UN’s 10-year war on drugs plan has been a ‘spectacular failure’ – What will come next?

A report published today by the NGO IDPC explains the failure of the 2009-2019 world plan of action to “address the world drug problem”, concretely an impulse to the war on drugs. Reconduction of the initial 1998-2008 plan that planned – among other – the eradication of Cannabis, the world commitment is about to be, again, reconducted for the next decade. The International Cannabis Policy Conference is an event organized in this context, as a way for civil society to incise on global cannabis policies and programs.

Extract from a post by The Independent (UK):

The UN’s 10-year global strategy to eradicate the world’s illegal drug market has been “a spectacular failure of policy”, a report has concluded. The report said there had been a 145% increase in drug-related deaths over the last decade, culminating in around 450,000 deaths per year in 2015.

Cannabis policy reform and Sustainable development against the war on drugs | Source: Scott Olson, Getty images | International Cannabis Policy Conference

Source: Scott Olson, Getty images

It also found that despite a specific target to eliminate or reduce the “illicit cultivation of opium poppy, coca bush and cannabis plant”, there was a 130 per cent increase in the cultivation of opium poppies, a 34 per cent rise in the coca bush production and no sign of a reduction in cannabis growing. The report, by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – Taking stock: A decade of drug policy – evaluated the UN Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC)’s 10-year plan, which it said “continues to generate a catastrophic impact on health, human rights, security and development, while not even remotely reducing the global supply of illegal drugs”.

By analyzing data from UN, government, academic and civil society sources, the report says it “illustrates the carnage that the war on drugs has wreaked over the past decade”. It said the number of people aged 15 to 64 who used drugs at least once in 2016, was estimated to be 275 million, a 31% increase since 2011. The main drug used was cannabis, followed by opioids and amphetamines, for which consumption had increased 136% in the same period.

“The fact that governments and the UN do not see fit to properly evaluate the disastrous impact of the last ten years of drug policy, is depressingly unsurprising. Governments will meet next March at the UN and will likely rubber-stamp more of the same for the next decade in drug policy. This would be a gross dereliction of duty, and a recipe for more blood spilled in the name of drug control” said Ann Fordham, executive director of the IDPC.

Extract from the website of IDPC:

Objective of the Shadow Report: ‘Taking stock: A decade of drug policy’ evaluates the impacts of drug policies implemented across the world over the past decade, using data from the United Nations (UN), complemented with peer-reviewed academic research and grey literature reports from civil society. The important role of civil society in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of global drug policies is recognised in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on drugs, as well as in the Outcome Document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs. It is in this spirit that the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) has produced this Shadow Report, to contribute constructively to high-level discussions on the next decade in global drug policy.

Conclusion: The commitments and targets set in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action have not been achieved, and in many cases have resulted in counterproductive policies. The Shadow Report also raises a number of issues on the past and future evaluation of global drug policies. Firstly, the Report highlights the urgent need to conduct more thorough and regular research on the broader range of impacts of drug policies at local, national, regional and international level.

Secondly, and related to the need for more research, the Report puts into question the sources of data currently being be used for such formal evaluations. These rely heavily on government reporting. A more comprehensive and balanced picture of the situation requires incorporating civil society and academic research. This is particularly important for sensitive issues related to drug policy and human rights.

And thirdly, the lack of progress made towards the drug-free targets, along with the negative consequences associated with efforts to achieve those targets, mean that member states should reflect upon what to measure. Focusing exclusively on measuring the scale of the illegal drug market is clearly not enough to understand the impact of drug policy on the key UN Charter commitments to health, human rights, development, peace and security. The third section of this Shadow Report attempts to provide some recommendations which we hope will provide a useful starting point for further discussions as to which goals and metrics could be considered for the post-2019 global drug strategy.

In preparation for the 2019 Ministerial Segment, the IDPC recommends that:

  • The international community should consider adopting more meaningful goals and targets in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNGASS Outcome Document and international human rights commitments, and move away from targets seeking to eliminate the illegal drug market.
  • Post-2019, member states should meaningfully reflect upon the impacts of drug control on the UN goals of promoting health, human rights, development, peace and security – and adopt drug policies and strategies that actively contribute to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially for those most marginalised and vulnerable.
  • Global drug policy debates going forward should reflect the realities of drug policies on the ground, both positive and negative, and discuss constructively the resulting tensions with the UN drug control treaties and any human rights concerns associated with drug control efforts.
  • Beyond 2019, UN member states should end punitive drug control approaches and put people and communities first. This includes promoting and facilitating the participation of civil society and affected communities in all aspects of the design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of drug policies.

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