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Report says the UN's global 'war on drugs' has been a failure

Updated 2:13 PM ET, Mon October 22, 2018

(CNN) - The United Nations' drug strategy of the past 10 years has been a failure, according to a major report by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), which has called for a major rethinking of global policy on illegal narcotics.

The report claims that UN efforts to eliminate the illegal drug market by 2019 through a "war on drugs" approach has had scant effect on global supply while having negative effects on health, human rights, security and development.

According to the report, drug-related deaths have increased by 145% over the last decade, with more than 71,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 alone. At least 3,940 people were executed for drug offenses around the world over the last 10 years, while drug crackdowns in the Philippines resulted in around 27,000 extrajudicial killings.

The IDPC, a network of 177 national and international NGOs concerned with drug policy and drug abuse, is urging the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs to consider a different approach to narcotics strategy for the next 10 years in the run-up to a March 2019 summit in Vienna, Austria.

Related: Canada's pot policy and poor farmers

"This report is another nail in the coffin for the war on drugs," said Ann Fordham, the Executive Director of IDPC, in a prepared statement.

"The fact that governments and the UN do not see fit to properly evaluate the disastrous impact of the last ten years of drug policy is depressingly unsurprising.

"Governments will meet next March at the UN and will likely rubber-stamp more of the same for the next decade in drug policy. This would be a gross dereliction of duty and a recipe for more blood spilled in the name of drug control."

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, responded to CNN's Richard Richard on Monday.

"Obviously, there have been significant successes and failures in dealing with the problem of drug trafficking, and we've made that clear over the many remarks we've made about the drug problem each year," he said.

"The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is the foremost agency in the United Nations that deals with this issue. They continue to deal with the problem. It's clear from UNODC's work that they don't see the efforts as a failure so much as they see it as something, a task which is incomplete. And ultimately, what they are trying to do and what we will continue to press nations to do is have all countries work together to deal with this problem."

In 2017, Mexico, for example, recorded its most murderous year on record due to soaring levels of drug-related violence. As previously reported by CNN, the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography revealed that there were 31,174 homicides over the course of the year -- an increase of 27% over 2016.

In addition to fueling violence, the existing policy of criminalizing drug use has also resulted in mass incarceration, the report said. One in five prisoners are currently imprisoned for drug offenses, many on charges related to possession for personal use.

The report also said that 33 jurisdictions retain the death penalty for drug offenses in violation of international standards. However in March, US President Donald Trump proposed making drug trafficking a capital offense in response to the country's ongoing opioid crisis.

"What we learn from the IDPC shadow report is compelling. Since governments started collecting data on drugs in the 1990s, the cultivation, consumption and illegal trafficking of drugs have reached record levels," wrote Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, in the report's foreword.

"Moreover, current drug policies are a serious obstacle to other social and economic objectives and the 'war on drugs' has resulted in millions of people murdered, disappeared, or internally displaced."

Last week, Canada became the first country in the G7 group of industrialized nations to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.


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