Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Ecuador argue in the leaked draft that prohibition hasn’t worked and only benefits drug cartels and paramilitary groups.
Over the weekend, the Guardian reported it had obtained a copy of a leaked United Nations’ document that revealed many countries are dissatisfied with the results of the U.S.-led “War on Drugs,” and have outlined a new, more-forgiving policy when it comes to the use of illegal substances.
According to the Guardian, many Latin American countries are leading the call for changes to the U.N.’s current drug policy, which would include treating drug use as a public health issue instead of a criminal problem.
In the policy draft, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Ecuador argue that prohibition hasn’t been working and only benefits drug cartels and paramilitary groups. Representatives from Ecuador argued that the U.N. needs a more efficient and effective approach to addressing the world drug problem, with reps from Venezuela adding that the U.N.’s current policy fails to recognize the “dynamics of the drug criminal market.”
According to the document, Venezuela has asked that the final draft include “economic implications” if a country fails to address drug use as a health problem and continues to use law enforcement to enforce prohibition.
“Heavy reliance on law enforcement for controlling drugs is yielding a poor return on investment and leading to all kinds of terrible human rights abuses,” said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program. “The withdrawal from the most repressive parts of the drug war has begun – locally, nationally and globally.”
It’s not just South American nations that recognize a need for change in the current drug policy. Norway reportedly wants the next drug policy to include “questions related to decriminalization and a critical assessment of the approach represented by the so-called war on drugs.”
Switzerland would like the new drug policy to recognize how current drug policies are impacting public health issues, since “consumption prevalence has not been reduced significantly and that the consumption of new psychoactive substances has increased in most regions of the world.”
The European Union has also pushed for the inclusion of drug treatment and care options for those who use illegal substances instead of locking them behind bars. “Drug users should be entitled to access treatment, essential medicines, care and related support services,” the EU wrote in the draft. “Programs related to recovery and social reintegration should also be encouraged.”
What’s particularly interesting about this document is that it is a draft from September and is filled with disagreements between the U.S.’ pro-prohibition stance on drugs and Latin American countries’ push to find an alternative solution to the failed drug war.
Due to the amount of disagreements in policy drafts, U.N. draft documents are almost never publicized, meaning usually the public only sees the final version of any U.N. policy documents. However, some say that this leaked document is a perfect illustration of the lack of consensus between nations when it comes to how drug users should be prosecuted.
“The idea that there is a global consensus on drugs policy is fake,” said Damon Barrett, deputy director of the charity Harm Reduction International. “The differences have been there for a long time, but you rarely get to see them. It all gets whittled down to the lowest common denominator, when all you see is agreement. But it’s interesting to see now what they are arguing about.”
Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, agreed and said the draft revealed there was growing tension over the global drugs policy. “We are starting to see member states break with the consensus about how we should control drugs in the world. Punishment hasn’t worked. All the money spent on crop eradication hasn’t had the impact we would like to see.”
The final version of the document and the introduction of the new international drug policy is expected to be published in the spring of 2014, two years before the U.N. General Assembly meets in 2016 to decide the international drug policy for the next decade.