The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme (BFDPP) commissions
reports and briefing papers on subjects relevant to the consideration
of international drug policy. The first products of this programme
of work were published and distributed in April 2004, and the intention
is to produce further papers on a regular basis thereafter.
1: Towards a Review of Global Policies on Illegal Drugs
This report discusses the global drug control system - particularly
the role of the United Nations - and the challenges confronting
drug policy. It argues that the current system is not achieving
its stated objective: to eradicate completely - or even substantially
reduce - illicit drug markets.
2: Assessing Drug Policy Principles and Practice
This report considers good practice in objective setting and evaluation.
It argues that drug policies should be evaluated against their successes
and failures in reducing drug-related harm; and assesses the strengths
and weaknesses of some existing evaluation frameworks.
3: Law enforcement and supply reduction
This report looks at the approach to drug policy that has dominated
the field for much of the past 40 years, and is sometimes characterised
- and, to some degree, caricatured - as the 'war on drugs' approach.
4: Reducing drug related harms to health: a review of the global
This report looks at the various ways in which the use of illegal
drugs causes harm to individual and public health. It then attempts
to summarise the current state of the global evidence base for the
effectiveness of programmes designed to reduce these harms, and
focuses on some key challenges for policymakers in areas of the
world facing high levels of HIV and Hepatitis infection, and accidental
5: Reducing drug relted crime: An overview of global the
This report, the 5th in the BFDPP series, looks at the global evidence base for
the reduction of drug related crime. The report looks at three types of drug
related crime (violence associated with illegal drug markets, crimes committed
by individuals under the influence of drugs, and petty crime committed by drug
users to pay for their drug purchases), and attempts to summarise the current
research knowledge on which policies and actions have (or have not) been effective
in reducing their impacts on society. The report concludes that many drug policy
initiatives that have been designed to reduce drug related crime have had little
or no impact, but there are some promising signs of success with treatment based,
or general crime reduction approaches.
6: Facing the future: The challenge for national and international
This report draws together the findings from the series of reports and briefing
papers produced under the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme in the last
18 months. It concludes that there are significant limitations in the achievements
and likely future progress of current drug policies that focus on supply reduction
and law enforcement, but that there is much that governments and international
agencies can do to address the consequences of widespread drug use amongst their
citizens. The report sets out a series of challenges and recommendations to policymakers
that they must confront, if we are to see a reduction in drug related harm in
the coming years.
7: The International Narcotics Control Board: Watchdog
or Guardian of the UN Drug Control Conventions?
The International Narcotics Control Board is charged with monitoring the implementation
of the three United Nations Conventions and of alerting member states and the
international community to weaknesses in the system. There is growing discontent
with the unbalanced nature of its contribution to the sensitive debates surrounding
the issue of illegal drug markets and how best to respond to them. Critics have
pointed out that the Board has moved away from its intended mandate as the ‘watchdog’ of
the conventions to become more of a ‘guardian’ of the purity of the
conventions, and is challenging any policy or activity that does not correspond
with what it perceives as the original vision of the control system.
and mental health - responses to the emerging evidence
This report reviews the global situation regarding Cannabis cultivation
and use, with particular reference to recent debates around the
variable THC content of Cannabis products, and the link between
use of the drug and mental health problems such as schizophrenia
and psychosis. Having analysed the prevalence and potential for
health and social problems arising from Cannabis use, the authors
then move on to consider the various policy and programme options
available to governments in their attempts to minimise the harm
arising from the use of this particular drug.
Report 9: Monitoring drug policy outcomes: The measurement of drug related harm.
This latest Report from the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme looks at the various attempts by governments and academic institutions to develop a methodology for assessing and measuring the level of drug related harm, in order to better understand the impact of illegal drug use on society, and of policies and programmes that aim to reduce that impact. The authors find that several current initiatives have the potential to develop workable methodologies, but that there is currently little methodological consistency or sharing of best practice between experts. They therefore call on the authorities responsible for drug policy monitoring and evaluation to establish an international working group to improve co-operation in this promising area.
Report 10: Treatment for dependant drug use.
