Home > Taking stock: a decade of drug policy.

Dillon, Lucy (2019) Taking stock: a decade of drug policy. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 69, Spring 2019, 11 p..

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The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) is a global network of 180 non-governmental organisations.1 It focuses on issues related to drug production; trafficking and use; and promoting objective and open debate on the effectiveness, direction and content of drug policies at national and international levels. The network supports evidence-based policies that are effective at reducing drug-related harm. As part of this work and in the context of the role identified by the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for civil society involvement in drug policy,2 the IDPC has published Taking stock: a decade of drug policy.3 This report ‘evaluates the impacts of drug policies implemented across the world over the past decade, using data from the United Nations (UN), complemented with peer-reviewed academic research and grey literature reports from civil society’ (p. 7).3


2019 target date

The report focuses on the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, which was adopted by UN member states in 2009.2 It includes measures to enhance international cooperation, identifies problems and areas requiring further action, as well as goals and targets in countering the world drug problem. The year 2019 was set as the target date for member states to ‘eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably’ five target areas: the illicit cultivation; demand; production, trafficking and use of internationally controlled substances; the diversion and illicit trafficking of precursors; and money laundering (p. 14).2 IDPC argues that despite the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) session due to take place in March 2019 and which aims to take stock of progress made on this plan, ‘no comprehensive review of the impacts of drug policies worldwide has yet been undertaken’ (p. 7).3 IDPC’s report seeks to fill this gap.



The report is a detailed presentation of the data exploring progress not only against the five target areas, but also in assessing progress towards the broader priorities of the UN – protecting human rights, promoting peace and security, and advancing development. The overall conclusion of the report is that the five target areas set in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action have not been achieved. Furthermore, it found evidence that many counterproductive policies have been put in place and they have made the situation worse, including when considering the UN’s broader priorities. The authors identify three main issues when reflecting on the evaluation of global drug policies: 

  • There is a need to conduct more thorough and regular research on the broader range of impacts of drug policies at local, national, regional and international levels.
  • Where formal evaluations are being carried out, they tend to rely on government reporting. IDPC would encourage a more comprehensive and balanced approach, whereby civil society and academic research would also be included. It argues that this is particularly important for sensitive issues related to drug policy and human rights.
  • Member states should reconsider what is being measured when assessing the impact of drug policy. IDPC suggests a move away from targets that focus solely on the illegal drug market towards an approach that takes account of the key UN Charter commitments to health, human rights, development, peace and security. 


In the final part of the report, IDPC identifies new indicators for measuring the success of global drug policy and makes a set of recommendations which it hopes will ‘provide a useful starting point for further discussions as to which goals and metrics could be considered for the post-2019 global drug strategy’ (p. 12).3 The recommendations as they appear in the report (p. 133) are: 

  • The international community should consider adopting more meaningful goals and targets in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNGASS Outcome Document and international human rights commitments, and move away from targets seeking to eliminate the illegal drug market.
  • Post-2019, member states should meaningfully reflect upon the impacts of drug control on the UN goals of promoting health, human rights, development, peace and security – and adopt drug policies and strategies that actively contribute to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially for those most marginalised and vulnerable.
  • Global drug policy debates going forward should reflect the realities of drug policies on the ground, both positive and negative, and discuss constructively the resulting tensions with the UN drug control treaties and any human rights concerns associated with drug control efforts.

Beyond 2019, UN member states should end punitive drug control approaches and put people and communities first. This includes promoting and facilitating the participation of civil society and affected communities in all aspects of the design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of drug policies.


Concluding comment

The report highlights the complexities involved in developing, implementing, and evaluating a plan like this globally, with such disparate political, economic and social contexts and responses to the situation at national level. However, it also provides valuable insights into measures and indicators that might be considered at national level to assess the impact and consequences of policy choices. Ireland is mentioned specifically in a number of places in the report. This tends to be when illustrating a health-led approach to dealing with drug use: explicitly addressing the issue of chemsex in our national strategy; providing naloxone training for prisoners; exploring decriminalisation for personal use; having a pilot project on medical cannabis; and CityWide’s ‘Stop the Stigma’ campaign.4 


1  For further information, visit: www.idpc.net. CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign and Ana Liffey Drug Project are members of the IDPC network.

2  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2009) Political declaration and plan of action on international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. Vienna: UNODC. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30219/

3  International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) (2018) Taking stock: a decade of drug policy – a civil society shadow report. London: International Drug Policy Consortium. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29843/

4  CityWide’s campaign messages and materials can be accessed at: https://www.citywide.ie

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 69, Spring 2019
June 2019
Page Range
11 p.
Health Research Board
Issue 69, Spring 2019

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