briefing Breaking the Impasse. Polarisation & Paralysis in UN Drug Control in preparation for the UNGASS mid-term review in April 2003 in Vienna. The briefing argued that the past decade has seen an increasing polarisation between divergent trends in global drug policies. There has been an escalation in the US-driven War on Drugs, which has created a drug gulag domestically and increased militarised forced eradication abroad. In Europe and elsewhere, a more flexible and pragmatic approach has gained ground in domestic drug policy-making. But they are reaching the legal limits within the framework of the current UN Drug Conventions. The polarisation between the two main trends has resulted in a policy paralysis at the UN level.


June 18, 2002


Martin Jelsma presents Breaking the Impasse - Mid-term UNGASS Review: Obstacles and Opportunities at the seminar "Drug law reform: Europe's contribution to UNGASS 2003" organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), one of the UK's leading progressive think tanks, in London.


March 25-27, 2002


Martin Jelsma participated at the Wilton Park Conference on Drug Policies and their Impact, United Kingdom. He delivers one of the key-note speeches on Drug Policies at National and International Level: How Can Reform Be Achieved?.


March 11-15, 2002


TNI participated at the meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. On 8 March 2002 TNI released a press statement: Important issues at stake at UN drugs commission.
At the CND there was a strong attack against the European practice of 'leniency' regarding cannabis use and possession through an orchestrated attempt to pass a CND resolution to put a dam against the 'leniency'. TNI reported on the proceedings in European Cannabis Policies Under Attack in a TNI Briefing in April 2002. In May, TNI released a press statement, Reform of UN Drug Conventions on the Agenda, to start te debate on the upcoming UNGASS Mid-term Review in 2003.


January 7-12, 2002


TNI participated at the International Conference on The Role of Alternative Development in Drug Control and Development Cooperation, organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Feldafing, Germany. Martin Jelsma presents Alternative Development and Drug Control: A Critical Assessment.
TNI analyzed the incompatibilities between developmental and repressive drug control approaches, urged to refine the concepts agreed at the UNGASS in 1998 and participated in the elaboration of a resolution on the future of alternative development for the next CND in Vienna in March 2002. In March, TNI prepared a briefing A Failed Balance: Alternative Development and Eradication that was widely distributed among drug policy officials in Vienna.




In 2001, a major focus of the Drugs & Democracy programme was Colombia, where the US-led war on drugs hampered the negotiations between the government and guerrilla forces to end the 40-year civil war. Together with TNIs counterpart in Colombia, Acción Andina, the programme campaigned around two major issues: the chemical fumigation of drug crops and the ill-conceived Plan Colombia, with its emphasis on a militarised approach to the drug problem. See also: Drugs and Conflict from TNI's Annual Report 2001.
The developments in Colombia also reached the Dutch political arena. In March 2000 the Dutch government had signed a treaty with the US to establish Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) on the Caribbean islands Aruba and Curaçao - both part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These forward located U.S. military support air bases were necessary to compensate the loss of U.S. military facilities in the Panama Canal Zone that had to be returned to Panama in 1999. TNI engaged the Dutch government, parliament and public on the wisdom of allowing U.S. military bases to operate from Dutch territories, arguing that it is tantamount to supporting Washington's interventions in Colombia's civil war. This generated quite some media attention in The Netherlands.



December 12-14, 2001


During the mid-term session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, TNI distributed a Drug Policy Briefings on New Possibilities for Change in International Drug Control. The briefing intended to shift the focus of attention away from mismanagement allegations against the Executive Director of the UNDCP, Mr. Arlacchi, towards his negative legacy on the direction of international drug control policy, the absence of evaluation processes and the internal culture of the agency that punishes dissent and suffocates content debate.


September 11, 2001


As a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the illicit drug economy reached the focus of international attention. Drug trafficking was identified as a source to finance terrorism, especially in the case of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, ignoring the fact that the Taleban had already banned opium cultivation in July 2000, while the Northern Alliance, the ally of the U.S. led alliance against terrorism, did rely on income out of the opium economy. In December the third issue of the Drugs & Conflict series, Merging Wars: Afghanistan, Drugs and Terrorism was devoted to this issue. A special web page on War and Opium in Afghanistan was put on-line.


