Weaknesses in the UN drug control system have often been identified, related to the functioning of the key organs UNODC, INCB, and the CND; related to collaboration with the wider UN system (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, etc.) and related to the outdated character of several treaty provisions. What has been attempted to date to achieve more structural reform? Are existing evaluation mechanisms capable of bringing the need for reform to the table? How could a neutral and evidence-based role of UNODC as a centre of expertise be strengthened? How can these issues be related to the UN call for more ‘system-wide coherence’ and ‘delivery as one’?

  • 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.

  • Global Commission on Drug Policy Report

    Global Commission on Drug Policy
    June 2011

    The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.

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  • 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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  • UN expert calls for a fundamental shift in global drug control policy

    At a press conference in New York on Tuesday 26 October, 2010, at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the UN’s key human rights experts will call for a fundamental rethink of international drug policy. Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council.

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  • Legislative Innovation in Drug Policy

    Martin Jelsma
    Latin American Initiative on Drugs and Democracy
    November 2009

    This briefing summarizes good practices in legislative reforms around the world, representing steps away from a repressive zero-tolerance model towards a more evidence-based and humane drug policy.

    The examples provide lessons learned in practice about less punitive approaches and their impact on levels of drug use and drugrelated harm to the individual and society. Evidence suggests that legislation lessening criminalization combined with shifting resources from law enforcement and incarceration to prevention, treatment and harm reduction is more effective in reducing drug-related problems.

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  • Drug policy reform in practice

    The academic journal Nueva Sociedad recently released an issue to promote the debate in Latin America on drug policy reform. TNI contributed with the article Drug policy reform in practice: Experiences with alternatives in Europe and the US. The article aims to give inputs for the Latin American debate providing an overview of European drug policy practices regarding harm reduction, decriminalization of consumption and possession, and more tolerant policies towards cannabis, particularly in The Netherlands and several states in the US.

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  • Call to Action: Support Global Drug Policy Reform

    Call to Action
    World Drug Day, 26 June 2009

    As the United Nations launches the 2009 World Drug Report this week, more than 40 international groups and experts worldwide today issued a call to action that presses governments to adopt a humane approach to drug policy.

    The call to action, signed by the Transnational Institute (TNI), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former president of Brazil Fernando Cardoso, and others, urges governments to enact policies that are based on scientific and medical research rather than politics.

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  • Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998-2007

    Peter Reuter (RAND) and Franz Trautmann (Trimbos Institute) (eds.)
    European Commission
    March 2009

    This report commissioned by the European Commission, found no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced during the period from 1998 to 2007 – the primary target of the 1998 UNGASS, which aimed to significantly reduce the global illicit drugs problem by 2008 through international cooperation and measures in the field of drug supply and drug demand reduction. Broadly speaking the situation has improved a little in some of the richer countries, while for others it worsened, and for some of those it worsened sharply and substantially', among which are a few large developing or transitional countries. Given the limitations of the data, a fair judgment is that the problem became somewhat more severe.

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  • Toward a Paradigm Shift

    Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the desired results. We are further than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.

    Breaking the taboo, acknowledging the failure of current policies and their consequences is the inescapable prerequisite for the discussion of a new paradigm leading to safer, more efficient and humane drug policies.

    Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift
    Statement by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy
    February 2009

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