The World Drug Report 2009 was the first publication of note to come from the UNODC since the High Level Segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  As such, it was eagerly anticipated for not only what it would say about the trends in world drug markets, but also what it might reveal about the outlook of the senior management of the Office itself after the UNGASS review. 

In this response to Report the IDPC welcomes improvements in the way in which sections of the Office have moved to approach the complex problem of presenting and interpreting data on global illicit drug markets as well as the associated increase in transparency surrounding working methodologies. The response, however, also highlights that the increased sophistication of the discussion of trends in world drug markets making up the bulk of the Report were not matched by the arguments put forward in the Executive Director’s Preface.  As a result, the World Drug Report 2009 can be viewed in many ways as a fractured discourse containing both welcome improvements and alarming developments. 

This brief review explores three key themes raised by an analysis of the document: the Executive Director’s Preface; a new approach towards the presentation of data; and the unintended consequences of the international drug control system.