The Global Commission was convened in July 2010 and has been working to establish a road map for change in drug laws and policies. It is currently composed of 22 international leaders, including seven former presidents.
The GCDP meeting in Poland brings the debate to Eastern Europe, in order to focus on the dramatic human and social consequences of the prevailing hardline approach to drugs in the region. The meeting will include a roundtable organized by the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza to allow interaction with key media and stakeholders.
In addition to looking at the drug war’s impacts on the region, the agenda of the two-day meeting will consider the dynamics of change in Latin America, the US and Europe, and will explore how to expand the debate in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Discussions in Warsaw will build upon the Global Commission’s second report: ‘The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: how the criminalization of drug use fuels the global pandemic’, launched in June 2012. The report describes how the global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. In Russia, for instance, one out of every one hundred adults is now living with HIV, according to some estimates, and injecting drug use accounts for the majority of new infections. Globally, drug use accounts for approximately 1/3 of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
Such linkages between drugs and HIV/AIDS and the engagement of the AIDS community are critical factors to promote this debate in Eastern Europe.
“Even the boldest leaders acknowledge that they cannot act alone or without support from their peers and from the public. Building critical mass, which is essential for the process of change to move forward, is the task at hand for the continued work of the Global Commission”, states Fernando Henrique Cardoso, chair of the GCDP and former president of Brazil.
On June 2011, the GCDP successfully launched in New York a landmark report with three major recommendations:
- Acknowledge the failure of the ‘war on drugs’ and its disastrous impact on human rights, violence and corruption
- Replace the criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs with the offer of health and treatment services to those who need them
- Encourage governments to experiment with models of legal regulation to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard people’s health and security. Start with cannabis.
This call for a paradigm shift – from compliance with a failed policy to open debate about viable alternatives, from prohibition to prevention, treatment and harm reduction – was reported widely by the global media, establishing the Commission’s reputation as a global catalyst for change.
Over the last fifteen months, the Global Commission’s engagement with political leaders, media and the public has had a substantive impact in Latin America. The taboo was broken and policy alternatives were put on the table by the Presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay. For the first time ever the issue of drugs was discussed at the Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena, Colombia, on April 2012, and there were initial signs of flexibility for debate coming from the Obama administration in the USA.
Recently the Global Commission has been strengthened by the engagement of former presidents Jorge Sampaio (Portugal), Alexander Kwasniewski (Poland) and Ricardo Lagos (Chile).
Photo: K. Rainka