The global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic. Today, there are an estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV – and injection drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The global debate on drug policy is getting more interesting, due in no small part to initiatives from Latin America. The Uruguayan government’s June 20 announcement that it will propose legislation to create a legal, regulated market for marijuana is just the latest development to challenge business as usual in the “war on drugs.” The question of alternatives to the drug war took center stage at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in April, which culminated in an announcement by President Santos tasking the Organization of American States (OAS) with evaluating present policies and laying out other possible options.
The EU's proposed free trade agreement with Colombia will worsen the already serious human rights violations in the country, as its drive to access to cheap raw materials for European corporations means forcing local people off their land.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), together with Transform Drug Policy Foundation, were among the NGOs launching the Count the Costs campaign to urge governments to evaluate the impacts of the 50 years old UN drug control system. This campaign movie highlights one of the most compelling issue, the human rights impacts of the global war on drugs (read Transform's report on the human rights costs).
Some have hailed the Obama administration’s 2012 National Drug Control Strategy as a revolutionary shift toward a public health approach to the nation’s drug problems. Others have panned it as nothing new. There are actually advances to applaud in the new strategy and budget, in terms of both rhetoric and substance. Those positive steps should be acknowledged. But the extent to which the 2012 strategy represents a break from the past should not overstated.
War on Want fights poverty in developing countries in partnership with people affected by globalisation. We campaign for human rights and against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice.
Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed, and worse, have spurred black market violence and human rights abuses. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform?
The UN International Narcotics Control Board's irrational attack on Bolivia for its reservation on one aspect of the 1961 Single Convention on Drugs is further evidence of its incompetence and overreach.
Latin American drug policies have made no dent in the drug trade; instead they have taken a tremendous toll on human lives. In 2009, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) embarked on an ambitious project to document the real impact of Latin America’s “war on drugs” and to show its human cost through the video testimonies of the victims themselves.
The following notes are summaries of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs discussions about Bolivia’s coca amendment and denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, taken from the reports of their meetings since September 2010.
A critical rethink of the war on drugs features prominently on the agenda of the Cartagena summit. This provides opportunities to move forward but also faces several risks that could suffocate the remarkable yet incipient political opening of the drugs debate in Latin America.
Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of Open Society Foundations Global Drug Policy Program
16 August 2012
It’s sad that drug policy reform must always be wrapped tragedy but alas – in the context of drugs – crisis has historically been the mother of invention. It was in the face of thousands of overdoses and the highest HIV prevalence in Western Europe that Switzerland introduced effective heroin-prescription programmes, safe injection facilities, needle and syringe-exchange programmes and low-threshold methadone services.