In this report, IDPC and the Global Drug Policy Observatory take a critical look at the narratives that the UN drug control system constructs to justify its own existence, and to create an appearance of success.

2021 marked the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the founding document of the UN drug control regime. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) marked this occasion by including an assessment of the global drug control regime’s performance in its Annual Report 2020.

In line with its recent shift towards human rights, the INCB acknowledges some shortfalls in the functioning of the regime, particularly in relation to availability of internationally controlled substances and efforts to deal with various facets of illegal drug markets, as well as with regards to the widespread rights violations associated to drug control.

However, in a determined effort to deflect attention away from the problematic aspects of the regime itself, the INCB sets out to shift all responsibility for failures away from the treaty framework and its institutions, and on to states themselves.

The new IDPC/GDPO analysis argues that such an approach ignores the powerful normative expectations generated by the regime, and it points out that the INCB continues to promote the erroneous view that the drug control conventions and human rights instruments are mutually reinforcing. Ultimately, an intellectually honest analysis of the regime’s performance is necessary for meaningful progress.


Previous reports in this series: