October 2015 - December 2015
The beginning of October saw the Observatory welcome to the team Martin Horton-Eddison as a doctoral candidate and research assistant. With a background in International Politics and Strategic Studies (MA, Hull & BSc, Econ, Aberystwyth), Martin’s College of Arts and Humanities funded PhD focuses on the transnational crypto-drug market phenomenon and the associated challenges for drug control policy, particularly at the international level. His work for the GDPO over the next three years will include co-ordinating the GDPO Postgraduate Network and managing the Observatory’s online activities. Continuing with the theme of Higher Education, October saw Dave spend time at Hong KongUniversity as visiting faculty on the highly successful inaugural Human Rights and Drug Policy in East Asia Workshop. Hosted by the Centre for Criminology, the workshop involved participants with diverse backgrounds (civil servants, government officials and NGO representatives) from a range of countries within the region (Mongolia, Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand) interacting with faculty from HKU and other institutions. Nearer to home, in November Dave visited the University of Dundee as External Examiner. There he took part in the viva voce examination of Philip Berry’s (Department of Politics and International Relations) doctoral thesis, The US and the UK’s War on the Afghan Opium Industry: A Critical Evaluation of Anglo-American Counternarcotics Policies in Afghanistan 2001-2011. We are pleased to say that Philip defended his work ably and we look forward to its publication as a monograph in the near future.
In early December, Dave and Julia had the privilege of participating in an international workshop in Switzerland. Organized by the Institute of Geography at the University of Neuchâtel this was titled ‘Toward a Global Shift in Drug Policy?’ It involved an evening public event, with Ruth Dreifuss (member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, former President of Switzerland and member of GDPO Advisory Board) as a keynote speaker, and a stimulating full day interdisciplinary workshop involving both faculty and an impressive array of doctoral students from around the world. With Dave presenting on ‘Contemporary Challenges to the International Drug Control Regime: Markets, Knowledge and Increasing Systemic Tensions’, Julia’s subject was ‘More Harm than Good: The Development Impacts of Counter Narcotic Policies’.
Over the course of the quarter, the GDPO published a Situation Analysis by Anaïs Auvray. Based on her MA dissertation in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2015), The ‘War on Data’ in Africa, or how to provide and alternative discourse to the ‘War on Drugs’ within the international drug control system explores some the practical and conceptual problems associated with data collection within Africa. In December, GDPO research into cannabis policy was cited within the Spanish language magazine eVIDA
July 2015 - October 2015
Having already participated in a United Nations University event at the end of June, while in New York in early July Dave was also an invited participant at a related invitation only roundtable on ‘Measuring success in inter-agency organized crime programming, with a particular focus on fragile contexts’. Involving a wide range of participants, including US and UK government officials, representatives from law enforcement, RUSI and Google, once again discussions informed and were informed by GDPO research into drug policy metrics.
July also saw Dave visit the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex as faculty on the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy Summer School course (ICHRDP). As part of a successful programme, his contribution focused on international relations, drug policy and human rights, a topic that linked with lectures from, among others, Dr Rick Lines (HRI & ICHRDP), Damon Barrett (ICHRDP) Prof. Joanne Csete (Columbia University, Mailman School for Public Health), Julie Hannah (Human Rights Centre & ICHRDP) and Prof. Julia Buxton.
With generous support from Swansea University’s Impact Acceleration Account, the GDPO ran in September an exploratory ‘sandpit’ event to explore the concept of developing an inter-disciplinary multi-variate Drug Policy Index; a potential project relating directly to the GDPO’s ongoing interest in drug policy metrics. Involving colleagues from across campus, including from health science, mathematics, computer science and ‘big data’, the workshop was useful in providing a space for discussing the idea from different disciplinary perspectives. Follow-on activities include the development of a ‘proof of concept’ funding bid. September also saw Dave’s paper, ‘Legitimacy and modernity via policy transfer: the utility of the 2003 Afghan National Drug control Strategy’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy, shortlisted for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Scientific Paper Award.
In terms of publications, August saw Dave publish an article, ‘Drugs policy metrics under review’ in Jane’s Intelligence Review, with his ideas on metrics and other issues also receiving some attention in a World Policy piece, ‘Threading the needle - The UN and the war on drugs’. His broader research into international drug policy was also featured in an Academy of Social Science, WISERD (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods) and Swansea University’s Research Institute for Applied Social Science (RIASS) publication ‘Making the Case for Social Science in Wales’. This was launched in July at the BIS Conference Centre in London before an audience of policy makers, civil servants, MPs and social scientists. In August, Dave on behalf of the GDPO was also among 37 signatories to an open letter calling for an urgent enquiry into the UK’s role in funding anti-narcotic operations abroad that involve the death penalty. Following on from a GDPO View from the Ground blog in July, ‘Magical journalism and the chemical war’, Ross published an excellent blog for Le Monde Diplomatique. Titled ‘Chemicals don’t Discriminate’, the piece focuses on the Colombian government’s decision to halt the use of glyphosate in the aerial eradication of coca crops; a decision that was made while the GDPO team was in Colombia in May. And last but not least, the GDPO congratulates Research Associate Constanza whose PhD thesis was awarded the prestigious Reina Sofía research award on drugs in July. Well done Constanza, we look forward to reading the translated thesis in English!
