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Facing the future: The Challenge For National and International Drug Policy

The Report discussed the devastating consequences of a zero-tolerance approach to drug policy across all aspects of public life: crime and anti-social behaviour, environmental impact (urban as well as rural), health (especially blood borne diseases) and drug-related deaths. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to policymaking, the publication called for drug policy that adapts and respects local realities. Moreover, the document posited four core universal minimal standards for drug-policy making and experimentation: 1. drug policy to be based on openness, honesty, information, monitoring, assessment and evidence; 2. drug policy to aim at reducing harm and to be measured by its effectiveness in doing so; 3. no government to persist with drug policies or initiatives where there is evidence that these policies result in profound harms to fundamental human interests, or to omit to introduce drug policies or initiatives where the harms to fundamental human interests of failing to do so significantly outweigh costs; and 4. drug policy to respect human rights, democratic processes and local judicial norms and practices.

The four core universal minimal standards proposed by the BFDPP, and which we would like to see at the heart of future drug strategy documents, can be summarised as follows: 1. drug policy to be based on openness, honesty, information, monitoring, assessment and evidence; 2. drug policy to aim at reducing harm and to be measured by its effectiveness in doing so; 3. no government to persist with drug policies or initiatives where there is evidence that these policies result in profound harms to fundamental human interests, or to omit to introduce drug policies or initiatives where the harms to fundamental human interests of failing to do so significantly outweigh costs; and 4. drug policy to respect human rights, democratic processes and local judicial norms and practices. Adoption of these broad principles would enable the spread of policy initiatives of proven effectiveness in reducing drug related harm, while allowing countries a significant degree of ‘wiggle room’ – the flexibility to implement and experiment with new approaches that are relevant to local conditions, and have the support of the local electorate. The international agencies can support this process by providing a framework within which effective policy and practice can be objectively evaluated, and lessons disseminated around the world.