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FOREWORD FROM THE CHAIR


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FOREWORD FROM THE CHAIR


FOREWORD FROM THE CHAIR


Fernando Henrique Cardoso

"We are driven by a sense of urgency. There is a widespread acknowledgment that the current system is not working, but also recognition that change is both necessary and achievable. We are convinced that the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) is an historic opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of the drug control regime, identify workable alternatives and align the debate with ongoing debates on the post-2015 development agenda and human rights."

Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Former President of Brazil (1994-2002)

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Apu Comes/Folhapress

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Apu Comes/Folhapress

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


The upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016 is an unprecedented opportunity to review and re-direct national drug control policies and the future of the global drug control regime. As diplomats sit down to rethink international and domestic drug policy, they would do well to recall the mandate of the United Nations, not least to ensure security, human rights and development. Health is the thread that runs through all three of these aspirations, and the UN global drug control regime has the ‘health and welfare of mankind’ as its ultimate goal. But overwhelming evidence points to not just the failure of the regime to attain its stated goals but also the horrific unintended consequences of punitive and prohibitionist laws and policies.

A new and improved global drug control regime is needed that better protects the health and safety of individuals and communities around the world. Harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies must be replaced by more humane and effective policies shaped by scientific evidence, public health principles and human rights standards. This is the only way to simultaneously reduce drug-related death, disease and suffering and the violence, crime, corruption and illicit markets associated with ineffective prohibitionist policies. The fiscal implications of the policies we advocate, it must be stressed, pale in comparison to the direct costs and indirect consequences generated by the current regime.

The Global Commission proposes five pathways to improve the global drug policy regime. After putting people ́s health and safety at the center of the picture, governments are urged to ensure access to essential medicines and pain control. The Commissioners call for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of users together with targeted prevention, harm reduction and treatment strategies for dependent users.
In order to reduce drug related harms and undermine the power and profits of organized crime, the Commission recommends that governments regulate drug markets and adapt their enforcement strategies to target the most violent and disruptive criminal groups rather than punish low level players. The Global Commission’s proposals are complimentary and comprehensive. They call on governments to rethink the problem, do what can and should be done immediately, and not to shy away from the transformative potential of regulation.

The obstacles to drug policy reform are both daunting and diverse. Powerful and established drug control bureaucracies, both national and international, staunchly defend status quo policies. They seldom question whether their involvement and tactics in enforcing drug policy are doing more harm than good. Meanwhile, there is often a tendency to sensationalize each new “drug scare” in the media. And politicians regularly subscribe to the appealing rhetoric of “zero tolerance” and creating “drug free” societies rather than pursuing an informed approach based on evidence of what works. Popular associations of illicit drugs with ethnic and racial minorities stir fear and inspire harsh legislation. And enlightened reform advocates are routinely attacked as “soft on crime” or even “pro-drug.”

The good news is that change is in the air. The Global Commission is gratified that a growing number of the recommendations offered in this report are already under consideration, underway or firmly in place around the world. But we are at the beginning of the journey and governments can benefit from the accumulating experience where reforms are being pursued. Fortunately, the dated rhetoric and unrealistic goals set during the 1998 UNGASS on drugs are unlikely to be repeated in 2016. Indeed, there is growing support for more flexible interpretations and reform of the international drug control conventions aligned with human rights and harm reduction principles. All of these developments bode well for the reforms we propose below.

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS CAN BE SUMMARIZED AS FOLLOWS: 


Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions. Read more


Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession. Read more

Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state. Read more


Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime. Read more


Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain. Read more


Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs. Read more


Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances. Read more

“The world needs to discuss new approaches… we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years … A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalizing, and the world thinks that’s the solution, I will welcome it. I’m not against it.”

Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia.

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PATHWAYS


Lalo Almeida

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PATHWAYS


Lalo Almeida

COUNTING THE COSTS OF OVER HALF A CENTURY OF THE ‘WAR ON DRUGS’


A FAILURE ON ITS OWN TERMS

THREATENING PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY

UNDERMINING HUMAN RIGHTS, FOSTERING DISCRIMINATION

FUELLING CRIME AND ENRICHING CRIMINALS

UNDERMINING DEVELOPMENT AND SECURITY, FUELING CONFLICT

WASTING BILLIONS, UNDERMINING ECONOMIES

 

PATHWAYS TO DRUG POLICY REFORM AROUND THE WORLD 


Many countries are already changing their drug policies. And there are multiple pathways to more humane and effective strategies. 

1973 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2016
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REGULATE


Reuters

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REGULATE


Reuters

KEY PATHWAYS TO DRUG POLICIES THAT WORK 


Put people’s health and safety first
Instead of punitive and harmful prohibition, policies should prioritize the safeguarding of people’s health and safety. This means investing in community protection, prevention, harm reduction, and treatment as cornerstones of drug policy.

Ensure access to essential medicines and pain control
The international drug control system is failing to ensure equitable access to essential medicines such as morphine and methadone, leading to unnecessary pain and suffering. The political obstacles that are preventing member states from ensuring an adequate provision of such medicines must be removed.

