In April 2016 the UN General Assembly convened a special session on the world drug problem in order to review and evaluate existing drug control policies and strategies. More specifically, the special session (UNGASS) set out to “review the progress made in the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action, including an assessment of the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem, within the framework of the three international drug control conventions and other relevant United Nations instruments.” The UNGASS 2016 outcome document represents the most recent global consensus on drug policy and signals a shift toward placing public health, development, and human rights at its center.

In the months preceding UNGASS, several civil society organizations and some member states were vocal about the importance of using the special session to reconsider how the success of drug policy is measured. An important part of the reasoning behind this call was that current drug policy too often has a negative impact on communities and runs counter to efforts to ameliorate poverty through sustainable development.

Although the UNGASS 2016 outcome document does not heed this call directly, the preamble does “promote research by States…to better understand factors contributing to illicit crop cultivation…, including through the use of relevant human development indicators, criteria related to environmental sustainability and other measurements in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.” This paper looks to further this debate, arguing that aligning the way we measure and evaluate drug policies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will have two clear benefits:
1. It will help overcome many of the limitations of effective drug policies resulting from suboptimal metrics for measuring their impact; and
2. It will help make sure that drug policies enhance, rather than hinder, efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Drug policies therefore need to be designed in coordination with other relevant policy agendas to guarantee that achievements in one agenda do not hinder those in another. In fact, achieving the SDGs will address many of the factors driving vulnerable populations to engage in the illicit drug trade.