The Global War On Drugs Has Failed
IT IS TIME FOR A NEW APPROACH
House of Lords, London
17 November 2011
WE THE UNDERSIGNED call on members of the public and of Parliament to recognise that:
Fifty years after the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was launched, the global war on drugs has failed, and has had many unintended and devastating consequences worldwide.
Use of the major controlled drugs has risen, and supply is cheaper, purer and more available than ever before. The UN conservatively estimates that there are now 250 million drug users worldwide.
Illicit drugs are now the third most valuable industry in the world, after food and oil, estimated to be worth $450 billion a year, all in the control of criminals.
Fighting the war on drugs costs the world’s taxpayers incalculable billions each year. An estimated 10 million people are in prison worldwide for drug-related offences, mostly “little fish” – personal users and small-time dealers.
Corruption amongst law-enforcers and politicians, especially in producer and transit countries, has spread as never before, endangering democracy and civil society.
Stability, security and development are threatened by the fallout from the war on drugs, as are human rights. Tens of thousands of people die in the drug war each year.
The drug-free world so confidently predicted by supporters of the war on drugs is further than ever from attainment. The policies of prohibition create more harms than they prevent. We must seriously consider shifting resources away from criminalising tens of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens, and move towards an approach based on health, harm-reduction, cost-effectiveness and respect for human rights. Evidence consistently shows that these health-based approaches deliver better results than criminalisation.
Improving our drug policies is one of the key policy challenges of our time.
It is time for world leaders to fundamentally review their strategies in response to the drug phenomenon. That is what the Global Commission on Drug Policy, led by four former Presidents, by Kofi Annan and by other world leaders, has bravely done with its ground-breaking Report, first presented in New York in June, and now at the House of Lords on 17 November.
At the root of current policies lies the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is time to re-examine this treaty. A document entitled ‘Rewriting the UN Drug Conventions’ has recently been commissioned in order to show how amendments to the conventions could be made which would allow individual countries the freedom to explore drug policies that best suit their domestic needs, rather than seeking to impose the current “one-size-fits-all” solution.
As we cannot eradicate the production, demand or use of drugs, we must find new ways to minimise harms. We should give support to our Governments to explore new policies based on scientific evidence.
Signatories to Public Letter
President Jimmy Carter Former President of the United States, Nobel Prize winner
President Fernando H. Cardoso Former President of Brazil
President César Gaviria Former President of Colombia
President Vicente Fox Former President of Mexico
President Ruth Dreifuss Former President of Switzerland
President Lech Wałęsa Former President of Poland, Nobel Prize winner.
President Aleksander Kwaśniewski Former President of Poland
George P. Schultz Former US Secretary of State
Jaswant Singh Former Minister of Defence, of Finance, and for External Affairs, India
Professor Lord Piot Former UN Under Secretary-General
Louise Arbour, CC, GOQ Former UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights
Carel Edwards Former Head of the EU Commission’s Drug Policy Unit
Javier Solana, KOGF, KCMG Former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Thorvald Stoltenberg Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Gary Johnson Republican US Presidential Candidate
Professor Sir Harold Kroto Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Dr. Kary Mullis Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor John Polanyi Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Kenneth Arrow Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Thomas C. Schelling Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Peter Mansfield Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Anthony Leggett Physicist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Martin L. Perl Physicist, Nobel Prize winner
Mario Vargas Llosa Writer, Nobel Prize winner
Wisława Szymborska Poet, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Former President of the Royal College of Physicians
Professor Robert Lechler Dean of School of Medicine, KCL
Professor A. C. Grayling Master of the New College of the Humanities
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta Professor of Economics at Cambridge
Asma Jahangir Former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Execution
Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari, MBE Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain
Professor Noam Chomsky Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT
Carlos Fuentes Novelist and essayist
Sir Richard Branson Entrepreneur and Founder of the Virgin Group
John Whitehead Chair of the WTC Memorial Foundation
Maria Cattaui Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce
Nicholas Green, QC Former Chairman of the Bar Council
Professor David Nutt Former Chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs
Professor Trevor Robbins Professor of Neuroscience at Cambridge
Professor Niall Ferguson Professor of History at Harvard University
Professor Peter Singer Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
Professor Jonathan Wolff Professor of Philosophy at UCL
Professor Robin Room School of Population Health, University of Melbourne
Sir Peregrine Worsthorne Former Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
Dr. Jan Wiarda Former President of European Police Chiefs
Sting Musician and actor
Yoko Ono Musician and artist
Sean Parker Founding President of Facebook, Director of Spotify
Bernardo Bertolucci Film Director
Gilberto Gil Musician, former Minister of Culture, Brazil
John Perry Barlow Co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Tom Lloyd Former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire
Bob Ainsworth, MP Former UK Secretary of State for Defence
Peter Lilley, MP Former Secretary of State for Social Security
Tom Brake, MP
Dr. Julian Huppert, MP
Caroline Lucas, MP
Paul Flynn, MP
Dr. Patrick Aeberhard Former President of Doctors of the World
Lord Mancroft Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Foundation
General Lord Ramsbotham Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Lord Rees, OM Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society
Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss Director of the Beckley Foundation