By Louise Arbour and Mohamed ElBaradei

Drug control efforts across the world are a threat to human dignity and the right to life.

In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from a drug overdose in the US. Among the reasons for these deaths are the lack of access to health and harm-reduction services, as well as the fear of legal repression, which often dissuades people who use drugs from asking for help.

More than two-thirds of these deaths were linked to opioids. At the same time, millions of people across Africa have been unable to access opioids for pain relief because of decades of fear of these drugs being diverted to the illegal, recreational market, forcing people there to endure – and often die in – serious pain.

In the Philippines, thousands of people have been killed extrajudicially in a brutal anti-drug campaign that began in 2016. And in Colombia, two years after a historic peace agreement, and the promise of better livelihoods, rural communities are braced for a return to crop eradication by aerial spraying with the chemical glyphosate.

These stories reflect just some of the harmful consequences of drug control. But why are these violations still taking place? In several declarations and documents, governments have committed to “respecting, protecting and promoting all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals” in the development and implementation of drug policies. What is happening in Colombia, in Africa, in the Philippines and in the US tells us that something is very wrong with this global commitment.