UN Conventions Unintended Consequences & HR
Commission on Narcotic Drugs,Vienna, 10-14 March 2008 Thematic debate on the follow-up to the twentieth special session of the General Assembly: general overview and progress achieved by Governments in meeting the goals and targets for the years 2003 and 2008
Amongst the usual and expected flatulence of the UN Office of Drug Control about the drug war success there are many gems that highlight the failings of the UN Conventions, these include....
The benefit of hindsight is the insight it offers us to evaluate the present and enrich future policy. Looking back over the last century, we can see that the control system and its application have had several unintended consequences – they may or may not have beenunexpected, but they were certainly unintended.
Thefirst unintended consequence is a huge criminal black market that now thrives in order to get prohibited substances from producers to consumers. Whether driven by a 'supply push' or a 'demand pull,' the financial incentives to enter this market are enormous. There is no shortage of criminals competing to claw out a share of a market in which hundred fold increases in price from production to retail are not uncommon.
Thesecond unintended consequence is what one might call policy displacement. The expanding criminal black market obviously demanded a commensurate law enforcement response, and more resources. But resources are finite. Public health, which is clearly the first principle of drug control, also needs a lot of resources. Yet the funds were in many cases drawn away into public security and the law enforcement that underpins it. The consequence was that public health was displaced into the background, more honoured in lip service and rhetoric, but less in actual practice. In fact, public security is now frequently perceived as the primary, or at least the most effective, way of solving the drug problem – certainly the one that delivers quicker results than public health programmes, with greater media attention than prevention campaigns.
Thethird unintended consequence is geographical displacement. It is often called the balloon effect because squeezing (by tighter controls) one place produces a swelling (namely, an increase) in another place, though it may well be accompanied by an overall reduction.
The production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs can only be understood properly if they are seen in their many different dimensions: the political, the social, the economic and the cultural. The drugs issue thus intersects many different domains: law, criminal justice, human rights, development, international humanitarian law, public health and the environment, to name but a few. In each of these domains, the United Nations has standards, norms, conventions and protocols.
Their status varies, ranging from "soft" to "hard" law, from non-binding standards to obligatory conventions. While it is not always easy to establish a hierarchy between these different instruments, it is clear that the constituting document of the Organization, theCharter of the United Nations, takes priority over all other instruments. Article 103 of the Charter states: "…In the event of conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail."
In the context of drug control, this means that the drug Conventions must be implemented in line with the obligations inscribed in the Charter. Among those obligations are the commitments of signatories to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The protection of human rights is further enshrined in another foundational document of the United Nations, theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, which is now 60 years old. In Article 25 of the Universal Declaration, health is listed as a basic human right. It stands to reason, then, that drug control, and the implementation of the drug Conventions, must proceed with due regard to health and human rights. see "Making drug control 'fit for purpose': Building on the UNGASS decade" - Report by the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a contribution to the review of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly
Blair Anderson ‹(•¿•)›
Social Ecologist 'at large'
ph (643) 389 4065 cell 027 265 7219