Dramatic failure of the strategy to achieve a ‘drug-free world’

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) launched today Off track: Shadow report for the mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on drugs – which exposes the dramatic failure of the current United Nations (UN) strategy to achieve a ‘drug-free world’ and the devastating consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ that it underpins. Released ahead of the mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on drugs, the report urges the international community to engage in urgent reform. Using wide-ranging data from UN, government, academic and civil society sources, the report represents the only comprehensive evaluation of global drug policy, and illustrates its system-wide collapse:

  • Despite billions spent every year to curb drug markets and availability, the number of people who use drugs increased from 271 to 296 million in four years, reaching a historic record.
  • The latest global estimates on drug use-related deaths reached 494,000 in 2019 alone (the latest global data available), with a surge in overdose deaths.
  • The number of people executed for drug offences, in flagrant violation of international law, rose by 213% between 2019 and 2022.
  • Fuelled by punitive drug laws, the number of people incarcerated worldwide rose from 10.74 million to 11.5 million between 2018 and 2023 – with more than 2 million imprisoned for drug offences.
  • Globally, only one in five people with drug dependence have access to treatment.
  • The shocking disparity in access to controlled medicines continues, with over 82% of the global population having access to less than 17% of the world’s morphine.

Launch of the report in the Vienna International Centre

To access the report, follow this link>>>.


UN resolution that doesn’t include “drug-free world”

From the Ann Fordham’s article published at the IDPC webiste

For decades, debates and political commitments on drug policy at the United Nations have been plagued by the goal of ‘achieving a society free of drugs’ (or ‘drug abuse’). This fantastical notion has underpinned unimaginable harm as governments all over the world have strived to eradicate drugs through draconian measures. Despite these efforts, the global market in illegal drugs grows ever larger, more robust and with a greater diversity of substances. In parallel, the human cost of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ continues to grow exponentially – a devastating crisis of mass incarceration, overdose deaths, extrajudicial killings and a litany of human rights violations that have impacted some of society’s most marginalised.

Last week the UN General Assembly made history by adopting a resolution on drugs that did not include the long-standing reference to ‘actively promote a society free of drug abuse’ for the first time in three decades. Not only was this overly simplistic, ‘war on drugs’-era notion absent from the text, but the resolution includes some of the strongest ever human rights language relating to drug policy, an aspect on which the main UN drug policy forum in Vienna (the Commission on Narcotic Drugs) has made little progress in recent years.

Resolutions on drug policy at the General Assembly have always been agreed by consensus, however this resolution broke new ground as it was adopted – for the first time in history – after a vote.

It was a reluctant breaking of the consensus with an unprecedented number of countries making statements before the vote in the 3rd Committee, many of them lamenting the need for a vote and noting their hope for a return to the usual consensus for future drug policy resolutions. Ultimately, when the resolution reached the plenary of the General Assembly, a total of 124 Member States voted in favour of the resolution, while 9 voted against, with 45 abstentions.

Overall, by emphasising human rights concepts and doing away with tired and ultimately harmful ideological objectives such as ‘a society free of drug abuse’, the resolution goes a long way towards refocusing international cooperation away from reducing illegal cultivation, production and drug trafficking and towards reducing the negative consequences of the global drug situation on individuals and communities.

Crucially, this progressive text was adopted by an overwhelming majority of Member States, with only 9 countries voting against it. This demonstrates that the ‘Vienna consensus’ has been an instrument to hold back progress on drug policy making, pushing the international community towards policies and narratives that are far more conservative than those of a majority of Member States.

Read more about in the article at the IDPC website following this link>>>.


End ‘war on drugs’ and promote policies rooted in human rights: UN experts

UN human rights experts have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called “war on drugs” and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June 2022, the experts issued the statement which indicated that “the “war on drugs” undermines health and social wellbeing and wastes public resources while failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug market. Worse, this “war” has engendered narco-economies at the local, national and regional levels in several instances to the detriment of national development. Such policies have far-reaching negative implications for the widest range of human rights, including the right to personal liberty, freedom from forced labour, from ill-treatment and torture, fair trial rights, the rights to health, including palliative treatment and care, right to adequate housing, freedom from discrimination, right to clean and healthy environment, right to culture and freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to equal treatment before the law.”

To read the statement, please follow this link>>>.


Decades of Delusion

On the 30th of March, to mark the adoption of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs back in 1961, DPNSEE published a set of visual with the message Decades of Delusion.

We think that despite the continued re-launch of the war on drugs, States have been unable to reduce or contain the presence of psychoactive substances all over the world. The Single Convention, amended in 1972 and the other Conventions adopted in 1971 and 1988, have virtually had no effect on the world drug market-creating widespread and systematic human right violations at the trans-national level.

The full set of visuals is available on our webpage following this link>>>.


The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: Sixty Years of an Epic Fail?

In 1961, the Member States of the United Nations set themselves a goal to eliminate illegal opium production by 1979 and that of cannabis and coca by 1989. In 1998, they proclaimed to be ready to achieve a world without drugs within 10 years.

Meanwhile, the use of illicit substances has increased at twice the rate of the world population, and today production and trafficking of drugs are completely out of control.

Sixty years of prohibitionist policies and the War on Drugs have caused more damages than those caused by the substances themselves in sanitary, social, criminal, environmental and economic terms.

