Drug-policy reform organizations are slamming the United Nations for moving to renew its commitment to a global anti-drug strategy they say has been a failure, Reuters reported March 10.
A new drug-strategy declaration from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is expected to be signed this week, but critics say the document perpetuates an approach that expands organized crime and spreads HIV. In 1998, the agency set the goal of a “drug-free world” and has worked to eradicate illicit narcotics, largely through law enforcement.
Drug-policy reformers say that harm reduction should be part of the strategy.
“The war on drugs has failed, but they’re going to commit themselves to it again,” said Genevieve Horwood of the International Drug Policy Consortium.
“Even though there are member states who disagree with the declaration, it will be signed because there’s no other strategy they can all agree on.”
UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa acknowledged the failings of the previous plan but said the problem is not one of strategy but implementation. “The crime and corruption associated with the drug trade are providing strong evidence to a vocal minority of pro-drug lobbyists to argue that the cure is worse than the disease,” he said. “This would be an historical mistake, one which United Nations member states are not willing to make … Because drug trafficking enriches criminals, destroys communities and even threatens nations, it has to be dealt with urgently and forcefully. Policy change is required against crime, not in favor of drugs.”
Some European and Latin American nations have called for harm-reduction strategies in the plan, but the U.S., India, Russia and China — which support the current approach — have apparently prevailed.