The present system of worldwide drug control is based upon three international conventions:
- the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol)
- the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances
- the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
These enjoy widespread adherence with 183 states being Parties to the first and second of the three conventions, and 182 to the third (as of July 2007).
The Future of the Conventions
Although this suite of global agreements were devised and agreed many years ago (it is over 20 years since the last drug convention came into force), there is a real reluctance amongst member states and international agencies to consider whether they remain ‘fit for purpose’ for 21st century situations and challenges. This is to some extent understandable, as the achievement of a global consensus on such a politically sensitive issue was unprecedented at the time. The unpicking of that consensus would carry real risks. As a result, Member states and UN leaders have a tendency to approach all drug policy debates from a starting point that the existing conventions are unchangeable in every detail. However, we believe that a normal process of review and modernisation should be applied to these conventions, as with any other complex and ever-changing area of policy. It is therefore unfortunate that any organisation that calls for such review is condemned as seeking the overthrow of the system – and considered to be ‘pro-drug’.
This position is becoming harder to maintain as it becomes increasingly clear that there are uncorrected technical inconsistencies in the conventions, that there are significant differences of interpretation of their meaning or ‘spirit’, and that the nature and scale of global drug problems has changed immeasurably since they were enacted. What is needed is an objective and technically led review of the operation of the conventions, that is conducted without political and diplomatic posturing. IDPC will examine the current problem areas in the various documents and provide analysis and recommendations for a constructive way forward.