As the debate on drug policy and law reform gathers momentum on the international stage, the failings of the three UN drug control conventions (1961, 1971 and 1988) have come into stark relief. Criticisms of the global drug control regime established by the drug treaties have now entered the mainstream public discourse and political debate. The discussions around treaty reform that would allow or facilitate a wider spectrum of approaches to drugs are assuming a degree of urgency.

The technicalities of convention reform form an important part of the discussion but arguably subservient to the wider political discourse. Until sufficient political will exists, substantive reform of the UN drug conventions will not be possible, despite growing recognition that the current drug control regime is not working. For this to occur the political calculus will need to shift so that the cost-benefit analysis for individual States moves decisively in favour of proactive engagement.

This expert seminar is the fifth in a series of expert discussions on drug policy funded by the European Commission Drug Prevention and Information Programme and the Open Society Institute.

The report of this seminar has been divided up under key headings that reflect the structure of the days’ discussions, with a summary of key points and conclusions at the end.

  • Exploring the technical and bureaucratic dimension of convention reform
  • The political calculus: Dealing with sub-optimality
  • How to constructively frame the debate on convention reform
  • Potential drivers of change / avenues for progress
  • Lessons from Latin America
  • Lessons from Bolivia
  • The role of Europe
  • Discussion and Conclusions

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