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SDGs Will not be Achieved Without Drug Policy Reform

Not only should the UNGASS 2016 outcome be in line with elements of sustainable development such as justice, dignity, and people-centred policies, but drug policies at the national level should be reviewed to meet the terms of sustainable development. To achieve poverty eradication, ensure healthy lives or environmental protection, drug control policies can no longer be based solely on law enforcement, which has proven prejudicial to any improvements in other arenas with their “unintended consequences”.

The SDG target on illicit drug abuse is rightly placed under the Health goal (Goal 3), which, we would argue, should trigger reforms prioritising health and human rights-based approaches to drug policies.

For many years, drug control has in effect been a war against people and at the same time this war has maintained a focus on fear of the substances being used. But the past 20 years have proven that more harm comes from those drug policies that exclude, condemn, and reject people, rather than from policies primarily aiming at treatment and social integration of drug users.

Drug policy reform will be needed if countries are to achieve the SDG targets by 2030. The following questions will have to be addressed by the international community.

Can sustainable agriculture (Goal 2) be achieved and land degradation (Goal 15) reversed when in some areas authorities use carcinogen products to eradicate drug cultivation?

How do countries achieve universal health coverage (Goal 3, target 3.8) when its quality and equity elements are denied to people who use drugs?

How is it possible to achieve gender equality (Goal 5) when women pay the heaviest toll for small drug offences all over the world?

How do we promote decent work for all (Goal 8) while drug users are not given the means to stabilise their use and to engage in a regular professional life?

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By Khalid Tinasti and was first publish on

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