The 2008 UN World Drug Report tries to hide the failures of drug control policy behind a bad history lesson. Instead of a clear acknowledgement that the UN’s own 10-year targets have not been met, it offers a narrative of 100 years of success, fabricating a comparison with Chinese opium production and use at the turn of the 20th century.
Repressive drugs policies in the last ten years have patently failed as drugs are cheaper than ever, but legalisation doesn’t solve all the problems associated with the illegal drug economy either. So what are the principles and strategies for effective alternative policies that are emerging?
In the new 2008 World Drug Report the UNODC is trying to hide failures behind a bad history lesson. Instead of a clear acknowledgement that the 10-year UNGASS targets have 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 is used to fabricate comparisons with higher production last century.
The “Open-ended intergovernmental expert working group on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development” was one of the five working groups that were organised as part of the UNGASS review process. The working groups prepared for the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2009. The EU experts present at the meeting drafted a new text with the key points to be included in the conclusion of the working group, complementing the existing EU position on alternative development (CORDROGRUE 44, 18 May 2006). The two texts were combined in one document as a new EU position on alternative development.
This new report, co-authored by the HR2 team, looks at the tensions between some aspects of the global drug control system and international human rights law. The report highlights that, despite numerous instances of human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of drug control, there has been little engagement with this issue by the responsible bodies, the UNODC, INCB and the human rights treaty bodies. The report was published by the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme, and is co-authored by IHRA, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
In a new report released in February 2008 by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), the INCB comes in for some heavy criticism for being overly secretive, closed to external dialogue with civil society, and out of kilter with similar agencies in other UN programmes. IHRA also debunks the INCB’s defence that it is ‘unique in international relations’.
A report published in March 2007 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Open Society Institute Public Health Program, strongly criticises the INCB. It accuses the Board of becoming 'an obstacle to effective programs to prevent and treat HIV and chemical dependence'. “Nearly one in three HIV infections outside Africa is among people who inject drugs. The International Narcotics Control Board could and should be playing a key role in stopping this injection-driven HIV epidemic — but it’s not,” said Joanne Csete, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and co-author of the report.
This briefing paper brings together material and analysis from a number of recent reports that raise questions about the role and functioning of the INCB. The IDPC analysis is that the Board mixes a rigid and overzealous approach to some aspects of its mandate, while showing a selective reticence in others. These inconsistencies do not arise automatically from the structure or role of the Board, but from the operational and policy decisions of its officers and members.
The 2007 INCB Annual Report shows some signs of a more balanced approach by the INCB to the policy dilemmas around proportionality of sentences and harm reduction. While this is welcome, the Board still falls a long way short of what is necessary for it to play a positive and objective role in helping governments to find the right balance between their drug control obligations, and wider policy objectives related to social development, public health, and human rights protections. On the issue of the coca leaf especially, the INCB shows complete intransigence towards the issue of indigenous uses in the Andean region.
‘Human Rights, Health and Harm Reduction: States’ Amnesia and Parallel Universes’ is the transcript of a keynote speech delivered by Professor Paul Hunt (then UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health). The speech focused on human rights and drug policy and contained some of the strongest comments to date from a UN human rights expert both in favour of harm reduction and against drug policies at the international and national levels that violate the rights of people who use drugs.
Where legal ambiguities and disagreement persist around cannabis policies, the INCB continues to make narrow legal interpretations of what is allowed under the UN drug conventions and repeatedly expresses its strong objection to any move towards decriminalization of possession for personal use, lowering law enforcement priorities for cannabis or reclassification.
At the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March 2008 in Vienna three resolutions on cannabis were tabled. They were all clearly against 'lenient policies' in some countries depenalising or decriminalizing the use of cannabis. One of the resolutions called for the criminalization of drug abuse that would have significantly expanded the UN drug conventions.
Robin Room, Peter Reuter (RAND), Wayne Hall, Benedikt Fischer, Simon Lenton, Amanda Fielding
01 September 2008
Despite cannabis being the most widely used illegal drug, and therefore the mainstay of the ‘war on drugs’, it has only ever held a relatively marginal position in international drug policy discussions. Amanda Fielding of the Beckley Foundation decided to convene a team of the world’s leading drug policy analysts to prepare an overview of the latest scientific evidence surrounding cannabis and the policies that control its use. The report of the Beckley Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission is aimed at bringing cannabis to the attention of policymakers and guide decision making.
This paper offers a critique of the UK Government’s decision to abandon its former plans to introduce thresholds into drugs legislation via section 2 of the Drugs Act 2005. This provision had been enacted with a view to enhancing the significance of the amount of drugs an individual is caught with in prosecutions for the offence of possession with intent to supply.
The purpose of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the United Kingdom was to provide overall structure and clarity to sentencing in England and Wales by reserving prison for the most dangerous offenders, while moving lower level offenders away from short prison sentences into robust and rehabilitative community punishments.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reviewed the classification of cannabis in the light of real public concern about the potential mental health effects of cannabis use and, in particular, the use of stronger strains of the drug.
Due to its prevalence of use, MDMA is a significant public health issue. The Council believes that criminal justice measures will only have limited effect and strongly advises the promulgation of public health messages. It is of vital importance that issues of classification do not detract from messages concerning public health.
Injecting drug users (IDUs) account for the largest share of HIV infections in China, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. Harm reduction measures such as access to clean needles and drug treatment with methadone or buprenorphine have been proven to reduce HIV risk behaviors. Yet law enforcement officials in many countries harass drug users at drug treatment clinics and needle exchange points, confiscate their medications, or arrest them for possession of clean syringes. These police practices help fuel the HIV epidemic by driving drug users away from lifesaving care while doing little to stem drug use.
A number of public health departments and community organizations in Canada distribute safer crack use kits to people who use crack cocaine. The kits typically include mouthpieces, glass stems and screens, as well as condoms and referral information for other health and support services. This document outlines why such health programs are needed and answers a number of legal questions related to the distribution of safer crack use kits.
In 2004, a team comprised of researchers and service providers launched the Safer Crack Use, Outreach, Research and Education (SCORE) project in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The project was aimed at developing a better understanding of the harms associated with crack cocaine smoking and determining the feasibility of introducing specific harm reduction strategies.