New report: UN violates its own charter by continuing to fight global drug war


Media Release: 14th March 2016

No embargo

A new report, launched on 16th April and backed by over 100 NGOs worldwide as part of the Count the Costs initiative, shows that the international drug control system, which is overseen by the UN, is “fatally undermining” the three founding pillars of the agency’s work, including Article 1 of the UN Charter, which is “to maintain peace and security”.

Launched at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, the new, second edition of the Alternative World Drug Report includes new analysis of drug-war costs and of innovative alternatives to the current approach, including decriminalisation and legal regulation. The report shows that the drug war:

  • has created an illegal market worth $320 billion a year, serving a customer base of 250 million;
  • has wasted billions of dollars, which could be better spent elsewhere;
  • undermines peace and security in 1 in 3 UN member states;
  • undermines development where drugs are produced and trafficked;
  • undermines human rights through law enforcement;
  • threatens public health, spreading disease and death;
  • harms, rather than protects, children and young people;
  • destroys the environment; and promotes stigma and discrimination.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) acknowledges many of these harms, describing them as the “unintended consequences” of choosing an enforcement-led approach. New chapters also demonstrate that alternatives are producing far better outcomes, including the decriminalisation of drug possession in Portugal, and the legal regulation of cannabis in Colorado.

A Count the Costs spokesperson said:

“It is a tragic irony that the institution founded after the Second World War to uphold global peace, has waged an unwinnable drug war for over half a century. In doing so it is fatally undermining peace and security, development, and human rights – the “three pillars” of the UN, and its raison d’être. In effect, the UN drug control system has become a war machine, and in the process the UN effectively violates its own founding charter based upon maintaining world peace.

“Our updated report shows that the UN drug control system has created a money making opportunity for criminals so vast that drug cartels have become a threat to global security. And the militarised drug war response to this problem has only made matters worse. As an organisation pledged to promote peace, its member states must end the UN’s longstanding global drug war and explore the alternatives.”



Contacts (Transform Drug Policy Foundation)

Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns and Communications: +44 (0)7875 679 301

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst: +44 (0)7980 213 943

Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs: +44 (0)7970 174 747



[1] Count the Costs is an international collaborative project launched in 2011 and managed by Transform Drug Policy Foundation. It is supported by over 100 organisations that share a desire to reduce the unintended costs of the war on drugs, and explore alternatives that could deliver better outcomes. It is also supported by two former presidents, Fernando Cardoso of Brazil and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. See:

[2] The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs takes place in Vienna, from 14 to 22 March, 2016.