The lost decade in the global war on drugs

New report shows 10-year United Nations drug strategy set to conclude in colossal failure

A report released by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) has exposed the United Nations 10-year global strategy aimed to eradicate the illegal drug market by 2019 as a spectacular failure of policy and urged a re-think of its new strategy for the next decade.

The report, Taking stock: A decade of drug policy – A civil society shadow report is a response by IDPC and its 174 NGO network to the failure by governments and the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime to comprehensively evaluate the 10-year plan based on a discredited ‘war on drugs’ approach that continues to generate a catastrophic impact on health, human rights, security and development, while not even remotely reducing the global supply of illegal drugs.

“This report is another nail in the coffin for the war on drugs,” said Ann Fordham, the Executive Director of IDPC. “The fact that governments and the UN do not see fit to properly evaluate the disastrous impact of the last ten years of drug policy is depressingly unsurprising. Governments will meet next March at the UN and will likely rubber-stamp more of the same for the next decade in drug policy. This would be a gross dereliction of duty and a recipe for more blood spilled in the name of drug control.”

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Using wide-ranging data from UN, government, academic and civil society sources, the report illustrates the carnage that the war on drugs has wreaked over the past decade:

  • A 145 per cent increase in drug-related deaths over the last decade, totalling a harrowing 450,000 deaths per year in 2015.
  • At least 3,940 people executed for a drug offence over the last decade, with 33 jurisdictions retaining the death penalty for drug offences in violation of international standards.
  • Around 27,000 extrajudicial killings in drug crackdowns in the Philippines.
  • More than 71,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 alone.
  • A global pain epidemic, resulting from restrictions in access to controlled medicines, which have left 75 per cent of the world’s population without proper access to pain relief.
  • Mass incarceration fuelled by the criminalisation of people who use drugs – with 1 in 5 prisoners incarcerated for drug offences, mostly for possession for personal use.

“What we learn from the IDPC shadow report is compelling. Since governments started collecting data on drugs in the 1990s, the cultivation, consumption and illegal trafficking of drugs have reached record levels,” writes Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in the report’s foreword. “Moreover, current drug policies are a serious obstacle to other social and economic objectives and the ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in millions of people murdered, disappeared, or internally displaced.”

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