From tax and debt, to trade and climate change – if we are serious about addressing poverty and poor health then we cannot shy away from addressing complex and controversial issues. Drug policy cannot be ignored if we are serious about dealing with the root causes of poverty, not just the symptoms.
What’s the alternative to prohibition?
We need to offer political support to countries who want to move away from prohibition to legal regulation. Legally regulating drugs means making them safer, controlling who has access to them and where they can be sold.
We need to ensure that aid money is spent supporting harm reduction, and funding support for countries who want to reform their drugs policy, not enforcing drug policies that punish the most vulnerable and marginalised.
There are already good examples in the global south to signpost a way forward. Bolivia’s coca control programme has prioritised reducing the harm caused by militarised crop eradication, rather than simply stopping drug trafficking and production.
How countries move to legal regulation is important. There is no one set model for legal regulation – there is a spectrum of options. We have the opportunity to ensure reforms are implemented within a social justice model in collaboration with affected communities. At the same time, we can tackle those social and economic problems that drive people into the trade in the first place.
All new approaches need to include local communities in design and implementation making sure they are able to participate. They need to ensure public infrastructure and public services and be integrated with national development plans and programmes.
We will need new indicators to measure how drug policies affect poor and marginalised communities and their development, providing strong evidence and expertise for the most effective policies with sustainable development at their core.
A decade ago the UN agreed on an action plan to counter the ‘world drug problem’. This plan enforced prohibition, damaging the lives of people around the world.
In March 2019 we attended the meeting where these plans were reviewed. Unfortunately, despite this review, the approach to international drug laws remains largely the same, and health and human rights continue to be undermined by drug policies worldwide.
We continue to work alongside allies and impacted communities to push for healthier drug policies that uphold public health and help shape a fairer world. For example, we are co-hosting an online webinar series bringing together drug policy reform experts and a variety of organisations and civil society groups, to explore how drug policies intersect with some of the most pressing issues facing the Global South today. You can watch the talks here.