Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Manila Times (Philippines)
Column: First Things First
Copyright: 2016, The Manila Times
Author: Francisco S. Tatad


Although President Duterte's police methods have drawn concern in 
various parts of the world, even those who deplore his methods at 
home are praying that his 'war on drugs' would somehow succeed. 
However, international experts who have done extensive studies on the 
global drug wars are deeply pessimistic; they describe the "war on 
drugs" as a failed strategy, and are calling for a major policy "rethink."

These experts have not condemned the extrajudicial killings, the 
shoot-on-sight and "surrender or else" orders in the present drug 
war, as some UN officials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, 
and certain international publications have. Their studies precede 
DU30's war by at least a couple of years.

But their scientific findings lead us to conclude that if the global 
war on drugs has failed, there is very little chance it would succeed 
anywhere else.

In all these other places, the prohibitionist state has gone hammer 
and tongs after the producers, manufacturers, financiers and 
distributors of illegal drugs, not simply after everyday users and 
pushers who DU30's war is killing or incarcerating en masse.

The war on drugs is usually a war against cartels, with their own 
armies fighting the government armed forces; not simply against 
barefoot drug runners in the ghettoes or the streets.

In certain cases, foreign governments have engaged the active 
cooperation of other governments in their fight; for instance 
Colombia and the US were said to be spending at least $1.2 billion a 
year in their joint effort to combat cocaine production and 
trafficking in that Latin American narcotic state.

The LSE IDEAS report

But despite $100 billion being spent yearly on counter-narcotics, 
efforts to stop the growing of coca crops and the production, 
manufacture and distribution of heroin and opium in these countries 
have generally failed.

Illicit trade continues to spiral from $300 billion to $500 billion 
each year. Worldwide, "the militarized and enforcement-led war on 
drugs has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage," 
says the May 2014 Report of the LSE Group on the Economics of Drug 
Policy, an LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project of the London 
School of Economics and Political Science.

These include "mass incarceration in the United States, highly 
repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political 
destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in 
Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of 
pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses 
around the world."

All these countries have experienced increased violations of human 
rights, violence, corruption, direct economic costs, economic 
divestment from certain regions affected by violence, mass 
displacement of populations, increased risk and harm of consumption, 
massive allocations to security forces.

Global enforcement spending has risen at the cost of proven health 
policies, as governments tended to treat drug addiction primarily, if 
not purely, as a crime rather than as a disease.

The loss of distinction between criminal offense and illness is 
probably one of the biggest costs the war on drugs has had to reckon 
with. The production, manufacture, financing and distribution of 
illegal drugs is certainly a crime, and must be dealt with as such, 
but personal consumption, often arising from addiction, in the 
opinion of many, is primarily an illness that needs to be addressed 
as such. Simply shooting down or jailing suspects will not solve the disease.

Drug prices and profits

The thirst for profit drives the whole illicit trade.

There is so much money to be made. Drug prices rise whenever the 
supply slumps, and the rise in prices encourages producers and 
manufacturers to supply more. The recent decline in output in the 
Golden Triangle-Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, which were the production 
leaders in the seventies to the eighties-partly explains the current 
dominant role of Afghanistan, where production and distribution are 
said to be controlled by the official death merchants.

While gold sells at $43.03 per gram ($1,338.25 per ounce), cocaine 
prices are reported to rise by more than $100 per gram. With the 
precarious situation of the dollar, prompting continued speculation 
about its impending demise as the world's prime currency, more and 
more international banks are reported to have intensified the buildup 
of their gold and, yes, heroin and opium reserves.

This is what we glean from a growing number of financial analysts, 
beginning with the redoubtable Jim Willie, editor of Hat Trick 
Letter, whose analyses on gold and silver activities can be accessed 
on his site,

This means that if heroin has become as precious a commodity as gold, 
and the international monetary system is slowly shifting toward gold, 
any war on drugs will have to contend with powerful governments and 
the international banking cartel, which have begun stacking up not 
only on gold but also on heroin and opium reserves.

Afghanistan alone produces 90 percent of these, according to the 
World Drug Report (2008). Afghan heroin and opium production has 
reportedly risen from 200 metric tons a year in 1980 to 6,900 metric 
tons in 2009, after peaking at 8,200 metric tons in 2007.

No drug war, therefore, will ever be won by simply jailing users and 
killing suspected pushers.

Whether the Philippines is a producer or manufacturer of heroin or 
opium or simply a transshipment point, the country's drug 
problem  and the money laundering and other problems associated with 
it  will remain for as long as the production, manufacture, financing 
and large-scale distribution of these drugs remain unchecked, even if 
every pusher were killed and every user jailed in the current war.

A failed project

As the current issue of The Economist puts it: "The lesson of drug 
wars in Latin America, and of previous dirty wars, is that 
extrajudicial violence resolves nothing and makes everything worse. 
Innocent people will be killed, and denunciations will also be used 
to settle scores and exploited by gangs to wipe out rivals. 
Filipinos' desire for instant retribution will, surely, turn to 
horror, hatred and revenge.

The rule of law will erode.

