14 March 2019
Major UN report slams punitive drug policies
A new report from the United Nations System Coordination Task Team denounces punitive drug policies as “ineffective in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing non-medical drug use and supply”.
It goes on to say that such approaches “undermine the human rights and well-being of persons who use drugs, as well as of their families and communities”.
The report represents a clear rejection of drug policies based on criminalisation, punishment and harsh enforcement, instead endorsing evidence based policy rooted in public health, sustainable development, and respect for human rights.
“Drug seizures themselves cannot generally be expected to disrupt drug markets unless they are extremely large since usually suppliers can easily replace the lost drugs at wholesale costs. … once a market is established, there may be little return on an investment in intense law enforcement.” (P.27 of the report)
As such it marks a major shift in collective thinking across the leading UN agencies – and marks a major victory for civil society reform advocates.
Many nations, including the United Kingdom, United States, China and Russia rely on punitive drug policies, meaning this report is a direct condemnation of such policies and a call for a different approach.
James Nicholls, Chief Executive of Transform Drug Policy Foundation said:
“This is very welcome news and arrives just in time for global leaders who are meeting at the United Nations in Vienna this week to discuss the future of drug policy.
“It establishes clear principles on which drug policy should be based, while leaving no doubt as to the damaging impact of strict prohibition on individuals and communities.
“Global leaders responsible for drug policy should take note, stop enforcing the punitive drug control that this document so clearly rejects, and explore alternatives to prohibition, including the legal regulation of drugs.”
James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, (+44) 07985 548 405, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation: (+44) 07980 213 943, email@example.com
Ben Campbell, Communications Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation: (+44) 0117 325 0295, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs https://transformdrugs.org
- Transform’s blog on the report, including key quotes: https://transformdrugs.org/un-report-condemns-punitive-drugs-policies/
- Link to the Task Team’s report: https://www.unodc.org/documents/commissions/CND/2019/Contributions/UN_Entities/What_we_have_learned_over_the_last_ten_years_-_14_March_2019_-_w_signature.pdf
- World leaders are gathered at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria for CND 2019 to discuss the future of drug policy. More information here:https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/commissions/CND/2019/2019-high-level-ministerial-segment.html
- Key quotes from the report:
“…if not based on human rights standards and a solid evidence base, drug policies can have a counterproductive effect on development. Abusive, repressive and disproportionate drug control policies and laws are counterproductive, while also violating human rights, undercutting public health and wasting vital public resources.” (P.25)
“Structural changes in legislation and law enforcement practices can facilitate the delivery of services, including minimizing the adverse consequence of drug use.” (P.26)
“Drug seizures themselves cannot generally be expected to disrupt drug markets unless they are extremely large since usually suppliers can easily replace the lost drugs at wholesale costs. … once a market is established, there may be little return on an investment in intense law enforcement.” (P.27)
“In recent years, drug-related income seems to have represented the second largest source of income — after counterfeiting of a broad range of goods — of transnational organized crime groups at the global level.” (P.34)