Science for Democracy organises a webinar on 30 March, from 6 to 8 pm CET to mark the 60th Anniversary of the adoption of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The webinar will address the historical background of the UN Conventions on narcotics and will look at the future of drug policy with experts and activists from around the world.

To register, please follow this link>>>.


The Support. Don’t Punish campaign launched in South East Europe

For the launch of the Global Day of Action, DPNSEE organised a “Kick-off event” to start the campaign in South East Europe. The event was held in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Kralja Milana 7, on 19 June 2019.

Besides journalists, representatives of colleague civil society organisations, UN agencies, Office for combating drugs and political parties were present.

Representatives of the Network presented the key findings from baseline research on “Documenting Drug Related Cases of Discrimination”. This small scale research aims on raising awareness on existing discrimination in different areas of everyday life, map the situation and make a base for the further advocacy actions in decreasing stigma and discrimination towards people who use drugs.

DPNSEE also presented the proposal for decriminalisation of drug use and possession made to the Working group on changes to the Criminal Law in Serbia. The proposal was submitted to the Working Group for amendments to the Criminal Law but unfortunately was not supported.

DPNSEE member organisation Prevent presented results of the regional project “Budget Advocacy Monitoring in South East Europe” in Serbia. That included analysis of the national budgets for 4 last years with a specific focus on health and harm reduction, execution of the budget and excises, and the Declaration for sustainable national response to HIV.

Re Generation presented the results of their research “How the closing of the needle exchange programs affected the access to harm reduction services in two cities – Belgrade and Budapest“.

Finally, DPNSEE representatives presented the activities in the region in scope of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>

To see more about the campaign worldwide, follow this link>>>

Police statement of support for drug policy reform

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership and the Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health held this side event to demonstrate police support for the urgent reform of drug policies. The event can be summarised as follows: There is one sector which knows better than any other how badly a prohibitive and punitive approach to the use of illicit drugs has failed – the Police. Police daily see the harmful impact of prohibition law enforcement on individuals and communities, and recurrent failure of the system to help those suffering. But the Police voice is rarely heard in debates about drug policy, despite their first-hand and expert experience.

Photos credits Steve Rolles (https://twitter.com/SteveTransform)

This was a historic moment: the representatives of the British police and several European countries presented a milestone declaration for the reduction of risks, decriminalisation of drug use and regulation of drugs. Presenting the statement, Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary, clearly emphasized that “Prohibition does not work”.

The two organisations call for an immediate end to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings, the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment and other human rights abuses committed by some governments in the name of the “war on drugs”.

The essence of the statement is that “eliminating this “war on drugs” approach would mean: less drug-related crime; less violence in the community; drastically reduced criminal profits and funds for other criminal activities; reduced prison populations and less pressure on criminal justice systems; less stigma and discrimination; and improved health outcomes for people who use drugs.

The statement was signed by an international collective of Law Enforcement professionals.

The statement is available following this link>>>>

The Barcelona Declaration

In February 2019, more than 40 womxn from Europe and Central Asia met in Barcelona to work together on intersectional feminism, drug policy, harm reduction and human rights. The result of the meeting is the Barcelona Declaration which “declares that the War On Drugs is a war on Womxn Who Use Drugs”.

DPNSEE member organisations have already signed the declaration including ARAS, Margina, NGO Re Generation.

On International Women’s Day 2019, DPNSEE added our Network’s name to the signatories,

To read and maybe support the Barcelona Declaration, follow this link>>>>

Global Prison Trends 2018

Penal Reform International published today the fourth edition of the Global Prison Trends 2018 at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Report is prepared in collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Justice. It includes a foreword by the Rt Hon Helen Clark, Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

The Report explores Trends in the use of imprisonment, Prison populations, Developments and challenges in prison management, The role of technology in criminal justice and prison systems and The expansion of prison alternatives. A Special Focus section looks at the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders in the era of sustainable development.

The Report clearly states that harsh criminal justice responses to drugs are a major contributor to prison overcrowding, and the ‘war on drugs’ persists in some countries with disastrous consequences. According to available UN data, 83 per cent of drug offences recorded by law enforcement and criminal justice systems are possession offences. However, more promisingly, UN bodies and an increasing number of states are rejecting this approach. Reforms include the decriminalisation of cannabis and reducing sentences for minor offences.

Recommendation 8 of the Report, based on the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 5 and 16, proposes that “States should review their drug policies in order to adopt evidence-based policies that include decriminalisation of minor offences, proportionality of sentencing, and non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment. Treatment as an alternative to imprisonment must be voluntary and human-rights compliant. Metrics to measure the outcomes of drug policies should include their impact on human rights, health and development”.

Also, Recommendation 25 proposes that “States should develop and implement alternatives to imprisonment, including restorative justice processes. A focus should be on addressing root causes of crime, including poverty and inequality, to support efforts to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Non-custodial sanctions should replace the use of prison, rather than widening the net of criminal justice control”.

The section on Health indicated that the rates for HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases among prisoners remain much higher than in the general community. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that people in prison are on average five times more likely to be living with HIV compared with adults outside prisons,263 although a higher estimate of 15 per cent is given by the World Health Organization. The Rapport recommends that “Drug prevention and treatment and HIV prevention, treatment and care should be available to people in prison at the same level is that provided in the community. Efforts to recruit sufficient healthcare staff in prisons should be doubled”.

To download the Report click on the photo of the front page>>>