The War on Drugs undermines core UN goals of Health, Security, Development and Human Rights, admits UN Office on Drugs and Crime


The UNODC will publish its annual World Drug Report on Friday 26 June in New York. Despite the fact that the UNODC has conceded since 2008 that the global drug control system it oversees produces “major unintended consequences”, its flagship annual  report fails again to account for any of them, focusing on describing the scale of drug markets, and meaningless process measures.

A Transform spokesperson said:

“This is yet another complacent and self-justifying report from the agency that oversees the global war on drugs.  There is no change to the situation where 240 million people use drugs worldwide, support a global market valued at $320 billion a year, and where we collectively spend almost as much as the global aid budget fighting a futile war against often marginalised people who produce, supply and use drugs.”

Meanwhile, as the UNODC concedes on its web page, titled ‘Security and Justice’  the prohibition based drug control system continues to catastrophically undermine the fundamental principles upon which the UN is built:

“Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions. Organized crime is a threat to security. Criminal organizations have the power to destabilize society and Governments. The illicit drug business is worth billions of dollars a year, part of which is used to corrupt government officials and to poison economies.

Drug cartels are spreading violence in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. West Africa is under attack from narco-trafficking. Collusion between insurgents and criminal groups threatens the stability of West Asia, the Andes and parts of Africa, fuelling the trade in smuggled weapons, the plunder of natural resources and piracy.”

The UN development program is one of the wider family of UN agencies that have made a similar critique:

“As various UN organizations have observed, these [drug enforcement] efforts have had harmful collateral consequences: creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence, and instability; threatening public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalization of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women, and youth”

The Transform spokesperson concluded:
“The latest UNODC World Drug Report fails to show that the prohibition-based drug control system continued to catastrophically undermine health, peace and security, development and human rights, the very foundations of the UN itself.  The loss of life, terrifying violence, epidemic corruption, financial waste, insecurity, under development and human rights abuses are yet again sidelined in favour of trumpeting meaningless process ‘successes’.”

“At the same time many member states are exploring or actively implementing innovative new policy models that can deliver better outcomes - such as decriminalisation and legalisation, analysis of these critical developments is, again, entirely ignored by the World Drug Report. As we approach next year’s UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, world leaders must take account of the overwhelming evidence of the war on drugs failure and engage in a comprehensive review of alternatives. Such a review, repeatedly called for by UK parliamentary committees and supported by a majority of the UK public, must explore taking the control of drugs away from gangsters and unregulated suppliers, and returning it to the control of governments, under a system of strict legal regulation.”


Aram Barra in New York:  +1 (646) 256 6380

Danny Kushlick in UK: +44 (0)7970 174747


International Institute for Strategic Studies, April 2012

The global war on drugs is failing and alternatives to current policies should be sought to prevent a significant impact on international security, a new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) finds.