Pubdate: Fri, 02 Oct 2015
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2015 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor


Former Lib Dem Leader Hopes to Build Support for New Approach at 2016 
UN Meeting

Nick Clegg launches a campaign today to persuade EU leaders to back 
global reform of drugs laws, warning that the current punitive 
approach has failed to curb the multibillion trade in illicit 
substances and has criminalised millions of young people.

Writing in The Independent, the former Deputy Prime Minister says: 
"We are, without doubt, losing the war on drugs." Mr Clegg is to urge 
European leaders to make the case for a new global approach to drug 
abuse at a United Nations meeting next year. Many of them have 
switched tactics in recent years, tackling it as a health issue 
rather than a law and order problem.

Mr Clegg is being financially supported in his mission by Sir Richard 
Branson and the American billionaire George Soros, both passionate 
advocates of drugs reform.

The move marks MrClegg's first campaign since stepping down as leader 
of the Liberal Democrats after their general election disaster.

The party, which has called for Britain to follow Portugal's lead and 
decriminalise the use and possession of almost all drugs, clashed in 
the Coalition with the Tories, who are strongly opposed to reform.

Mr Clegg hopes a UN special session on global drugs policy will 
conclude that the time has come to break from a 50-year-old approach 
which treats "repression and punishment as the solution to the drug problem".

Countries in Central and South America are pressing for reform but 
are being opposed by nations such as Egypt, Pakistan and Russia, 
which take an uncompromising attitude to drugs.

Mr Clegg writes: "There is much to play for, but a real risk that 
this opportunity for modernisation will be lost if the hardliners are 
allowed to assert their position unchallenged. Until now, European 
leaders have been all but silent on international drug policy reform."

Arguing that the time has come to "reassert European leadership" on 
the issue, he takes a swipe at his former Coalition partners, saying: 
"I have seen for myself the tendency for governments to place drugs 
reform in the 'too difficult' category. The UN summit next year 
should serve as a catalyst for politicians across the EU to give this 
issue the focus it deserves."

Sir Richard and Mr Soros are contributing towards Mr Clegg's travel 
and office costs as he uses his contacts from his days in government 
to urge European leaders to back the case for reform. He is not being 
paid for the work.

Sir Richard, a member of the global commission on drugs policy, 
appeared jointly with Mr Clegg before the election to argue that drug 
possession should be treated primarily as a health issue.

Mr Soros has reportedly donated more than $200m (UKP130m) through his 
foundation to championing drug reform over the past 20 years. He told 
the Financial Times last year that the war on drugs had been a "$1trn 
failure", adding: "For more than four decades, governments around the 
world have pumped huge sums into ineffective and repressive anti-drug efforts."

Mr Clegg has established a not-for-profit company to pursue his 
political interests, which also include Europe and mental health. 
Funded by private donations, it pays for a small research team 
working from central London.

Last month Mr Clegg, who fought off a strong challenge from Labour in 
his Sheffield Hallam constituency, also joined the board of the 
Social Mobility Foundation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom