Aligning Agendas: Drugs, Sustainable Development, and the Drive for Policy Coherence

Current drug policy too often has a negative impact on communities and runs counter to efforts to ameliorate poverty through sustainable development. However, this is often not captured by the metrics used to measure the impact of drug policy. One way to improve these metrics is to align them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This would not only help overcome many of the limitations of drug policies resulting from suboptimal metrics but also make sure these policies enhance, rather than hinder, efforts to achieve the SDGs.

This report analyzes how more precise, more complete, and better conceived metrics can help us to understand the impact of drug policy on sustainable development and the prospects of achieving the SDGs. The report is the result of over a year of work by the International Expert Group on Drug Policy Metrics, convened by the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum and the International Peace Institute.

CELS, as part of the International Expert Group, contributed primarily to the section regarding SDG 5 on achieving gender equality, where we focused on the rising incarceration of women due to punitive drug policies, and its human rights impact. Evidence from Latin America shows that most of these incarcerated women had no previous criminal records, and that the main driving factors for their involvement in criminal networks were economic and social vulnerability. Women typically occupy low-level places in trafficking chains and are often used as drug couriers, making them easy targets for police. However, there is a lack of data on the differential impacts of drug policy on women, which hinders policy efforts to foster gender equality.

The Expert Group made the following broad recommendations to the UN, member states, and the drug policy community:

– Develop a framework for policy coherence between drug policy and sustainable development.
– Create an external advisory committee bringing together experts on drug policy and sustainable development.
– Add SDG indicators related to drug policy.
– Put in place mechanisms to gather data on the effects of drug policies.
– Use the SDG indicators as a model for improving drug policy indicators.
– Prioritize outcome, rather than process-oriented metrics.

To effectively coordinate these agendas, policymakers will need to evaluate the impact of drug policies through both better and different data. When evaluating drug policies, it is imperative to go beyond supply-side metrics to account for broader social consequences. Capturing the real impact of drug policies requires assessing their outcomes, not just activities and outputs. Holistic assessments need to account for the impact of policies on the most vulnerable populations (women, children, youth, indigenous groups, people who use drugs, etc.), as well as on human rights, development, conflict, and peace.

In addition, since the SDGs act as a framework for the work being done throughout the UN, data on drug policy should dialogue with the information produced by human rights agencies in order to build a more complex analysis.

This advocacy paper was sent to all the delegations at the UN Human Rights Council in February 2018, forming part of its discussions regarding a resolution on drug policy and human rights. The Council ultimately passed a resolution requesting that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) prepare a report on effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem with regard to human rights, which will be presented to the Council during its 39th session in September 2018 and shared with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

Author: International Expert Group on Drug Policy Metrics
28 pgs.
Publisher: International Peace Institute