The principle of “system wide coherence” was introduced into the UN’s thinking and policy making in the context of the Millennium Development Goals which were set in 2000. The objective was to make the UN’s work more effective and coherent by integrating and connecting the many areas within which the organisation is active (such as development, humanitarian assistance, peace-keeping, public health, human rights, drug policy, etc.).

In recent years it has become increasingly evident that the supply, distribution and demand for drugs can only be understood and managed by taking into account economic, political, social and cultural factors. The complexity and cross-cutting nature of the global drug problem make this, too, an area in which a coherent response among the various UN agencies and programmes, as well as national and transnational interventions, is truly essential.

System wide coherence is therefore an important concept that forms one of the pillars of our global advocacy work. The international community needs to find ways of ensuring that the drug control interests of the responsible UN bodies are adequately balanced and coordinated with other relevant areas of international cooperation – economic and social development, the promotion of public health (in particular the fight against HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis) and the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This requires much closer coordination between the UN bodies working on these issues, and an end to the isolation of drug policy debates in one small part of the system focused on law enforcement to the exclusion of other important considerations.