By Juan Gabriel Tokatlian - Open Democacy
The Summit represented a big opportunity to end the "war on drugs", but defenders of the status quo were able to abort aspirations of an effective transformation of the field.
According to the Real Academia Española dictionary, opportunity is understood as the existence of "appropriate circumstances" while opportunism refers to taking advantage of such circumstances to obtain "the greatest possible benefit". The recent (April 19-21) third United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs (UNGASS) promised to be a propicious opportunity to rethink and reorientate the issue of illicit psychoactive substances, towards a different track from the current prohibitionist approach. However, a preliminary assessment shows that this was an opportunist summit in which defenders of the status quo were able to abort aspirations of an effective transformation of the field.
Prior to the conference, a combination of factors had called into question the international regime of illicit drugs (IRID). In 1990 and 1998 the first and second United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions on drugs were held. The first UNGASS took place in the final days of the Cold War - with the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - and the deepening of the "war on drugs" - especially in terms of the US anti-narcotics policy with respect to Latin America.
The emphasis was placed on punitive measures centred on controlling supply: a focus was placed on drugs as a security issue. Briefly, UNGASS 1990 concerned the imposition of a coercive rationality: alternative and/or dissenting voices were few and were ignored; the United States (accompanied by many Eastern countries) seemed to depend on the ability to advance their version of prohibitionism against a Europe and a Latin America with limited will to coordinate a common perspective distinct from the former.
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