UN’s 10-year plan to tackle drug problem a ‘spectacular failure’

Production and consumption soar, drug-related deaths increase by 145 per cent


The UN’s 10-year global strategy to eradicate the world’s illegal drug market has been “a spectacular failure of policy”, a report by a network of 174 NGOs has concluded.

The report said there had been a 145 per cent increase in drug-related deaths over the last decade, culminating in around 450,000 deaths per year in 2015.

It also found that despite a specific target to eliminate or reduce the “illicit cultivation of opium poppy, coca bush and cannabis plant”, there was a 130 per cent increase in the cultivation of opium poppies, a 34 per cent rise in the coca bush production and no sign of a reduction in cannabis growing.

The report, by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – Taking stock: A decade of drug policy – evaluated the UN Office of Drug and Crime’s 10-year plan, which it said “continues to generate a catastrophic impact on health, human rights, security and development, while not even remotely reducing the global supply of illegal drugs”.

By analysing data from UN, government, academic and civil society sources, the report says it “illustrates the carnage that the war on drugs has wreaked over the past decade”.

It said the number of people aged 15 to 64 who used drugs at least once in 2016, was estimated to be 275 million, a 31 per cent increase since 2011.

The main drug used was cannabis, followed by opioids and amphetamines, for which consumption had increased 136 per cent in the same period.

“This report is another nail in the coffin for the war on drugs,” said Ann Fordham, executive director of the 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.”

The report said punitive drug policies focusing on eradicating the illegal drug market had been associated with human rights violations as well as threats to public health and order.

Mass incarceration, fuelled by the criminalisation of those who use drugs, has left one in five prisoners incarcerated for drug offences – most for possession for personal use.

At least 3,940 people have been executed for a drug offence in the last year, and 33 jurisdictions retain the death penalty for such crimes.

The report also noted around 27,000 people had died in extrajudicial killings in drug crackdowns in the Philippines.

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