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International drug control versus international security and peace: from similar objectives to diverging outcomes

A GCSP Public Discussion

The war on drugs, which has been fought for over fifty years now, has not succeeded in preventing drug use, reducing drug production or limiting supply. 

Beyond this failure to achieve its own stated aims, the war on drugs has also produced a range of serious, negative costs. Many of these costs have been identified by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and are described by them as the ‘unintended consequences’ of the drug control system. They may have been unintended, but after more than 50 years, they can no longer be seen as unanticipated.

Drug prohibition has in fact gifted a massive money-making opportunity to organised crime groups that they have accrued a level of wealth and firepower which enables them to challenge the state, or even usurp its monopoly on legitimate violence.The subsequent militarisation of the fight against these organised crime groups has served only to further undermine security. As a result, member states that implement the UN’s drug control system are effectively obliged to violate the organisation’s founding principle: the maintenance of international peace and security. The evidence shows that the ‘threat-based’ response to certain drugs has created some of the world’s greatest security threats.


Dr Christina Schori-Liang, Senior Programme Advisor and Senior Fellow, Emerging Security Challenges Programme; Course Director, New Issues in Security Course (NISC), GCSP


Mr Danny Kushlick, Founder and Head of External Affairs of Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Dr Khalid Tinasti, Executive Secretary - Global Commission on Drug Policy


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