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RainDog's Journal
RainDog's Journal
December 1, 2013

Leaked paper reveals UN split over war on drugs


The article says such a leak is rare for UN docs.

Major international divisions over the global "war on drugs" have been revealed in a leaked draft of a UN document setting out the organisation's long-term strategy for combating illicit narcotics.

The draft, written in September and seen by the Observer, shows there are serious and entrenched divisions over the longstanding US-led policy promoting prohibition as an exclusive solution to the problem.

...The divisions highlighted in the draft are potentially important. The document will form the basis of a joint "high-level" statement on drugs to be published in the spring, setting out the UN's thinking. This will then pave the way for a general assembly review, an event that occurs every 10 years, and, in 2016, will confirm the UN's position for the next decade. "The idea that there is a global consensus on drugs policy is fake," said Damon Barrett, deputy director of the charity Harm Reduction International. "The differences have been there for a long time, but you rarely get to see them. It all gets whittled down to the lowest common denominator, when all you see is agreement. But it's interesting to see now what they are arguing about."

...Experts said the level of disagreement showed fault lines were opening up in the globally agreed position on drug control. "Heavy reliance on law enforcement for controlling drugs is yielding a poor return on investment and leading to all kinds of terrible human rights abuses," said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program. "The withdrawal from the most repressive parts of the drug war has begun – locally, nationally and globally."

I can't link to more paragraphs that talk about different nations' concerns (economic, evidence-based positions, etc.) but South American and EU nations seem to be the most vocal about differences of opinion with previous UN positions. Some of the objections to previous UN statements deal with Portugal's experiment with legalization and treatment rather than criminalization and imprisonment to address the problems of addiction (and non-addiction).

Bolivia already received an exemption from UN standards in January regarding coca leaves.

A major international row with wide-ranging implications for global drugs policy has erupted over the right of Bolivia's indigenous Indian tribes to chew coca leaves, the principal ingredient in cocaine.

...Bolivia obtained a special exemption from the 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs, the framework that governs international drugs policy, allowing its indigenous people to chew the leaves.

Bolivia had argued that the convention was in opposition to its new constitution, adopted in 2009, which obliges it to "protect native and ancestral coca as cultural patrimony" and maintains that coca "in its natural state … is not a narcotic".

South American Indians have chewed coca leaves for centuries. The leaves reputedly provide energy and are said to have medicinal qualities. Supporters of Bolivia's position praised it for standing up for the rights of indigenous people. "The Bolivian move is inspirational and ground-breaking," said Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which promotes drug liberalisation. "It shows that any country that has had enough of the war on drugs can change the terms of its engagement with the UN conventions."

Uruguay has already legalized cannabis - http://www.democraticunderground.com/11701253 but the branch of the UN that deals with illegal drug consumption and production has already spoken against the same in two U.S. states.

Implementing the decisions of popular votes held in the United States in Colorado and Washington to allow for the recreational use of cannabis would be a violation of international laws, the United Nations body tasked with monitoring the production and consumption of narcotics worldwide said today.

The move “would be a violation of international law, namely the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, to which the United States is party,” the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Raymond Yans, told the 56th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.


More on Yans' statement here - http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2012/nov/16/un_drug_agency_concerned_by_marijuana_votes

This UN statement disagreement follows a similar one at the OAS conference in May, 2013, where Latin American nations called for changes in drugs laws while the U.S. disagreed. The OAS statement was groundbreaking in its approach to drug policy among a group of nations.


Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, stated:

“Never before has a multilateral organization engaged in such an inclusive and intellectually legitimate analysis of drug policy options. Indeed, it would have been inconceivable just two years ago that the OAS – or any multilateral organization – would publish a document that considers legalization, decriminalization and other alternatives to prohibitionist policies on an equal footing with status quo policies. Political pressures by the US and other governments would have made that impossible.

Much has changed, however, in the past few years. In 2009, former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), César Gaviria (Colombia) and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico) joined with other members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy in saying the time had come to “break the taboo” on exploring alternatives to the failed war on drugs. In 2011, those presidents joined with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss and other members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in calling for fundamental reforms to national and global drug policies. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ricardo Lagos (Chile), Vicente Fox (Mexico) and Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland) were among those who seconded their recommendations.

Beginning in late 2011, current presidents began to join the calls of their predecessors. These included President Santos in Colombia, Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala, José Mujica in Uruguay and then-President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. Simultaneously, the victorious marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Washington State and Colorado transformed a previously hypothetical debate into real political reform. Other states will almost certainly follow their lead in coming years.

November 10, 2013

No class warfare, please. We're Americans


...originally posted on Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting's website.

In a year that has featured increased coverage of rising economic inequality—helped along by President Barack Obama’s call to rebuild the economy from the “middle out,” and New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s campaign focus on a “tale of two cities”—one of the biggest flurries of attention came in late July, when four professors from Harvard and Berkeley released a study (NBER, 7/13) of economic mobility in the United States. Their finding: People hoping to lift themselves from the bottom of the income scale into the middle class or above face much longer odds in certain parts of the country, particularly the Deep South.

...The mobility study was indeed important news—though it was the rare story that mentioned that if the ability to rise in economic class is your main criterion, the American dream is far more alive in Denmark and the United Kingdom that anywhere in the United States (Guardian, 1/17/12). But in focusing solely on whether some poor Americans can swap places with those in the middle or upper classes—and pinning the blame for those who can’t on poor education or single moms, things that the Harvard/Berkeley study, which focused solely on the role of regressive state tax systems in decreasing income mobility, didn’t address—media coverage skirted the larger issue: the growing distance between top and bottom earners.

...Indeed, “social mobility” has become the preferred term for politicians of all stripes when discussing problems of economic class. For conservatives, lack of mobility conflicts with the premise that anyone can be rewarded for their effort, as when Rep. Paul Ryan noted: “Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America. But right now, America’s engines of upward mobility aren’t working the way they should.”

...the bottom 98 percent—that’s everyone making under $350,000 per year—whose wages, according to Saez’s figures, fell by 1.8 percent in real terms during that time, and more than 10 percent over the previous decade. (The top 10 percent saw their incomes rise 17 percent from 2002–2012, and the top 1 percent by 35 percent.) Those numbers, though, didn’t make the Times report.

...more at the link. a good read.
November 5, 2013

Harvest of Shame (CBS, 1960, Edward R. Murrow)

Know your American history...or the more things change...

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