Thursday, April 21, 2016

Landmark UN Session Falling Short of Lofty Goal to End War on Drugs

Published on

Landmark UN Session Falling Short of Lofty Goal to End War on Drugs

One glimmer of hope was Canada's announcement, on Wednesday, that it will introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in 2017
Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto told the UN general assembly on Tuesday: "So far, the solutions [to control drugs and crime] implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient." (Photo: Reuters)

World leaders are gathered in New York this week for the first United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in almost two decades, with the lofty goal ofending the failed War on Drugs.

But so far, the summit is falling short in the eyes of drug policy reformers, who say that the "outcome document" ratified on Tuesday maintains a prohibitionist perspective.

"While there are some positive changes in tone and substance compared with similar documents from years past, it recommits countries to achieving the patently unachievable goal of 'eliminating or significantly reducing' illicit drugs by 2019," wrote Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth and Drug Policy Alliance founder Ethan Nadelmann in an op-ed on Tuesday. "Disturbingly, the document refrains from even mentioning the grave harm to health, human rights and security current drug policies cause and from urging any action to address this harm."

Even United Nations human rights experts, in an open letter to UNGASS, said the text "fails to sufficiently articulate the binding nature of human rights obligations in the context of international drug control and continues to embrace the harmful concept of a 'drug-free world.'"

The letter reads:
As highlighted by the recent 'Study on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights,' presented by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, policy harms and related barriers to the protection and fulfillment of human rights, such as decriminalization and over-investment in law enforcement, must be reassessed in a meaningful and inclusive way. Any acknowledgement of the need for this vital policy reflection remains absent from the outcome document in its current form.
Diederik Lohman, interim health director for Human Rights Watch, critiqued the document in a series of tweets: