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Oct 31, 2007

INPUD Asia @ Regional UNGASS Consultation in Macao

INPUD board member Fredy (IDUSA, Indonesia) represents INPUD at the Regional UNGASS review civil society consultation in Macao

Asian INPUD: Girl X, Very, Fredy, Anan

UNGASS: World Drug Problem

Lindesmith Letter to Kofi Annan

Under the leadership of Ethan Nadelmann, The Lindesmith Center (now the Drug Policy Alliance) coordinated an open letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in anticipation of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. Appearing in the New York Times, the letter was signed by over 500 prominent academics, scientists and political leaders. The coalition urged the UN to call off its "failed and futile" policies and instigate "honest dialogue regarding the future of global drug control policies - one in which fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health and human rights." Prominent signatories included former UN chief Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, Nobel Laureate and ex-Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and U.S. Senators Alan Cranston and Claireborne Pell. The campaign reverberated around the world, gaining major media coverage in more than three dozen countries.


Creating a major obstacle to the introduction of pragmatic and compassionate international drug policies, UNGASS was a disappointing perpetuation of unsuccessful, unrealistic strategies. UNGASS was originally brought together to create a forum for in-depth reflection on the effectiveness and viability of drugs control over the past decade. Despite heated North-South debate in the UN and a high-profile advocacy campaign coordinated by The Lindesmith Center, the inaugural New York meeting merely rehashed unrealistic assurances of a drug free world.

The result was a declaration outlining a so-called 'comprehensive' global strategy for the simultaneous reduction of both illicit supply and demand. The Assembly laid out a mandate for the UN International Drug Control Programme "….to develop strategies with a view to eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008." The UNGASS motto became, "A Drug Free World - We can do it!"

Eradication operations were aimed at Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, eight of the poorest countries in the world. These countries were expected to pay for a third of the eradication programs and would only receive generous loan opportunities from the World Bank if their anti-drug programs showed success


Four years later, official UN figures show that the use of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs has not decreased. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis rates across the globe are soaring; the dimension of the global illegal drugs trade continues to expand; and the environmental, social, and economic impact of crop spraying in Colombia and Bolivia has been disastrous.

Mid-way Review: 2003

Despite clear evidence that the UNGASS plan has failed, an April 2003 mid-term review that brought together ministers and diplomats from the around the world failed to result in meaningful reforms. The critical evaluation component originally requested by Mexico failed to materialize. Prohibitionist ideology and bureaucratic intransigence dominated the review process. Despite optimism over the growing number of European countries that have abandoned the drug war in favor of harm reduction alternatives, European politicians have yet to stand against the US or define an alternative development policy framework for dealing with illicit drug production and trafficking.


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