This paper argues that the image of the UN as a benevolent organization is a crucial factor in the functioning of the global drug prohibition regime. It contends, however, that from certain normative perspectives, particularly that of harm reduction, it is possible to identify the emergence of policy contradictions between what can be broadly defined as the United Nations drug control system and the core values of the UN as laid out in the Charter and other key instruments from which the UN derives its image of benevolence.

Four interrelated areas of perceived conflict are discussed: sovereignty and jurisdiction; human rights; the promotion of solutions to international economic, social, health and related problems; and the maintenance of international peace and security. It is suggested that such a situation may undermine a key mechanism for regime adherence. The paper concludes by offering some options that may exploit systemic contradictions and assist in instigating incremental change to the regime.

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