World Leaders Call Drug
War a Failure - Urge UN
to Rethink Policy
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Saying the drug war has caused more harm than drug abuse itself, prominent world figures are calling for "a truly open dialogue" to shift drug control policies from punishment to public health issues.
The call is being made in a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan from the Lindesmith Centre, a private institute which conducts drug research, in advance of the UN General Assembly special session on drugs, which opens Monday.
Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of the centre, said the letter has been signed by more than 500 prominent people, including former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz, former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar, former Greek president George Papandreou, former president Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and former German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.
"We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself," the letter said. "Human rights are violated, environmental assaults perpetrated and prisons inudated with hundreds of thousands of drug violators."
The letter said scarce resources are being diverted "on ever more expensive interdiction efforts" while "realistic proposals to reduce drug-related crime, disease and death" are abandoned "in favor of rhetorical proposals to create drug-free societies."
It appealed to Annan "to initiate a truly open and honest dialogue regarding the future of global drug policies -- one in which fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health and human rights."
Nadelmann said the UN conference should consider the global drug policy as a public heath issue, using the resources of UN agencies such as the World Health Organization to devise policies to replace those based on "interdiction and criminalization."
Representatives of about 150 countries, including 35 heads of state and government, are to attend the three-day conference.
U.S. President Bill Clinton will deliver the opening address.

Sightings HomePage