By Jake Agliata
In June 2014, I joined the Students for Sensible Drug Policy staff after earning my B.A. in International Studies from Dickinson College, where I founded and led an SSDP chapter. Because of my knowledge and interest in global drug policy, I was immediately put in charge of managing our international chapter network, which at the time consisted of only a handful of chapters in Ireland, Mexico, and Nigeria. While excited, I quickly realized the complexity of the challenge I had been assigned. During this point in SSDP’s history there were legitimate questions about whether or not we could support an international network due to budget limitations and our overall lack of experience in global organizing. I still remember a debate at the 2014 Strategy Summit where some argued that SSDP should only exist as a US network, and thinking to myself that if I could just have a chance, everyone else would see the same potential for SSDP’s international chapters that I saw.
Four years later, SSDP’s status as a global network is no longer in doubt and has become one of our greatest strengths. We now have chapters in over 30 countries and counting on every habitable continent. Take a look at any list of SSDP accomplishmentsand you’ll see plenty of actions that took place outside of the United States. We’ve taken action around regional issues such as the Ayotzinapa student massacre and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, co-hosted a global convening of youth drug policy activists in Bangkok, and organized numerous workshops in West Africa along with four straight annual conferences in Ireland. We have seriously stepped up our game at the United Nations. During the 2015 and 2017 Reform conferences, we educated dozens of our members on international drug policy through our Model UNGASS simulation. We brought 10 members to the real UNGASS in 2016 and organized a rally at the UN the day before with over 150 people in attendance. At the most recent CND, we co-hosted a side event that had so many attendees we ran out of seats. We even had an SSDPer elected as treasurer to the Vienna NGO Committee, the body that oversees the relationship between civil society and member states at the UN. All of this is only a snapshot of SSDP’s accomplishments outside of the United States over the last few years.