A coalition representing almost 100 groups working on drugs, human rights, health and development issues have just launched The War on Drugs: Count the Costs initiative.

Count the Costs marks the 50th anniversary year of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which cemented global drug control into the current criminal justice-led approach, built around police and military enforcement against drug production and supply, and the criminalisation of many users.

Whilst implemented with good intentions, the policy has failed to eliminate or reduce drug production, supply or use, all of which have risen dramatically. It has, however, had a range of what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calls 'unintended negative consequences'. In short, the War on Drugs:

  • undermines international development and security, and fuels conflict
  • threatens public health, spreads disease and causes death
  • undermines human rights
  • promotes stigma and discrimination
  • creates crime and enriches criminals
  • causes deforestation and pollution
  • wastes billions on ineffective law enforcement

These unintended costs have never been meaningfully evaluated by the governments and agencies responsible for drug policies, or properly compared with the costs and benefits of other approaches. Without such scrutiny, drug policy will never achieve the safer, healthier and more just world we all strive for.

Questioning the merits of the War on Drugs has been largely restricted to organizations directly involved in the drugs issue, despite its much wider ramifications. With the world changing, and numerous senior politicians now openly calling for alternatives to be debated, we believe it is time for all sectors affected by our approach to drugs to call on governments and the UN to properly Count the Costs of the War on Drugs, and explore the alternatives.

Count the Costs will, over the coming year, grow into a library of resources detailing the development, human rights, environment, economic, health, criminal justice and other costs stemming from the War on Drugs. If you would like any of your resources published on the site, please contact: Martin@tdpf.org.uk.

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