September, 2001


TNI released a second issue in the Drugs & Conflict series, In the Heat of the Debate: Fumigation and Conflict in Colombia. The objective was on the one hand to inform all the groups that had become involved in the campaign against the fumigations abouut the recent developments.


May, 2001


Just prior to the debate in the Dutch parliament on May 29 on the treaty between the Dutch Government with the US to establish Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) on the Caribbean islands Aruba and Curaçao, TNI called together a group of major Dutch human rights, developmental, environmental and drug policy reform organizations to take a common stand against the FOL treaty that resulted in a petition to parliament not to ratify the treaty. On the eve of the parliamentary debate, TNI organized a public event attended by some 120 people. TNI Associate Fellow Ricardo Vargas and Joy Olson, an expert on US military anti-drug operations from the Washington based Latin America Working Group were invited for a panel discussion with the two key parliamentarians on the issue, and a representative of the Dutch chapter of Mediciens Sans Frontiers.


April 30, 2001


An international donor conference in Brussels was held to finalise Europes position and financial support. Prior to the international donor conference in Brussels that was scheduled to finalise Europes position and financial support to Plan Colombia, TNI launched its new Drugs & Conflict debate papers series with Europe and Plan Colombia, which clarified the confusion in the decision-making process around Plan Colombia.
The fundamental flaws in the schemes for voluntary eradication or social pacts, trumpeted by the Colombian government as alternatives offered to small coca farmers, were exposed as being extorted under threat of fumigations. A proposal was presented for an authentic dialogue with the communities involved, exploring options for gradual eradication schemes that were truly voluntary. In close collaboration with European and Colombian organisations, TNI lobbied European countries, organised a parallel NGO conference and briefed the press in order to persuade Europe not to support Plan Colombia. The argument was made that the US-supported militarised anti-narcotics dimension would negate any investment EU countries might make, and did not take sufficient account of the views of Colombias citizens. The campaign was successful in that Europe ultimately rejected Plan Colombia and restricted its financial aid to projects in support of the peace process.


March 20-29, 2001


TNI participated at the meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. TNI distributed two hundred copies of the report Vicious Circle - The chemical and biological War on Drugs among the delegates to expose the controversial role UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) played in advancing research on a fungus to destroy illicit drug crops.


March 13, 2001


Release of a report by the Amsterdam International Law Center (AILC) of the University of Amsterdam to investigate the consequences according to international law of the treaty between the Dutch government and the U.S. to establish Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) on the Caribbean islands Aruba and Curaçao. The report of the AILC concluded that The Netherlands could be held responsible for violations of international law and be co-responsible for human right violations in Colombia as a result of operations conducted from the FOLs.




Drugs and Peace in Colombia was the main focus of the Drugs & Democracy Programme in 2000. The two major, inter-related issues of the year were the pending introduction of a deadly fungus to coca-growing areas, with United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) support; and international mobilisation against the ill-conceived 'Plan Colombia', with its emphasis on a militarised approach to the drugs problem including large scale chemical fumigation of coca cultivation areas. Both initiatives would seriously escalate the already devastating civil war in Colombia.



October 16-18, 2000


Ricardo Vargas (Acción Andina) and Martin Jelsma (TNI) participated at the International Conference for Peace and Human Rights in Colombia in San José (Costa Rica). This conference was convened by the broad Colombian social coalition, Paz Colombia, to discuss civil society and international community involvement in the peace process in Colombia. One of the five commissions was devoted to the issue of illicit crops and anti-drug policies. Ricardo Vargas presented the official Paz Colombia position on the issue, largely based on the TNI/AA programme's 'Proposal for Peace'.
Tema de trabajo: Implicaciones sociales, económicas y políticas de la lucha contra el narcotráfico y de la sustitución de cultivos ilícitos (in Spanish).


