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The United Nations and Drug Policy: Towards a Human Rights-Based Approach

THE DIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF PROFESSOR KALLIOPI K. KOUFA, pp. 449-477, Aristotle Constantinides and Nikos Zaikos, eds., Brill/Martinus Nijhoff, 2009

28 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2009 Last revised: 13 Mar 2016

Damon Barrett

Faculty of Law, Stockholm University; International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

Manfred Nowak

University of Vienna

Date Written: August 25, 2009

Abstract

In 1945, the United Nations was established to 'save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.' Today, the language of war has been adopted for policy objectives. The 'war on drugs' is now more widespread and higher in financial and human cost than ever, and has impacted negatively across borders and across human rights protections. In much the same way as the 'War on Terror,' the war on drugs has left in its wake human rights abuses, worsening national and international security and barriers to sustainable development. Although UN bodies have never officially endorsed the term, for many human rights, public health, HIV and drug policy reform advocates - and for many of those on the front lines of the war on drugs, including indigenous people, farmers, people who use drugs and service providers - the United Nations drug control system is seen as a significant part of the drug problem, rather than part of the solution.

We argue that the aims of international drug policy must be revisited in line with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the binding normative framework of human rights. We argue further that the UN drug conventions are insufficient, alone, as a legal framework for the complex issue of drug policy and that human rights law must be recognised by the relevant organs of the UN as a part of that framework. The implications of this 'expanded' legal framework for the current pillars of international drug policy are then considered as are the human rights obligations of the drug control entities, and their possible future roles in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Keywords: drug policy, human rights, United Nations, international drug conventions, UNODC, INCB, Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Suggested Citation

Barrett, Damon and Nowak, Manfred, The United Nations and Drug Policy: Towards a Human Rights-Based Approach (August 25, 2009). THE DIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF PROFESSOR KALLIOPI K. KOUFA, pp. 449-477, Aristotle Constantinides and Nikos Zaikos, eds., Brill/Martinus Nijhoff, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1461445

Damon Barrett (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, Stockholm University ( email )

S-106 91 Stockholm
Sweden

International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex ( email )

Colchester, Essex CO43SQ
United Kingdom

Manfred Nowak

University of Vienna ( email )

Bruenner Strasse 72
Vienna, Vienna 1090
Austria

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