A 19-member international panel has condemned the US-led War on Drugs campaign as a failure and has recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy report, released on Thursday, argues that the four-decades-long campaign has failed to make significant changes in the international drug scenario and has, in fact, devastating consequences on human societies across the world.
The term War on Drugs was first used by US President Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971 and was intended to define and reduce illicit drug trade globally. However, the new report points out that the result of this campaign has been nothing but a drastic increase in drug violence, especially in regions like Brazil and Mexico.
Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government's global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed, stated former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis.
The international panel of members includes former presidents and leaders of Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Switzerland among others like Carlos Fuentes (writer), Ruth Dreifuss (former president of Switzerland), Louise Arbour (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and George Papandreou (PM of Greece).
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Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies, remarked former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions.
Some of the major recommendations of the panel are:
- End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
- Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
- Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.
- Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.
- Countries that continue to invest mostly in a law enforcement approach (despite the evidence) should focus their repressive actions on violent organized crime and drug traffickers, in order to reduce the harms associated with the illicit drug market.
- Offer a wide and easily accessible range of options for treatment and care for drug dependence, including substitution and heroin-assisted treatment, with special attention to those most at risk, including those in prisons and other custodial settings.
- The United Nations system must provide leadership in the reform of global drug policy. This means promoting an effective approach based on evidence, supporting countries to develop drug policies that suit their context and meet their needs, and ensuring coherence among various UN agencies, policies and conventions.