This report aims to give policymakers an accessible summary of the current evidence available on the effectiveness of treatment, and suggestions on how treatment services can be expanded and integrated into a co-ordinated system. The authors explain why treatment for dependent drug use is a good investment in any country with significant numbers of dependent drug users, in that it has been shown to achieve significant reductions in the health and social harms that are associated with drug problems. The major treatment modalities are described, and a summary given of the global research evidence into their effectiveness. The current major debates in the treatment field are also briefly summarised.
Report 11: The funding of the united nations office on drugs and crime: an unfinished jigsaw.
This report aims to provide a broad and accessible summary of the UNODC funding situation since 2002. It includes an outline of the budget process, sources of funding and recent spending patterns. The authors also explore some of the negative consequences resulting from the current funding dynamic and argue that problems associated with limited UNODC funding from the UN regular budget are being exacerbated by donor's increasing proclivity to earmark their voluntary contributions. Within this context the report draws some conclusions and offers some recommendations that may go some way to assist the UNODC to reach its full potential as an efficient channel for multilateral action on drugs.
Report 12: Prisons and Drugs.
The latest report from the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme describes the high rates of drug problems in all prison systems, summarises the current state of global knowledge and research evidence, and provides a guide for policymakers on how to develop effective policies and programmes in this area.
Report 13: Recalibrating the Regime: the need for UN system-wide coherence in drug control and human rights.
This report - a collaborative effort between several drugs, health, and human rights NGOs - looks at the tensions between some aspects of the global drug control system, and UN human rights standards. The authors point out that, despite numerous instances of human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of drug control, there has been little engagement with this issue by the responsible bodies, the UNODC, INCB and the Human Rights treaty bodies.
Report 14: Understanding drug markets and how to influence them.
This latest report in the Beckley series looks at the operation of middle-level drug dealers, and how their behaviour is influenced by the activities of the law enforcement agencies. Based on a small number of studies that have been carried out in this field, the report finds that, while it is unlikely that law enforcement action can achieve long term and sustainable reductions in the overall scale of a drug market, properly targeted activities can impact on the nature of the market, and affect the behaviour of dealers and trafficking organisations.
Paper 1: Reclassification of Cannabis in the United Kingdom
On 29 January 2004, an amendment to the drug laws came into effect
in the UK that moved cannabis and its derivatives from Class B to
Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the primary drug control
legislation in the UK. The paper discusses the motivations for this
policy change and the complex manner of its implementation.
Paper 2: Drug Policy and the HIV Pandemic in Russia and the Ukraine
Over the past three years Russia and Ukraine have experienced
one of the fastest growing HIV pandemics in Europe. In contrast
to other parts of the world, the main driver behind the rate of
infection is injecting drug use. Recent government policies have
placed a heavy emphasis on reducing availability and on harsh punishments
for drug users. This approach has not succeeded in significantly
reducing the level of drug use.
Paper 3: Drug Consumption Rooms
The defining characteristic of Drug Consumption Rooms is that they
are legally sanctioned environments where people can take illegal
drugs. Their purpose is to reduce drug-related harms. The underlying
assumption is that if problem drug users are provided with safe
private environments within which to administer drugs there will
be a reduction in unsafe public drug use.
Paper 4: Upheavals in the Australian Drug Market: Heroin Drought,
Australia experienced extraordinary and unprecedented changes
to its illicit drug market from the end of 2000. A ‘heroin
drought’ made the media headlines and grabbed the attention
of drug policy specialists across the world. Less widely publicised
was the flood of cocaine and methamphetamine into the country the
Paper 5: Thailand's 'War on Drugs'
The Thai 'war on drugs', which commenced in February 2003 in response
to an explosion in methamphetamine use in this region of East Asia,
has resulted in thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of arrests.
This paper provides insights into the strengths and limits of enforcement
as an instrument of drug policy, by examining what is perhaps the
toughest and most uncompromising recent manifestation of this approach.
