Until it ends its war on drugs, Britain will keep going backwards

Christian Aid has just broken ranks with a brave report that highlights the UK’s dangerous hypocrisy

Published in the Independent on Sunday 8 November 2015


There can be no doubt that the daft war on drugs is devastating many of the world’s poorest countries, from Africa to Latin America.

But this has been ignored by major charities that claim to campaign for international development, presumably for fear of upsetting their donors.

Now one has broken ranks, with the release of an important report from Christian Aid condemning what it calls “a blind spot in development thinking”.

The group rightly insists that the scale of the problem demands attention, with legal and illegal economies woven together so tightly in many nations after rapid expansion of operations by a rampant drug industry. Although stopping shy of demanding the obvious solution, which is to legalise and regulate all drugs worldwide, the authors say “the current cure is not working… and despite the hundreds of billions spent on eradication, the illicit drugs industry is bigger than ever”.

Christian Aid deserves credit for this report, which caused internal palpitations. It highlights the hypocrisy of successive British governments that pour money into aid yet support the prohibition ripping apart poor communities. One day they will see that sanctimonious talk of saving the world is not a solution to complex problems. Yet the charity’s move is just one more sign of how fast attitudes are shifting on this issue.

The world’s drug warriors face defeat – and they are being beaten back by insurgents in unexpected places, as we saw again last week. In Mexico – a land cursed by drug cartels – the nation’s top judges declared the prevention of cannabis use to be an infringement of human rights. This paves the way for legalisation; four similar rulings will force an official review into a trade that provides perhaps a quarter of the profits for some of the planet’s most-savage gangsters.

Then in Ireland, traditionally seen as a country of social conservatism under the influence of Catholic clerics, ministers are moving towards decriminalisation of all narcotics. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who oversees the country’s drug strategy, revealed there is strong consensus on a “cultural shift” to tackle addiction. First will come plans to establish “shooting galleries”, where heroin users can take their fix using clean needles under medical supervision. This follows nine other Western nations with similar set-ups, which are shown to reduce infection and overdoses.

Read More at The Independent

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