Martin Jelsma is a political scientist who has specialised in Latin America and international drugs policy. In 2005, he received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship, which stated that Jelsma "is increasingly recognized as one of, if not the, outstanding strategists in terms of how international institutions deal with drugs and drug policy."...
Pien Metaal is a researcher with TNI. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science and International Relations from University of Amsterdam. She has been a member of the Transnational Institute's Drugs and Democracy team since 2002, though her participation with the Programme dates further back....
Tom Kramer (1968) is a political scientist with 25-years of working experience on Myanmar and its border regions, which he has visited regularly since 1993. He first specialised in analysing ethnic conflict in Myanmar and the role of civil society to promote change. ...
David Bewley Taylor is the founding Director of the Global Drug Policy Observatory at Swansea University, UK. He has been researching various aspects of drug policy for over twenty years with his main areas of interest being US drug policy, the UN and international drug policy and more recently counter narcotics strategies in Afghanistan....
Ernestien Jensema (1971) is a social anthropologist who has been working as a researcher and project coordinator with the Drugs & Democracy Programme of TNI since 2008. She focuses on issues related to the UN drug control system and the Drugs and Democracy Programme’s Asia project....
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was established in 1968 as the monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. Tensions have arisen about the way the INCB performs its duties and about its legal interpretation of the conventions which many feel goes beyond its mandate.
Global drug policy could see major changes following The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) from April 19-21, but political divisions and entrenched institutional dynamics have dampened hopes that it will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.
The coca leaf has been chewed and brewed for tea for centuries in the Andean region – and does not cause any harm and is probably beneficial to human health. Yet the leaf is treated as if it is comparable to cocaine or heroin. The inclusion of the coca leaf in the list of narcotic drugs raises questions about the logic behind the current system of classification under the UN conventions. TNI believes we can find a more culturally sensitive approach to plants with psychoactive or mildly stimulant properties, and should distinguish more between problematic, recreational and traditional uses of psychoactive substances.
The war on drugs is waged at its worst in the source zone of production. Major consumer countries - the US in particular - think they are able to tackle drug consumption at home by reducing the supply from the "source zones" such as the Andean region - Colombia, Bolivia and Peru - and Central and South-East Asia - Afghanistan and Burma. The primary goal of the supply reduction strategies is to decrease the amount of drugs entering the major consuming countries and subsequently, because the strategy allegedly leads to higher prices that would lead to lower demand.
After more than four years of peace talks in Havana, the Colombian government and the FARC have taken important steps toward a definitive agreement to end the conflict. Addressing the issue of drugs – crops for illicit use, production, consumption and drug trafficking– is key to achieving sustainable peace in the country. Violence linked to the drugs economy and the financing of armed groups have been central to the country's conflict, while the illicit drugs market has also served as a survival economy and safety net. Rethinking the war on drugs is therefore critical to building peace throughout the rural regions of Colombia.
Alternative Development programmes, aimed at encouraging peasants to switch from growing illicit drugs-related crops, play an important role in UN drug control strategies. The record of success, however, is a questionable one. Decades of efforts to reduce global drug supply, using a combination of developmental and repressive means, managed to shift production from one country to another, but have failed in terms of global impact. TNI argues for de-linking alternative development from the threat of forced eradication and law enforcement and guaranteeing peasants the support required for a sustainable alternative future.
Harm reduction is a set of strategies that aim to reduce negative consequences of drug use, by mitigating the potential dangers and health risks. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has significantly expanded its HIV/AIDS programme thanks to support from harm reduction-friendly donor countries, despite ambiguities on the issue within UN drug control agencies. There is a need for up-scaling of basic services for HIV/AIDS prevention and the 'frontline' of heroin prescription and drug consumption rooms.
Absolving drug users from arrest and prosecution for drug use and preparatory acts like acquisition, simple possession or cultivation for personal use does not lead to increased drug use, but does significantly lower pressure on law enforcement agencies and on the judicial and penitentiary systems, and it removes barriers for users with problematic patterns of use to approach treatment and harm reduction services.
Studies reveal the ineffectiveness of long prison sentences for nonviolent drug law offenders. The capacity of the judicial system is stretched far beyond its limits, resulting in slow procedures, lengthy pretrial custody and overcrowded prisons. Referral schemes or specialized drug courts are introduced offering offenders a choice between prison and treatment. The main objective is crime reduction by providing nonviolent offenders the chance to escape the vicious drugs-crime-prison cycle.
A more refined distinction is required to define appropriate drug control measures according to the specific characteristics of drug substances, their health risks, the dynamics of their markets and their user groups. The existing classification schedules for drugs from the UN 1961 and 1971 Conventions do not provide sufficient differentiation. The consideration of such diverse substances as coca, cocaine, cannabis, opium and heroin in the same schedule, hampers effective policy responses that can properly take into account the different properties of drugs and the reasons people use them.
Human rights apply to everyone. Drug users, traffickers and growers do not forfeit their human rights, and must be able to enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as to social services, employment, education, freedom from arbitrary detention and so on. The trend has been to toughen drug laws and sentencing guidelines, setting mandatory minimums, disproportionate prison sentences and even death penalties in several countries. Consideration of human rights are becoming essential elements in a growing number of countries’ application of drug legislation.
Consensus is growing that the prohibition on production, supply, and use of certain drugs has not only failed to deliver its intended goals but has been counterproductive. Evidence is mounting that this policy has not only exacerbated many public health problems, but has created a much larger set of social harms associated with the criminal market such as violence, corruption, organised crime, and endemic violence.
The status of cannabis in the UN drug conventions is controversial. It is now scheduled among the most dangerous substances. How and why did cannabis get in the conventions? Does it belong there? What are the options to review the status of cannabis according to current scientific data? Is making cannabis subject to a control regime similar to harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco a solution?
The Drug Law Reform project organises a series of expert seminars, drug policy briefings and informal drug policy dialogues. The activities serve to cross-fertilise policy debates between countries and regions, stimulating participants to exchange experiences and learn lessons between policy officials, representatives from international agencies and nongovernmental experts and practitioners. Seminars are held under Chatham House Rule to ensure confidentiality and to allow participants a free exchange of ideas.
In 2004 the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation (APF) started an Informal Drug Policy Dialogue. Purpose of the dialogues is to have an open-minded exchange of views on current dilemmas in international drug policy making and discuss strategies on how contradictions might be resolved. The meetings are guided by 'Chatham House Rule' to encourage a free exchange of thoughts and confidentiality. In 2007, TNI and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) started a Latin American Informal Drug Policy Dialogue. In 2009, TNI and the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) started a series of drug policy dialogues in Southeast Asia.