Asia is characterised by some of the world’s harshest approaches to combating illicit use of drugs, an almost entirely one-dimensional security approach as opposed to a more integrated humane, political, social and security approach. The victims are mainly the urban and rural poor at the end of the chain, not the well-armed drug barons with the means to protect themselves.
Have draconian measures such as extrajudicial killings, the death penalty for drug offences, compulsory detention for people who use drugs and, in some cases, corporal punishment meted out by caning, achieved the stated goal of reducing drug demand and supply in the region? Can countries in Asia claim progress is being made towards the goal of a “drug-free” region?
These are important questions that governments must answer as the 10-year global drug strategy adopted at the United Nations in 2009 comes to its end. In March, governments are set to meet at a high-level UN meeting in Vienna to review progress made over the past decade and define future directions for global drug policy.