Towards a new UN drug policy?

Alongside the official Vienna UN Drug Policy Conference, civil society experts will debate moving beyond the failed UN "War on Drugs"

When the ministerial segment of the Vienna UN Drug Policy Conference opens today to review the past failures of its "War on Drugs", representatives of European civil society will meet next door to discuss more effective ways to tackle the drug problem in the future.

Although worldwide drug production and consumption have kept rising since, in 1998, the UN set its goal of a "drug-free world by 2008", the UN drug authorities are under heavy pressure from the US and other hardline policy advocates to not even enter into discussions on the effectiveness of their current strategy.

"We don't expect a change of course at this Conference yet", Raymond Kendall, Honorary Secretary-General of Interpol, says. "But European civil society isn't going to wait until 2008 for the failure of the 'War on Drugs' to become official. We will start a broad public debate of the issue today." Mr. Kendall is also the speaker of the "Comité des Sages", set up by the European Drug Policy Fund to develop more effective drug policies.

The debate, which is open to the media and the public, will start today at 1 p.m. at the Vienna Civic Center (VCC), set up for the purpose in the Austria Center, next door to the UN Conference. A key subject this afternoon will be the disruption of societies by drug-related crime: corruption, which facilitates the worldwide operations of the drug mafia, the funding of terrorist groups by drug trafficking proceeds, and urban street crime committed by drug addicts to finance their habit.

At a public hearing of the European Parliament about UN drug policy last month, Lord Mancroft, Conservative member of the British House of Lords, said about the current UN Drug Policy Conventions: "Those treaties are important. They must be reinforced to allow governments to pursue criminals, but they must be amended to prevent states from making criminals out of our children."

As the former Head of Interpol, Raymond Kendall has 40 years of first-hand experience of the subject: "While drugs are a problem,", he says, "the current way we deal with it under the mandatory UN system, which forces us to criminalize large segments of society, amplifies this problem to the point of making it uncontrollable."

Contact: Gabriele Frisch, The Skills Group - Pro & Co

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