Wilton Park and UNGASS 2016: reassessing modern international drugs policy

In November 2015 more than thirty countries and institutions met at Wilton Park for a preliminary roundtable meeting in preparation for UNGASS 2016 which was held between April 18 and April 21 in Vienna this year. Pressure for a reassessment of drug control has grown in countries across the globe since the last UNGASS on drug policy in 1998. The preliminary meeting emphasised that there was a growing consensus on the key issues surrounding the global drug trade. These included: demand and supply reduction; medicinal treatment; public health; inequality of legal aid; the death penalty and imprisonment. These issues have been taken forward to UNGASS for wider discussion. Proposals made in the final session of our meeting can be downloaded.

The United Nations special session was scheduled in response to lobbying pressure from the Mexican, Guatemalan and Colombian governments. The three countries have called for a ‘humane solution’ to the global issue having suffered disproportionately from the violent consequences of the global war on drugs. Several other major amendments to drug prohibition have occurred in the proceeding 18 years including decriminalisation of drugs in Portugal in 2001, heroin prescription in Switzerland and the decriminalisation and legalisation of marijuana in several member states. These have continued to disrupt the international frameworks of drug policy and cooperation.

The complexity of the economic, legal and political landscape of international drug policy provides severe difficulties to overcome. Nevertheless, discussion surrounding the contentious issues of drug prohibition provides an opportunity for a reassessment of policy based on current international and domestic contexts.

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