The Alternative World Drug Report, launched to coincide with publication of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report, exposes the failure of governments and the UN to assess the extraordinary costs of pursuing a global war on drugs, and calls for UN member states to meaningfully count these costs and explore all the alternatives.
In a joint press release with the Washington Office on Latin America, the Transnational Institute’s Martin Jelsma said that the INCB’s response to Bolivia is a “clear sign that the UN drug control regime is under strain,” and that the INCB “is in distress and no longer capable of responding to challenges in a rational manner.”
On the campaign trail, Otto Perez Molina vowed to rule his country with an iron fist. The retired general said he would send troops into the streets to fight drug violence. Analysts summed up his political platform with three words: law and order. Now – just two months after taking office – the Guatemalan president is pushing a controversial proposal that has come under fire from U.S. officials and earned praise from people who were once his critics. Last year's law-and-order candidate said he wanted to legalize drugs.
"Even if the United States is not willing at this point to go along, there is space for Latin American countries to take certain steps," said Martin Jelsma, a political scientist who specializes in Latin America and international drugs policy at the Transnational Institute. "Of course, politically, that will be one of the questions. How much pressure will the United States put on Latin America to prevent this?"
This IDPC response to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s flagship publication, the World Drug Report, provides an overview of the data and topics presented in the Report and where appropriate, within the broader context of the current state of the UN drug control framework, offer a critical analysis of both.
2011 was marked by a sense of crisis, but also resistance to the measures being taken. Popular movements surged to the forefront worldwide, protesting the hollowing out of democracy that is a legacy of decades of neoliberal economic policy. TNI drew on its strong relationships within transnational networks to help push a countervailing power from below that might help shape a better world for us all.
Debate on alternatives to the war on drugs, which TNI has promoted for years, is finally received unprecedented attention as several Latin America presidents put it on the agenda of the highest level intergovernmental meeting in the hemisphere.
Thailand has become the unfortunate poster child for punitive drugcontrol policies that have failed to reduce or eliminate drug use, and instead resulted in negative and damaging consequences. The willingness of the Thai Ministry of Justice to co-host the high-level seminar with IDPC and TNI shows that there are parties in Thailand concerned with the existing policies and keen to bring international experiences into the national debate.
The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which monitors implementation of the global drug treaties, has trained its fire on Bolivia, this time accusing the country of threatening the integrity of the entire international drug control regime by defending traditional uses of the coca leaf.
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 eighth Informal Dialogue on Drug Policies in Latin America was held in Lima, focusing on the following topics: Drug policy in Peru and its challenges; alternative development theory and practice; harm reduction policies for the drug market; the future of reforms: decriminalization of possession and cultivation for personal consumption; the legal market for coca leaves; and, options and debate in international bodies.
The Eighth Informal Dialogue on Drug Policies in Latin America was held in Lima, with the support of the Drugs and Human Rights Research Center (Centro de Investigación Drogas y Derechos Humanos, CIDDH). The event included 32 participants from ten countries in Latin America and Europe, the United States and international agencies. The two days of dialogue were organized in six sessions focusing on the following topics: Drug policy in Peru and its challenges; alternative development theory and practice; harm reduction policies for the drug market; the future of reforms: decriminalization of possession and cultivation for personal consumption; the legal market for coca leaves; and, options and debate in international bodies.
The year 2012 marks the centenary of the international drug control system and the first instance of a state being moved to denounce formally any of the UN drug control treaties. The 55th session of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND), held in Vienna between 12th and 16th March, therefore looked set to be a fascinating event and did not disappoint. As expected, member states favouring the current regime praised its virtues and ongoing relevance 100 years since The Hague Opium Convention; behaviour that found support in the statements and positions of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB or Board).
The response to the Board’s Annual Report for 2011 is organised under 5 inter-related headings: issues surrounding the Board’s homage to the Hague Opium Convention; the flaws within its thematic chapter on ‘social cohesion, social disorganization and illegal drugs’; the INCB’s hostility towards the endeavours of Bolivia to adjust its position towards the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and coca; the continuation of mission creep and a proclivity of the Board to operate beyond its mandate and the reoccurrence of selective reticence, specifically the lack of comment on issues relating to human rights and harm reduction.
Proportionality is one of the key principles of the rule of law aiming to protect people from cruel or inhumane treatment. The principle has been established in international and regional human rights agreements and many countries have adopted reflections of it in their constitution or penal code. Its application to drug-related offences is firstly the responsibility of the legislators, in defining the level of penalisation of certain behaviours.
In recent years of global debate on policies and strategies on controlled drugs, the European institutions (European Commission and Council, and the EMCDDA) and member states have broadly been a progressive and civilizing factor in pushing for balanced, evidence based and humane drug policies and programmes. However, just when the wider global debate is shifting in accordance with these principles, and there are real political opportunities to create more balanced, humane and effective drug policies, there are worrying signs that the European institutions are taking a wrong turn – the vision and leadership on this issue is notably absent, and some of the more recent positions taken seem to indicate a return to the simplistic messages and priorities of the failed policies of the past.
As the debate on drug policy and law reform gathers momentum on the international stage, the failings of the three UN drug control conventions (1961 , 1971 and 1988 ) have come into stark relief. Criticisms of the global drug control regime established by the drug treaties have now entered the mainstream public discourse and political debate.
Patrick Gallahue, Ricky Gunawan, Fifa Rahman, Karim El Mufti, Najam U Din, Rita Felten
19 November 2012
Executions for drug offences have escalated in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia against a trend towards abolition globally, reveals a new Harm Reduction International (HRI) report The Death Penalty for Drug Offences, Global Overview 2012: Tipping the Scales for Abolition. The report reveals that over 540 people were executed for drug offences in Iran in 2011, a trend that continues in 2012 and represents a five-fold increase since 2008. At least 16 people were executed for drugs in Saudi Arabia in the first six months of 2012, compared with one person in 2011.