Investors, who have made the Philippines one of globalization's 
winners in recent years, will flee. The only winners will be the 
still-lurking insurgents. Mr. Duterte's ill-conceived war on drugs 
will make the Philippines poorer and more violent."

Indeed, the extrajudicial killings, backed by promises of impunity 
from a populist President, could create a climate of fear to silence 
any and all opposition to questionable government policies even on 
matters having nothing to do with the narcotics war. If drug suspects 
could be summarily executed while allegedly resisting arrest, any 
public dissenter on any important issue could be similarly executed 
and merely labeled as a drug suspect who had resisted arrest.

The designated vigilante could just hang the usual cardboard sign 
around the victim's neck saying, "I am a drug pusher." This could be 
one of the high moral and constitutional costs of the 'war'  also the 
shortest route to becoming a narcotic state.

Advise to DU30

I would urge DU30 to read the LSE IDEAS report.

It is signed by 21 eminent scholars and statesmen (although none from 
Asia or Africa), including five Nobel Prize winners for economics - 
Prof. Kenneth Arrow, 1972; Prof. Vernon Smith, 2002; Prof. Thomas 
Schelling, 2005; Prof. Oliver Williamson, 2009; and Prof. Sir 
Christopher Pissadires, 2010; President of Poland Aleksander 
Kwasniewski, 1995-2005; former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick 
Clegg; former US Secretary of State George Shultz; Guatemala Foreign 
Minister Luis Fernando Carrera Castro; Colombia's Minister of Health 
Alejandro Gaviria Uribe; EU High Representative for Common Foreign 
and Security Policy (1999-2009) Dr. Javier Solana; Baroness Molly 
Meacher, UK House of Lords; Baroness Vivien Stern, UK House of Lords; 
Prof. Paul Collier, CBE, Oxford; Prof. Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS; Prof. 
Connor Gearty, LSE; Prof. Margot Light, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Danny Quah, 
LSE IDEAS; Prof. Anne Westad, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Danny Rodnik, 
Princeton; and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia.

Global history of drug policy

It minces no words and declares that the UN-governed global strategy 
for a "drug-free world" has failed.

A new paradigm and a new set of agreements are needed.

The failed strategy had its earliest beginnings in 1909 when the 
world powers first met in Shanghai to devise an international 
response to the abuse of opium, particularly in Europe's Asian colonies.

In 1912, the Hague Opium Convention tried to focus action on supply 
minimization and police enforcement. The League of Nations and 
subsequently the United Nations called for the eradication of 
non-medical and non-scientific use of drugs.

In 1931, the UN adopted the Convention for Limiting the Manufacture 
and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs. The distinction 
then was clearly established between licit and illicit drug markets, 
between states that grew drug crops and states that manufactured 
narcotics, and states that were allowed to grow opium poppy for the 
licit global market.

The licit drugs were traded through a set of international conduits 
administered by UN-affiliated technocrats, which eventually became 
the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). In 1961, 73 UN 
member-states, the Philippines included, adopted the Single 
Convention on Narcotic Drugs to combat drug abuse by coordinated 
international action.

In 1970, the US under President Nixon, backed by the INCB, launched 
its first war on drugs.

In 1988, the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs 
renewed its call for a "drug-free world," saying, "We can do it!" By 
2000, however, the prospect of reducing illicit supply to zero looked 
dim. The report has now pronounced the "drug-free world" idea dead.

Licit drugs diverted to illicit market?

A 2013 situation analysis provided by the Global Drug Policy 
Observatory (GDPO) at Swansea University in Swansea, Wales indicates 
that more than 5.5 billion people (83 percent of the world's 
population) in 150 countries have low to non-existent access to 
morphine and other controlled medicine for pain relief, palliative 
care or opioid dependency, while, according to the World Drug Report, 
15 million illegal drug users in 2008 consumed 340 metric tons of 
heroin and 1,075 metric tons of opium.

Does this mean that licit drugs are being diverted to the illicit 
market to meet demand?

This must be ascertained.

The report calls for a new international cooperative network for 
governments based on principles of public health, harm reduction, 
illicit market impact reduction, expanded access to essential 
medicines, minimization of problematic consumption, vigorously 
monitored regulatory experimentation and unwavering commitment to the 
principles of human rights.

Many were apparently looking forward to something like this at the UN 
General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy last April; but the 
UNGASS failed to produce anything remotely responsive to the clamor 
for more effective approaches.

Some 195 civil society groups attending the special session 
complained about the conference process itself-the 23-page outcome 
document was prepared by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 
Vienna one month before the conference, and after inviting so many 
groups, the conference turned out everyone who could not be 
accommodated beyond the meeting room's130 seats.

They are now hoping the 2019 UN review would produce better results.

For those of us who would like to see PDU30 succeed, but believe very 
strongly that he needs to modify his methods in trying to rid the 
country of drug users and traffickers, we have to do our level best 
to convince our President to listen a little bit more to what the 
rest of the world is saying about his efforts to single-handedly 
recreate the Philippines and its concept of law, human rights and justice.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom