Deputy prime minister and Colombian president to seek allies in advance of UN special session on drugs policy in 2016
By Jamie Doward
8 November 2014
Nick Clegg wants the UK to take a lead role in forging an alliance between European and Latin American countries aiming to reform global drugs laws focused on prohibition.
The deputy prime minister believes that the UN special session on drugs in 2016 offers a “unique opportunity” to push for alternatives to the current system. “We need to seize it,” Clegg said. “The war on drugs has failed and there are now a large number of states who agree on the need for change.”
Clegg was speaking after meeting Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, for talks about his country’s peace negotiations with the Farc guerrillas and what both see as an emerging international consensus for reform of international drugs policy.
The talks between Santos and Clegg will be seen as a significant strengthening of the emerging liberal alliance on drugs reform, a move heavily resisted by the Lib Dems’ coalition partners.
Last week the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister resigned from the government, partly due to his frustration with the Tories’ drugs policy. Norman Baker said the government should abandon the “inappropriate rhetoric of the 1950s” and focus more on treatment, but the Home Office said policy would not change.
Clegg said he and Santos had agreed on a need to reform a system under which addicts were punished rather than treated and which benefited only drug traffickers and organised criminals. “President Santos and I have agreed to lead the charge and work to build an international coalition to take our case to the UN and start to properly address the suffering caused by drugs.”