Paper 6: Decriminalisation of drugs in Portugal: a current overview
In July 2001, Portugal's government implemented a notable change
in drug policy. From that date, users of any illegal drug apprehended
by police were brought not before the courts, but before special
commissions composed of health, legal, and social work professionals,
whose aim was to give drug users the
opportunity to access treatment for addiction and other problems
related to drug use. This paper presents an overview of the current
Portuguese experience since the 2001 reforms.
Paper 7: Incaceration of drug offenders: Costs and impacts
This paper looks at the pros and cons of pursuing a policy of large-scale arrest
and incarceration of drug users. Taking the USA as the main example of this approach,
the authors examine the costs of incarceration in terms of public expenditure,
and consequential impacts on health and social cohesion, and the impact on drug
use prevalence and markets through incapacitation of users, access to treatment,
and deterrence. The paper concludes that, while harsh penalties can have a marginal
impact on the number of drug users, this is likely to be outweighed by the costs
Paper 8: The rise of harm reduction in the Islamic Republic of
This paper looks at changing approaches to the drug problem in Iran where there
is growing recognition of the limits of an enforcement driven approach, and
the importance of the medical and social dimensions of drug misuse. This has
resulted in improvements in drug treatment and expansion of harm reduction
services including: HIV prevention, substitution treatment, outreach, and the
development of treatment and infection prevention services for drug users in
prison. It is encouraging that in Iran such challenges are being confronted
directly and that the Islamic Republic of Iran has followed broadly the same
course as secular governments elsewhere in the world, despite the cultural
differences. As in other parts of the world, the urgent need to do something
about the spread of HIV/AIDs is helping to overcome ideological barriers to
harm reduction work.
Paper 9: UNAIDS & The prevention of HIV infection through
injecting drug use
Briefing Paper 9: UNAIDS & The prevention of HIV infection through
injecting drug use (Spanish)
This paper describes the problems caused by injecting drug use as a mode of transmission
of HIV, and the need for the global community to find effective methods of minimising
that risk. Although there are proven harm reduction measures for reducing the
incidence of HIV there has been continuing controversy about the morality of
such an approach and the fear that providing such support might encourage the
continuance of injecting behaviour. The paper chronicles the debate at the Untied
Nations (UN ) through 2004 and 2005, and the struggle for the consensus opinion
to prevail, culminating in a statement from the June 2005 UNAIDS meeting in Geneva
stating that harm reduction measures are the most effective response to emerging
epidemics. A UN strategy was approved that called for urgent expansion of harm
reduction measures, and it is to be hoped that this will now be translated into
effective prevention on the ground.
Paper 10: Drug policy in India - compounding harm?
This briefing paper looks at the history of the use of psychoactive
drugs in India, and particularly the use of Cannabis and Opium
derivatives in religious and social rituals. The authors argue
that, for centuries, such use was closely constrained by social
and cultural norms, and few problems of addiction, crime or public
health related to these patterns of use have been recorded. Since
the Indian government introduced criminal laws on drug production
and consumption in the 1980s (in order to comply with its responsibilities
under the UN Conventions), more harmful and extensive patterns
of drug use have developed in India. While it is unlikely that
this is a direct result of the legal and policy changes, it is
argued that current drug policy and programmes in India are ill-equipped
to respond to the likely growth in addictive and dangerous patterns
of use that have been experienced in other Asian countries.
Briefing Paper 11: Report Of The Third Beckley International Drug Policy Seminar.
The Beckley Foundation organised its third annual international seminar on drug policy in the House of Lords, Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, on 4 December 2006. The objective of the seminar was to examine the preparations for the forthcoming global review of the international drug control system.
Beckley Briefing Paper 12: The Australian "heroin shortage" six years on.
What, if any, are the implications for drug policy? This briefing paper summarizes the results of research into the consequences of the so-called Australian "heroin shortage" in 2001 and reviews the continuing debate about its causes and policy significance.
Beckley Briefing Paper 13: AT A CROSSROADS: Drug Trafficking, Violence and the Mexican State.
In this joint WOLA-BFDPP policy brief, the authors provide an overview of current and past drug policies implemented by the Mexican government, with a focus on its law enforcement efforts. It analyzes the trends in the increased reliance on the Mexican armed forces in counter-drug activities and the role that the United States government has played in shaping Mexico's counter-drug efforts.
