ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
A DRUG AGAINST WAR?
Hundred years after the International Opium Convention was signed in The Hague, the international drug policy framework works like the brain of a primitive reptile. From Mexico to Pakistan, along the territories of ‘paco’ in South America, ‘Krokodil’ in Russia and ‘Yaaba‘ in South East Asia, the jail rates of US drug offenders and labour camps in China, all that this so-called drug-free world policy has achieved is a disasterous imbalance between public health and law enforcement efforts. The war on drugs is a crime against human nature and biodiversity. Is a remedy underway? Can a drug against war be developed?
Drug policy is in theory a matter of national state sovereignty, but the UN Single Convention of 1961 sets the principles for each UN member state that adopted it. That means that if a country decides to implement a new strategy based on another policy than prohibition, it must first address a request to the UN, at least for a period of experimentation.
Alternatively, within EU borders, each member state is able to make its own policy, but the EU Commission is supposed to promote a common strategy through so-called Action Plans. These are designed for the most part by the Horizontal Drug Group unit, through a cosmetic consultation of both the European Parliament (whose recommandations are never taken into account) and the so-called Civil Society Forum (which until now has been unable to produce any coherent opinion at all).
At the other end, there are the local and regional authorities which have to deal with the daily reality on the streets. Sometimes very specific alternative policies are developed locally and, after many years of efforts to be officially recognized, suddenly become widespread. This is currently the case of several well-named harm reduction measures.
Paradoxally, the US federal government – the enforcer and cheerleader of the UN drug war since its earliest days – is now in a complete internal dilemma, for in a large part of its territory laws have been adopted that allow for the production and distribution of medical marijuana, contradicting its scheduling as a “morbid substance with no or little medicinal interest”.
However, when legislation is concerned, progress can only be made within the UN framework on drugs. In fact each member state has given up its sovereignty to the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency which decides, based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation, on the inclusion or exclusion of substances on global scheduling lists of controlled drugs.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is the governing body, hosting the annual meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, of which it holds the permanent secretariat. The link between INCB and the larger UN apparatus is through the UNODC. Seen in detail, the INCB is a commission of thirteen “independent” members, while the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs consists of delegations from at least 53 countries.
That means that 350 million people worldwide using illicit drugs are held hostage by the decisions of less than one thousand “delegates” led by 13 “experts” who, in close international cooperation
with relevant regional and international organizations, with the full assistance of the international financial institutions and other relevant agencies, are making final and binding decisions after a wrongly called consultation of”civil society”.
In its own words, the forthcoming CND 55th session will take into account the expected accomplishments identified in the draft updated strategy for the period 2012-2015, it will adopt a biennium programme budget for 2012-2013 , and prepare the strategic framework for the period 2014-2015 . Perhaps a new UN General Assembly Special Session will be planned in 2014. In other words, nothing new should be expected.
However, because of the economic crisis, the “drug regulation” approach is gaining more and more attention. Since the Global Commission on Drug Policy in a report last june recommended to UN general secretary Ban Ki Moon to change course in drug policies, several countries like Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala are asking for “legalisation”, while even within EU borders during the last six months Greece and Poland decriminalised drug use, and in the near future the Basque Country government in Spain is planning to install a regulation for Cannabis Social Clubs.
From a polemical point of view, this economic crisis is just another opportunity given to globally organised crime to launder its fortunes, as an emergency savior of the economic system (such as was recognised by former UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa), as well as their investments in “off shore locations” in order to make their business safer.
So what is the interest of the people, if organised crime is finally holding the strings of the global economy, and is carrying out policy matters ? The situation in Mexico is the final destination of the current “drug war”, while the Portuguese approach has shown within a decade that alternatives to this policy can prove concrete results.
That is why, with almost no means but with lots of good intentions, ENCOD is calling for broad support to the First International « Drugs Peace Summit» from March 9th to March 16th in Vienna.
On Saturday, March 10th, a demonstration will go through Vienna calling to « end the drug war and change the UN drug control system ». At the same time an Encod delegation will attend the UN meeting and spread our own proposals for alternative drug policies, such as the « Cannabis Social Clubs », and the « Friends of the Coca Leaf », or support others, such as the “Poppy for Medecine” proposal..
By Farid Ghehioueche (with the help of Peter Webster)