“Drugs have destroyed many people, but wrong policies have destroyed many more”, said Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General. Indeed, international drug policy has been fraught with inconsistency and controversy. Global drug control started when the first international drug treaty—The International Opium Convention—was signed at The Hague, Netherlands, in 1912. However, a global system against narcotic drugs was not fully fledged until 1961, when the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was adopted. The Convention is an international treaty that seeks to prohibit production and allow supply of narcotic drugs exclusively for medical and scientific purposes, and combats drug trafficking through international cooperation. Although considered as a landmark convention in the history of the campaign against narcotic drugs and the bedrock of the current UN-based global drug control regime, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was also criticised as neither reflecting the huge negative impact of pursuing drug prohibition on public health and human rights nor being scientifically grounded. For the first time in two decades, the UN General Assembly’s Special Session (UNGASS; April 19–21, 2016) will be about the world drug problem. It will be a crucial moment for revisiting and reforming international drug policy.
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n April 2016, governments from around the world will convene in New York for the biggest global debate on drugs in nearly two decades – the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem.
At the last UNGASS on drugs in 1998, global leaders pledged to secure a “drug-free world,” a goal that is not only unrealistic but has contributed to the needless criminalization of people who use drugs, soaring rates of drug-related deaths, HIV and hepatitis C epidemics, executions that violate international law and a restriction of access to essential pain relief medications.
The global drug policy system is well and truly broken and the 2016 UNGASS presents a vital opportunity to shift the debate and begin to ground drug policy firmly in public health, human rights and compassion. The time for reform is now!
International Drug Policy Reform Conference 2015
The global drug problem violates human rights in five key areas – the right to health, the rights relating to criminal justice and discrimination, the rights of the child and the rights of indigenous peoples, a senior United Nations official said today.
“It is clear that the world’s drug problem impacts the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, often resulting in serious violations,” said Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“It is, nevertheless, a positive development that human rights are increasingly being taken into account in the preparations for the General Assembly’s Special Session on the world drug problem to be held in April 2016,” she said.
Ms. Pansieri made the remarks during her presentation of the report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a panel discussion on issues related to human rights and drug policy taking place on the side lines of the 30th session of the Human Rights Council underway in Geneva, Switzerland.
She said “the report addresses the impact of the world drug problem in five main areas: the right to health, rights relating to criminal justice, the prohibition of discrimination including, in particular against ethnic minorities and women, the rights of the child and the rights of indigenous peoples.”
On the right to health, she said the report therefore encourages States to embrace harm reduction approaches when dealing with drug dependent persons.
On Tuesday, September 9th the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a new, groundbreaking report, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, at a press conference at MOMA in New York City.
This report reflects a new evolution in the Commissioners’ thinking — and will break major new ground in the global discussion about ending drug prohibition.
Moderator is Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post. Speakers included former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Richard Branson, Louise Arbour and others
This event presents the report of the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy, the most thorough independent economic analysis of the current international drug control strategy ever conducted.
Mauricio Lopez Bonilla (@mlopezbonilla) is the minister of interior of Guatemala.
Mark Kleiman (@MarkARKleiman) is a professor of public policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs.
Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch (@OSFKasia) is director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program.
Danny Quah (@DannyQuah) is Senior Fellow at LSE IDEAS. He is also Professor of Economics and International Development and Kuwait Professor at LSE.