Beckley Briefing Paper 14: The Effects of Decriminalisation of Drug Use in Portugal.
In 2004, the Beckley Foundation reported on the legal changes that took place in Portugal in 2001, which effectively decriminalised the possession and use of all drugs, and diverted those arrested into education or treatment programmes (Allen, Trace, & Klein, 2004). This report aims to provide an updated overview of the effects of these changes, using data from the evaluations that have been carried out and from new interviews with key stakeholders in Portugal.
Beckley Briefing Paper 15: Drug Control in Georgia. Drug Testing and the Reduction of Drug Use?
This Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme briefing paper examines some current issues surrounding drug policy in the Republic of Georgia. The authors argue that, despite endorsing a balanced approach to dealing with the consequences of an expanding illicit drug market, Georgian authorities remain overly reliant on enforcement oriented policies. This is particularly the case with regard to a recently introduced coercive drug testing regime.
The brief examines the negative consequences of the testing programme, argues that testing and incarceration do little to reduce drug use, and concludes that Georgian officials should adopt a truly balanced drug policy in line with most members of the EU: an organization Georgia is keen to strengthen its ties with.
IDPC Briefing Papers
IDPC Briefing Paper Number One - The UNGASS Evaluation Process Evaluated
IDPC Briefing Paper Number One - The UNGASS Evaluation Process Evaluated (Spanish)
'At the 49th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), held in Vienna in March 2006, a draft resolution was tabled by the European Union (EU) to guide the process of evaluation of the implementation of political declaration and action plans of the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2008. This IDPC Briefing Paper describes the fortunes of the resolution and its proposals to strengthen the upcoming UNGASS evaluation process. Having critically analyzed the current evaluation system, it explores how the resolutions aims for more objective and transparent assessment were ultimately watered down. This, the Briefing Paper concludes, was a result not only of opposition from states wary of transparency, objectivity and a possible re-evaluation of some current UN policies, but also the EUs own approach to operating at the CND. The authors identify several possible openings for future progress in this area and recommend that; Member States should acknowledge the value of an objective and transparent assessment of the current drug control mechanisms and should ask for an evaluation of the UNGASS evaluation process; the EU should review how it operates at the CND and should invest money to support the realization of the core sections of its resolution.'
IDPC Briefing Paper Number Two - The 2006 World Drug Report.
This briefing paper, the second in a series from the IDPC, looks at the issues raised by the publication in June of the latest World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The briefing paper analyses the developing data collection methodologies used by the UNODC and, while recognising their limitations, summarises the findings of the 2006 report on trends in the demand and supply of the main types of internationally prohibited drugs. The briefing paper confirms that the data assembled gives the most comprehensive picture yet available on the global drug market, but expresses concern that the UNODC policy statements in the report, and associated with its launch, do not always seem to be based directly on the evidence available.
IDPC Briefing Paper Number Three - civil society involvement in the European Union drug strategy.
The third briefing paper from IDPC is a response to the call of the European Commission for civil society organisations to express their views on the Commissions's Green Paper on the Role of Civil Society in Drugs Policy in the European Union. The briefing paper summarise the opinion of IDPC members on a possible structure, selection criteria, responsibility of members, the key tasks and resources for a dialogue between the Commission and various community and professional organisations for the improvement of drug policy interventions in the EU.
IDPC Briefing Paper Number Four - The European Union Drug Strategy: Progress and Problems.
This briefing paper gives an overview of the development of drug policies within the European Union, and the institutions and structures that exist to implement and evaluate these policies. Taking the EMCDDA Report 2006, and the European Commission 2006 Progress Review as their starting point, the IDPC analyses the strengths and weaknesses of current arrangements, and makes some recommendations for future action.
IDPC Briefing Paper Number Five - Report of the 2007 Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
This briefing paper summarises the proceedings and outcomes of the 2007 CND. It includes discussion of a wide range of issues - from technical debates on the rescheduling of dronabinol, to the plans for the global review of the 1998 UNGASS objectives - and comments on the performance of the UN agencies in this field, and of the workings of the CND itself.
