Saturday, February 21, 2004
United Nations

I've been thinking about the UN Convention on Drug Control, since the Washington Office on Latin America issued a policy paper on the subject this week. Numerous UN conferences and summits have been devoted to negotiating a global consensus on an approach to illicit drugs and achieve the convention's unrealistic mandate "to achieve significant and measurable results in reducing world drug supply and demand".

Cracks in the Consensus - The UN Drug Control Debate examines the flaws in the logic of this convention and the growing mutiny of the participating countries who are turning to more humane and pragmatic approaches in the face of the failures and harms associated with strict prohibition.

This comprehensive report written by Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal of the Transnational Institute explains the complicated history of the UN involvement in the war on some drugs from the first drug control treaty enacted in 1961 to the disappointing reiteration of its unrealistic agenda to completely eliminate so-called illicit drugs at the convening of the UN Drug committee UNGASS at Vienna in 2003.

It makes clear how four decades of prohibition have been driven by US intimidation in the form of foreign aid, either offered or withdrawn, based on compliance with the eradication/interdiction model of drug control and renders in depressing detail the manifest ill effects of these policies around the globe.

However, the report also notes a growing "coalition of the willing" among member countries, who with the help of many committed NGOs, are cracking the armor of the US enforced prohibition consensus with harm reduction strategies and humanitarian policy reforms that are demonstrably working to alleviate the costs of drug abuse where the prohibition has failed.

Jelsma and Metaal cite the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Greece, the UK, Hungary, Slovenia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia as the willing who, with the source countries in the South such as Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Uruguay, Peru and many others, might band together to fight the domination of international consensus by US interests.

In a way it sounds almost too simple a solution to me for such a complicated problem, but I liked the logic and I'd recommend it for a lazy Sunday afternoon read.

[link via Paul von Hartmann]


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