Numerous Organizations Come Together to Fight the Global Drug War

By Zachary Siegel 05/27/15

Over 100+ nonprofits are getting ready for the 2016 United Nations Special Session on drugs.

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On April 30, the Brookings Institute hosted a group of over a 100 nonprofit organizations to discuss the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the “World Drug Problem.”

The last UNGASS on international drug policy was held in 1998 and quixotically announced that by 2008, we will be living in a “drug free world.”

Brookings scholars Vanda Felbab-Brown and Harold Trinkunas wrote in their blog, "the goal of UNGASS 2016 should be to inject realism into the global discussion of drug policy objectives, instead of once again setting an unattainable goal of a drug-free world."

The consortium of nonprofit organizations—among them are big names like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch—also just released an open letter where they write, “Existing U.S. and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations.”

The letter can be distilled into a simple and firmly stated request, “Human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions.”

Such a stance would mark a dramatic sea change in policy at the U.N., which is currently under the stringent dictates of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The office is headed by Yury Fedotov, a Russian diplomat who has been vocal in his condemnation of marijuana legalization in the U.S. and across the globe.

Oddly, one of the UNODC’s objectives listed on their website is to convince “governments to see drug use as a health problem, not a crime.” A mandate coming from the office of “drugs and crime,” who happen to be accused of violating human rights by operating what people call a “regime of control.”

The battle against status quo drug policies is indeed uphill, which is why these organizations are rallying together now, so that in 2016 they will be ready to impart a practical, humanitarian international drug policy.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.