End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs
Criminalizing people for the possession and use of drugs is wasteful and counterproductive. It increases health harms and stigmatizes vulnerable populations, and contributes to an exploding prison population. Ending criminalization is a prerequisite of any genuinely health-centered drug policy.
Refocus enforcement responses to drug trafficking and organized crime
A more targeted enforcement approach is needed to reduce the harms of the illicit drug markets and ensure peace and security. Governments should deprioritize the pursuit of non-violent and minor participants in the market, instead directing enforcement resources towards the most disruptive and violent elements of the drug trade.

Regulate drug markets to put governments in control
The regulation of drugs should be pursued because they are risky, not because they are safe. Different models of regulation can be applied for different drugs according to the risks they pose. In this way, regulation can reduce social and health harms and disempower organized crime.
 

REGULATE DRUG MARKETS TO PUT GOVERNMENTS IN CONTROL 


The regulation of drugs should be pursued because they are risky, not because they are safe. Different models of regulation can be applied for different drugs according to the risks they pose. In this way, regulation can reduce social and health harms and disempower organized crime.

Different drugs, different degrees of regulation.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


CC BY-SA 3.0

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


CC BY-SA 3.0

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP FOR MORE EFFECTIVE AND HUMANE POLICIES 


The evolution of an effective, modern international drugcontrol system requires leadership from the UN and national governments, building a new consensus founded on core principles that allows and encourages exploration of alternative approaches to prohibition.

"This [Commission on Narcotic Drugs] will be followed, in 2016, by the UN General Assembly Special Session on the issue. I urge Member States to use these opportunities to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options.”

Ban Ki Moon, General Secretary of the United Nations, 2013.

RECOMMENDATION 7

Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime. The leadership of the UN Secretary-General is essential to ensure that all relevant UN agencies – not just those focused on law enforcement but also health, security, human rights and development – engage fully in a ‘One-UN’ assessment of global drug control strategies. The UN Secretariat should urgently facilitate an open discussion including new ideas and recommendations that are grounded in scientific evidence, public health principles, human rights and development. Policy shifts towards harm reduction, ending criminalization of people who use drugs, proportionality of sentences and alternatives to incarceration have been successfully defended over the past decades by a growing number of countries on the basis of the legal latitude allowed under the UN treaties. Further exploration of flexible interpretations of the drug treaties is an important objective, but ultimately the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit responsible legal regulation.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
From left: Branson, Annan, Zedillo, Cardoso, Gaviria, Dreifuss, Kazatchkine, Sampaio and Stoltenberg 

Technical Coordination
Ilona Szabó de Carvalho
Miguel Darcy
Steve Rolles

Editorial Review
Misha Glenny
Robert Muggah
George Murkin

Experts Review Panel
Damon Barret
Dave Bewley-Taylor
Julia Buxton
Joanne Csete
Ann Fordham
Olivier Gueniat
Alison Holcombe
Martin Jelsma
Danny Kushlick
Daniel Mejia
Robert Muggah
Ethan Nadelmann
Katherine Pettus
Rebecca Schleifer
Christian Schneider
Mike Trace
Juan Carlos Garzon Vergara
Evan Wood

 

RESOURCES


Count the Costs
www.countthecosts.org

Cupihd
www.cupihd.org

Drug Policy Alliance
www.drugpolicy.org

European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction
www.emcdda.europa.eu

Global Commission on Drug Policy
www.globalcommissionondrugs.org

Global Commission on HIV and the Law (convened by UNDP)
www.hivlawcommission.org

Harm Reduction International
www.ihra.net

Igarapé Institute
www.igarape.org.br

Intercambios
www.intercambios.org.ar

International Drug Policy Consortium
www.idpc.net

International Network of People who use Drugs
www.inpud.net

LSE Ideas; International drug policy project
www.lse.ac.uk/ideas/projects/idpp/international-drug-policy-project.aspx

Talking Drugs
www.talkingdrugs.org

Transform Drug Policy Foundation
www.tdpf.org.uk

Transnational Institute; drug law reform resources
www.druglawreform.info

The Beckley Foundation
www.beckleyfoundation.org

UN Office on Drugs and Crime
www.unodc.org

Washington Office on Latin America - Drug Policy program
www.wola.org/program/drug_policy

West Africa Drugs Commission
www.wacommissionondrugs.org

PUBLICATIONS

Reports by the Global Commission on Drug Policy:
• War on Drugs - 2011
• The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How The Criminalization Of Drug Use Fuels The Global Pandemic - 2012
• The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs: The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic - 2013
www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/reports/

HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights And Health - Global Commission on HIV and the Law - 2012
www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/report

The Drug Problem in the Americas - Organisation of American States - 2013
www.cicad.oas.org/Main/Template.asp?File=/drogas/elinforme/ default_eng.asp

Ending the Drug Wars – London School of Economics - 2014
www.lse.ac.uk/ideas/publications/reports/pdf/lse-ideas-drugs-report-final-web.pdf

Not Just in Transit – West Africa Commission on Drugs - 2014
www.wacommissionondrugs.org/report/