IDPC Briefing Paper Number Six - The World Drug Report 2007.
This IDPC Briefing reviews the data in the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on the state of the global market, criticises the claims made in the report that international action is successfully controlling the market, and questions the political objectivity of the UNODC as we approach the review of the global objectives set in 1998.
IDPC Briefing Paper Seven - The International Narcotics Control Board: Current Tensions And Options For Reform.
This briefing paper brings together material and analysis from a number of recent reports that raise questions about the role and functioning of the INCB. The IDPC analysis is that the Board mixes a rigid and overzealous approach to some aspects of its mandate, while showing a selective reticence in others. These inconsistencies do not arise automatically from the structure or role of the Board, but from the operational and policy decisions of its officers and members.
IDPC Briefing Number Eight - Report On Proceedings At The 2008 Commission On Narcotic Drugs.
The 51st meeting of the CND took place in Vienna from 10th to 14th March 2008. It was an eventful meeting, and this summary of proceedings covers the key aspects of the week, including NGO involvement, the Thematic Debate, progress of resolutions, human rights, coca leaf, harm reduction and the INCB.
IDPC Position Papers
International Drug Policy Consortium - 5 Policy Principles.
International Drug Policy Consortium - 5 Policy Principles. Spanish translation.
International Drug Policy Consortium - 5 Policy Principles. French translation.
This short paper summarises the five fundamental principles for effective drug policies that have been developed and agreed by IDPC members through research, analysis and debate over the last two years. They represent a set of practical high order principles that can be used to guide national and international debates, and will be used as the basis of advocacy by the IDPC in the coming months and years.
IDPC Position Paper 1: International Drug Policy Consortium - 2005 Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
This position paper describes the concerns of some Consortium members at the apparent policy differences emerging between different United Nations agencies, and individual member states, in the run up to the annual meeting of the UN agency responsible for oversight of the global drug control system. This meeting, held in Vienna in March, runs the risk of approving positions on Harm Reduction and Afghanistan that are at odds with the available evidence of what works in reducing drug problems.
IDPC POSITION PAPER 2 - DRUG POLICY OBJECTIVES SHOULD INCREASINGLY FOCUS ON THE CONSEQUENCES OF DRUG USE.
This position paper explains the thinking behind the IDPC call for a refocusing of high-level drug policy objectives.
IDPC POSITION PAPER 3 - EFFORTS TO REDUCE THE SUPPLY OF DRUGS SHOULD NOT FOCUS ON THE PUNISHMENT OF GROWERS.
This position paper outlines the IDPC view that programmes, such as forced eradication, that criminalise those involved in the cultivation of illicit crops are ineffective and counterproductive, and that source country strategies should focus more clearly on development and poverty reduction goals.
IDPC POSITION PAPER 5 - THE UN SYSTEM SHOULD DEVELOP A MORE CO-ORDINATED APPROACH TO DRUG POLICY ISSUES.
This position paper describes the many ways in which the current UN system for dealing with problems related to illegal drugs is incoherent, and sets out suggestions on how the system could become more co-ordinated and effective.
IDPC INCB Response
IDPC RESPONSE TO THE 2007 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL BOARD - ENGLISH.
IDPC RESPONSE TO THE 2007 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL BOARD - SPANISH.
The latest INCB Annual Report was published on 4th March 2008. This brief response explains the contents of the report, and comments on the positions taken by the Board on proportionality in drug law enforcement, the scheduling of coca leaf, and harm reduction.
IDPC Advocacy Guide
IDPC ADVOCACY GUIDE - VERSION THREE.
The latest version of the IDPC Advocacy Guide provides an update on the emerging process for the review of global policies on controlled drugs being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. It describes the latest situation on the planning for the review, and sets out the IDPC position on which issues need to be addressed in the review, and how these issues may be tackled in order to achieve a constructive outcome. The guide is currently available in English (through the link below), and a Spanish language version will be available on the IDPC website shortly.