The three major international drug control treaties are mutually supportive and complementary. An important purpose of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances codify internationally applicable control measures in order to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, and to prevent their diversion into illicit channels and include general provisions on trafficking and drug use. The 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances significantly reinforced the obligation of countries to apply criminal sanctions to combat all the aspects of illicit production, possession and trafficking of drugs.

  • Governing The Global Drug Wars

    LSE Ideas
    October, 2012

    Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed, and worse, have spurred black market violence and human rights abuses. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform?

  • The International Drug Control Treaties

    How Important Are They to U.S. Drug Reform?
    Heather J. Haase, Nicolas Edward Eyle, and Joshua Raymond Schrimpf
    New York City Bar Association Committee on Drugs & the Law
    August 2012

    The way the world looks at drug control is changing. There has been a growing awareness of the issue for the past decade, as well as increasing public outcry over what many see as a failure of the once popular "war on drugs." Nowhere is this battle more pronounced than in the so-called "marijuana wars," which are slowly growing into an old-fashioned standoff between the states and the federal government.

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  • Towards revision of the UN drug control conventions

    The logic and dilemmas of Like-Minded Groups
    Dave Bewley-Taylor
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 19
    March 2012

    Recent years have seen a growing unwillingness among increasing numbers of States parties to fully adhere to a strictly prohibitionist reading of the UN drug control conventions; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

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  • The Limits of Latitude

    The UN drug control conventions
    Dave Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 18
    March 2012

    Faced with a complex range of drug related problems, a growing number of nations are exploring the development of nationally appropriate policies that shift away from the prohibition-oriented approach that has long dominated the field but is losing more and more legitimacy. In so doing, such countries must pay close attention to the UN based global drug control framework of which practically all nations are a part.

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  • Regime change

    Re-visiting the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
    Martin Jelsma Dave Bewley-Taylor
    International Journal of Drug Policy 23 (2012) 72– 81
    January 2012

    March 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This legal instrument, the bedrock of the current United Nations based global drug control regime, is often viewed as merely a consolidating treaty bringing together the multilateral drug control agreements that preceded it; an erroneous position that does little to provide historical context for contemporary discussions surrounding revision of the international treaty system.

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  • How well do international drug conventions protect public health?

    Robin Room & Peter Reuter
    The Lancet
    Volume 379, Issue 9810, pp. 84 - 91
    January 7, 2011

    The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 aimed to eliminate the illicit production and non-medical use of cannabis, cocaine, and opioids, an aim later extended to many pharmaceutical drugs. Over the past 50 years international drug treaties have neither prevented the globalisation of the illicit production and non-medical use of these drugs, nor, outside of developed countries, made these drugs adequately available for medical use. The system has also arguably worsened the human health and wellbeing of drug users by increasing the number of drug users imprisoned, discouraging effective countermeasures to the spread of HIV by injecting drug users, and creating an environment conducive to the violation of drug users' human rights. The international treaties have constrained national policy experimentation because they require nation states to criminalise drug use. The adoption of national policies that are more aligned with the risks of different drugs and the effectiveness of controls will require the amendment of existing treaties, the formulation of new treaties, or withdrawal of states from existing treaties and re-accession with reservations.

  • Fifty Years of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: A Reinterpretation

    David Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 12
    March 2011

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, signed on 30 March 1961. 73 countries were represented at the conference that took place in New York from 24 January to 25 March 1961, which sought to lay a new solid foundation for drug control in the post-war United Nations era. The aim was to replace the multiple existing multilateral treaties in the field with a single instrument as well as to reduce the number of international treaty organs concerned with the control of narcotic drugs, and to make provisions for the control of the production of raw materials of narcotic drugs. The Single Convention entered into force on 13 December 1964, having met the requirement of forty state ratifications.

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  • The development of international drug control

    Lessons learned and strategic challenges for the future
    Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 10
    February 2011

    The emergence of more pragmatic and less punitive approaches to the drugs issue may represent the beginning of change in the current global drug control regime. The spread of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users, the overcrowding of prisons, the reluctance in South America to remain a theatre for military anti-drug operations, and the ineffectiveness of repressive anti-drug efforts to reduce the illicit market have all contributed to the global erosion of support for the United States-style war on drugs.

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  • Regulating khat

    Dilemmas and opportunities for the international drug control system
    Axel Klein, Susan Beckerleg & Degol Hailu
    International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 20, Issue 6
    November 2009

    The regulation of khat, one of the most recent psychoactive drugs to become a globally traded commodity, remains hotly contested within different producer and consumer countries. As regimes vary, it has been possible to compare khat policies in Africa, Europe and North America from different disciplinary perspectives. The research established the significance of khat for rural producers, regional economies, as a tax base and source of foreign exchange. At the same time, khat as a psychoactive substance is associated with health and public safety problems that in turn are met with often ill-informed legislative responses. Bans have in turn lead to the criminalisation of users and sellers and illegal drug markets.

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  • Recalibrating the Regime

    The Need for a Human Rights-Based Approach to International Drug Policy
    Beckley Foundation Report 13
    March 2008

    This new report, co-authored by the HR2 team, looks at the tensions between some aspects of the global drug control system and international human rights law. The report highlights that, despite numerous instances of human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of drug control, there has been little engagement with this issue by the responsible bodies, the UNODC, INCB and the human rights treaty bodies. The report was published by the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme, and is co-authored by IHRA, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

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