ENCOD Statement to the 55th. session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
5 March 2012
ENCOD blames the United Nations and the governments of the world (with a small number of exceptions) of the violence, disease and death that drug prohibition causes.
CND No Longer Matters On Drug Policy And Has Become A Noxious Industry
On the occasion of the upcoming session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (12-16 March 2012), ENCOD accuses them of criminal negligence in the management of the global drug problem, by persisting in their refusal to study and consider alternative drug policy options which are not based on prohibition and criminalisation. (At the moment of writing this, we have not seen that the issue of alternative drug policy figures on the agenda of CND 2012.)
In June 2011 the Global Commission on Drug Policy wrote in their report ‘War on Drugs’ about the absence of thought on alternative policies among UN decision makers. Former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, and a list of other former (except for Greek prime minister Papandreou) top politicians and civil servants called this attitude an ‘abdication of responsibility’. Apparently having turned 180 degrees in their convictions, they tell us now that it all has been a failure and very harmful. Their report is only the last in a continuing list of reports that underpin the need to change the course of global drug policies radically.
Until recently, alternative policy options never figured on the agenda at the level of governments, but there have been exceptions:
In 2011, Bolivia demanded a change in the scheduling of the coca leaf, because traditional customs of coca use have been criminalised unjustly. The main reason for UNODC and a relatively small number of powerful countries to refuse Bolivia’s request, which was introduced according to the rules, was that this would ‘undermine the integrity of the conventions‘. Improving the conventions equals undermining them?
Very recently, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala announced that his country wishes to discuss legal drug regulation with other countries. The immediate US reaction is to condemn this, repeating outdated and baseless arguments, and to send its Minister of Homeland Security to bully this small country. Fortunately, the power of the USA is no longer as threatening for Latin America as it used to be.
In the UK, the Home Affairs Committee recently started a new review of drug policy. An earlier effort ended with the recommendation (supported by Mr Cameron, presently the prime minister) to study alternative policies including legal regulation, but the government was not interested.
100 years after the first international drug conference, and 50 years after the Single Convention, prohibition and the ‘fight against drugs’ have created an enormous, global illegal drugs market.
Simultaneously, drug prohibition seriously increased the health risks connected to drug use. Use and misuse/abuse of drugs has multiplied, and the same is the case with the numbers of victims of avoidable drug overdoses and other pathology, not necessarily connected to illicit drug use, and of violence, inevitably connected to drug deals on an illicit market.
The list of harms directly caused by drug prohibition is long, and needs not to be reproduced here, because the UN has officially acknowledged those harmful ‘unintended consequences’ (Costa, 2009) How long do they remain unintended? UNODC presented this tragic, but predictable (and predicted) failure as if it is a problem that still can be amended, simply by adopting a few changes.
In the real world, prohibitive policies continue to destabilise countries, cause unnecessary deaths, and fill jails and prisons (most of all in the USA, which possesses one of the harshest antidrugs legislations of the world). In addition, the funding of criminal and terrorist groups continues due to drug prohibition.
But even when the results of global prohibition would have been positive, would it not be normal practice to consider alternative policy options? How can politicians defend their refusal to even think about regulation?
I’ll give one example in which I am personally involved, because it appears to be characteristic for UNODC. Former UNODC Executive Director Costa did not keep his promise to produce a discussion paper on cannabis policy in the Netherlands, probably because the Dutch government didn’t agree with his opinion.
During last year’s CND, incoming Executive Director Fedotov had a Question and Answer session with the NGOs, at which I asked him about this. He promised to make good for his predecessor’s omission.
One year later, no such report has been published.
The core assumption of prohibition, that prohibition and criminalisation are the only effective way to protect public and individual health against drugs has been falsified by evidence that has emerged during the last three decades. This evidence shows that decriminalisation of drug use not necessarily leads to higher levels of use or to an increase of drug problems.
In the Netherlands cannabis has been freely available to adults for more than 30 years, and use levels remain average in the European Union.
Portugal and the Czech Republic adopted decriminalisation of use and of possession for personal use of the illegal drugs – without the terrible consequences that were predicted by opponents. Problems of drug connected criminality that still exist in those countries are caused by the remaining illegal parts of the drug markets, due to the incomplete character of the decriminalisation.
For many years, ENCOD and many other organisations demand a review of the international drug conventions, and an open and well-informed debate about the best system for drug regulation. Yet, this question, the urgency of which is felt worldwide, never figures on the agendas of the UN or of member states.
It is not difficult to understand why governments don’t want an open and informed debate about drug policy. They cannot be unaware that the probable outcome of that debate will be that the prohibition must be abolished and replaced by a regulatory system. And they don’t like to admit that they are responsible for what has been called the most
harmful public policy in the last century.
UN Member states keep each other in an tight grip. They continue blindly to do more of the same, under the pretense of ‘shared responsibility‘. ‘Shared responsibility’ for counter-narcotic efforts is a cynical name for coercing UN member states to become accomplice in the abdication of responsibility with respect to what is really and direly needed: effective legal regulation of psychoactive drugs, in accordance with local and regional history and culture.
ENCOD sees international ‘counter-narcotics efforts’ as part of an immoral, failed and damaging international drug control apparatus that has succeeded in gaining decisive influence in international politics, by creating a global illicit drug market, and huge financial interests. Subsequently, the violence and death this market inevitably creates and the large amount of untaxed money it generates, are framed as an international threat, to create a supergovernment of a small number of war cabinets. The securitisation status excludes the consideration of other policy options and proven alternatives from being discussed seriously in the relevant drug control international organs, the same institutions and governments responsible for the one-sided, militaristic and failed drug control conventions and for their horrendously tragic consequences.
At the same time, it degrades the health sectors to doctoring up the casualties.
The continued refusal to consider alternative options at this moment, at which the harmful consequences of the current policy are known and acknowledged, is nothing less than criminal negligence.
(When in the strictly legal sense it may not be called ‘criminal’, it certainly is in the moral sense.)
There is only one final conclusion to draw from the activities of CND and UNODC. They systematically ignore all data that show drug policy models with less prohibition and more legal regulation can have positive effects on drug use and its risks. CND and UNODC have become leaders of an industry with its own ends and gains. Its values and its conclusions no longer have a relation to what is happening in the drug field. Their agenda has eclipsed drug policy, and is traveling toward an unknown end, benefitting large and growing systems that are not only 100% uneffective improving the situation, but worse, that amplify drug problems anywhere they operate.
So what is the real agenda behind UNODC and the CND?
We call on everyone involved in international drug policy to admit the urgent need to study legal drug regulation, and to do what is needed to get this subject on the agenda’s of member states‘ governments, and of CND and UNODC.
President of ENCODRepublish