The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched in September 2015, made up of 17 Goals and 169 Targets that set out a plan of action that will shape the mainstream development agenda for the next 15 years. There has already been much debate about how these Goals will be achieved, but the significant issue of drug policy reform has so far been ignored. This briefing aims to address this gap, to support discussions and demonstrate how global drug control policies are a cross-cutting development issue that impact upon a number of the SDGs.

Since the mid-20th century, global drug policy has been dominated by strict prohibition and the criminalisation of drug cultivation, production, trade, possession and use – with the intention of creating a drug-free world. This so-called ‘war on drugs’ has not only failed, it is also undermining efforts to tackle poverty, improve access to health, protect the environment, reduce violence, and protect the human rights of some ofthe most marginalised communities worldwide.

This paper, drafted by Health Poverty Action in collaboration with the International Drug Policy Consortium, sets out the ways in which current drug control efforts are already impacting upon the development sector’s efforts to achieve sustainable development, highlighting specific areas of policy incoherence between drug control and development, as well as recommendations for the way forward, which must be recognised and addressed if we are to fully achieve the new Goals and Targets set out in the Sustainable Development Agenda. The development sector has so far remained largely absent from debates on drug policy reform, but if it is serious about achieving the SDGs it can no longer remain silent.

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