Health Poverty Action launches new report on the failing ‘war on drugs’

Today Health Poverty Action has launched a report calling for the global development sector to rethink its approach to the failing War on Drugs

Entitled ‘Casualties of War: How the War on Drugs is harming the world’s poorest’, the report emphasises how drugs policy is very much a development issue.

Since the mid-twentieth century, global drug policy has been dominated by strict prohibition, which tries to force people to stop possessing, using and producing drugs by making them illegal.

This approach, which has come to be known as the ‘War on Drugs’, has not only failed to achieve its goals – it is fuelling poverty, undermining health, and failing some of the poorest and most marginalised communities worldwide.

At a conservative estimate, enforcing anti-drug policies costs at least US$100 billion a year globally, rivalling the $130 billion worldwide aid budget

Just like tax dodging, climate change and unfair trade rules, current global drug policies undermine global efforts to tackle poverty and inequality.

Yet, unlike with these issues, the development sector has remained largely silent when it comes to drug policy.

If, as international NGOs, we are serious about dealing with the root causes of poverty and not just the symptoms, we cannot afford to ignore drug policy.

It’s time we recognised the threat that unreformed global drug policy poses to our attempts to tackle poverty worldwide. The sector can no longer be absent from debates on drug policy reform.

The report will be officially launched tonight at a joint event with The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) at the House of Commons where there will also be a panel discussion on drugs policy as a driver of poverty and its impact on human rights.

Chairing the discussion will be Lord Rea, Former Deputy Opposition Spokesperson for Health and International Development.

Guest speakers include Baroness Meacher, Chair of the Drug Policy Reform All-Party Parliamentary Group; Catherine Martin, Policy Officer at Health Poverty Action; Sir Keith Morris, Former Ambassador to Colombia; Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights All-Party Parliamentary Group; and Dr Julia Buxton, School of Public Policy at Central European University in Budapest.

The report comes as governments prepare for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the UN General Assembly’s Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016.

We have a unique opportunity to ensure the rights of the poorest and most marginalised are at the heart of the negotiations. Let’s seize it.