October 13, 2000


TNI and Acción Andina participated at the "International Forum on Antidrugs Policy: From Fumigation to Manual Erradication", at the Law Faculty of the National University of Colombia (Bogotá).


October 10-11, 2000


TNI and Acción Andina co-hosted the conference "The War on Drugs and the Use of Biological Weapons", in Quito (Ecuador) in collabaration with Acción Ecológica (Ecuador) and The Sunshine Project (US). The conference was attended by 150 people from the Andean-Amazon region, including parliamentarians, ministerial officials, representatives of international agencies and NGOs. Martin Jelsma presented a short history of the chemical and biological war against drugs (Breve historia de la guerra química y biológica contra las drogas, only available in Spanish).


July 5-7, 2000


TNI, as part of a coalition of 70 Colombian and 50 European NGOs, organised a conference entitled 'Colombia and Europe respond jointly to Plan Colombia' in Madrid, parallel to the official donor conference for Plan Colombia on July 7. During the donors' meeting, the coalition convened a very well attended press conference, chaired by TNI fellow and Director of the Centre for Peace Research (CIP) in Madrid, Mariano Aguirre. Martin Jelsma, Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina Colombia and others from the coalition briefed the press on why Europe should not support Plan Colombia and what the plan should be.


June 29-30, 2000

Cover Cultivos illicitos y proceso de paz en Colombia

International Hearing on Illicit Crops and Environment in the demilitarized zone in southern Colombia. The hearing was co-hosted by the two key parties to the peace talks in Colombia - the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian government. The aim of this 'Audiencia' was to further debate amongst key negotiating partners about the relationship between the illicit drug economy and the peace process. Ricardo Vargas representing Acción Andina and Martin Jelsma for TNI were official delegates to the meeting, which also included a host of Colombian peasant and NGO representatives, as well as government representatives rom all European Union states, Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and various international agencies. Acción Andina and TNI presented their proposal for peace Drug Crops and Peace Process in Colombia. A Proposal for Peace.
Full text in Spanish of the proposal: Cultivos ilícitos y proceso de paz en Colombia: Una propuesta de cambio en la estrategia antidrogas hacia la solució politica del conflicto Ricardo Vargas Meza and Martin Jelsma, TNI/Acción Andina.


June 22, 2000


The US Congress committed US$1.3b over two years to Plan Colombia, with more than 70%of this destined for military operations designed to fight the "war on drugs ". TNI and Acción Andina critized the Plan. In the words of TNI Associate fellow, Ricardo Vargas what was "peace-building in Colombia has become the anti-narcotics strategy of the USA".


March 22-25, 2000


Martin Jelsma participated at the Permanent People's Tribunal on Global Corporations and Human Wrongs, at the University of Warwick, and delivered a speech on The Vicious Circle: The Chemical Spraying of Drug Crops in Colombia.


February, 2000


TNI published a briefing paper, Fungus versus Coca: The UNDCP and the Biological War on Drugs in Colombia to expose that the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Colombian government were negotiating an agreement to start open field tests on a coca-killing fungus, fusarium oxysporum, as an "environmentally safe alternative" to chemical herbicides, with a view to large-scale aerial application by 2002. Fungus versus Coca raised very serious concerns about the environmental risks posed by fusarium, including the acknowledged danger that the fungus could attack other plant species with consequences for the Amazon rain forest; the social impact of fumigations on the war-driven refugees dependent on the coca survival economy; and the questionable role of a United Nations agency. The revelations quickly spread across Colombia being broadcast by several TV news stations and some press in the US and Europe picked up the controversial story, which became the focus of a documentary televised by the BBCs Panorama ("Britain's Secret War On Drugs"). The avalanche of critique led the Colombian government to reject the proposal and the region-wide environmental authorities to prohibit the use of fusarium on Andean soil. By November, the embattled UNDCP announced it was withdrawing its support for the fusarium project in Colombia.




Alternatives to the War on Drugs in Latin America from TNI's Annual Report 2000




Alternatives to the War on Drugs in Latin America Activity Report 1998




Alternatives to the War on Drugs in Latin America Activity Report 1997