The award winning Dr Sánchez Avilés
April 2015 - July 2015
With Dave Bewley-Taylor meeting up with Ross Eventon and newly appointed GDPO Research Associate, Dr Alastair Smith in Bogota, May saw members of the Observatory team conduct long planned fieldwork in Colombia. Examining various aspects of ‘supply-side’ drug policy within the country, particularly the practice of aerial eradication, research involved hooking up with Pedro Arenas, director of the NGO Observatory of Declared Illicit Crops and Cultivators, Indepaz (now a GDPO partner organisation), and travelling out of the city to South East Colombia and the Department of Guaviare.
With the team staying in the Department’s capital, San José del Guaviare, Pedro generously used his connections as the town’s former mayor to organise not only a set of meetings with influential and informed individuals within the region (including the governor), but also a rare opportunity to travel out into the countryside. Benefitting from current peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC and the related ceasefire, the team was - via a sturdy 4X4 - able to get well off the beaten track to meet with communities often ignored within discussion of drug policy (or indeed any policy) within Colombia. As such, the team had the privilege of meeting community leaders, subsistence farmers and the members of a number of settlements deep within the Department of Guaviare. For a fuller account of the fieldwork, see Alastair’s GDPO blog, View from the Ground: Infrastructure and Coca in Guaviare, Colombia. Research conducted during the fieldwork will be presented within a forthcoming GDPO Policy Report. On returning to Bogota after what is best described as an interesting bus journey from San José del Guaviare, both Ross and Dave gave presentations on ongoing GDPO research projects (international drug control and the UNGASS and counter narcotics in Afghanistan) at the Department of Political Science at the University of Los Andes.
A road in the Guaviare countryside (on a good day)
Meanwhile, in Budapest, in her role as Professor within the School of Public Policy at Central European University, GDPO Senior Research Associate Julia Buxton delivered a highly successful two-day professional development course, Anticipating Drug Legalisation. Assisted by Dr Rick Lines (Executive Director of Harm Reduction International and Chair and co-founder of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy at the University of Essex), Dr Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch (OSF) and Tom Wales of Oxford Analytica, the course provided managers and strategic planners with the intellectual and analytical tools to enable predictive assessment of drug legalisation on sector-specific investments and interests in a diversity of country contexts. Back in Swansea, mid June saw the GDPO re-engage with its institutional partners, the Cyber-terrorism Project and the Language Research Centre, to develop further a collaborative research project on the Dark Net. In so doing, this follow-on meeting to an initial exploratory event held in late 2014 involved a smaller group of participants, including colleagues from the University of Manchester and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), with the goal of putting together a major research bid on the topic of the Dark Net as an enabler of illicit activity and behaviours.
Later in the month, Dave was also in New York to engage in a number of events organised by the United Nations University. As part of a daylong seminar, ‘Measuring the Impacts of Security Interventions: Innovating for Success in Drugs Policy, Organized Crime and Countering Violent Extremism’, he moderated and contributed to a panel on Drug Policy Interventions. The event generated interesting discussion concerning the measurement of policy impacts across a range of domains and as such informed the GDPO’s ongoing research into drug policy metrics and indicators.
In addition to the View from the Ground blog mentioned above, a number of others were published during the quarter. Linking to Observatory fieldwork in India in late 2014, in April GDPO Technical Advisor Romesh Bhattacharji offered a fascinating insight into cannabis production in parts of India in Heading for the Hills: Cannabis in Malana. This was followed by the reflections of Constanza Sánchez Avilés, ICEERS Foundation and GDPO Research Associate, on the ninth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy in Ghent in May; Is too much discussion on regulation making us forget prohibition? This was part of a productive month or so for Constanza with April seeing the publication of a book she co-edited with Josep Ibáñez Muñoz . Published by Tecnos, Mercados Ilegales y Violencia Armada: Los vínculos entre la criminalidad organizada y la conflictividad internacional, contains chapters by both Dave and Constanza.
January 2015 – April 2015
Early February saw Julia take part in a panel discussion on drugs and development at the House of Commons. The Health Poverty Action (HPA) and The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) event marked the launch of an excellent HPA report calling for the development sector to rethink its approach to current prohibition oriented drug policy and coincided with the publication of GDPO’s own report on the issue, Drugs and Development: The Great Disconnect. As such, Julia’s contribution to the discussion - with guest speakers also including Baroness Meacher, Chair of the Drug Policy Reform All-Party Parliamentary Group, Catherine Martin, Policy Officer at Health Poverty Action, Sir Keith Morris, Former Ambassador to Colombia and Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights All-Party Parliamentary Group - drew heavily upon her GDPO research. Indeed, with the organisers kindly distributing The Great Disconnect at the event, the report received much positive feedback.
Julia at the HPA-BGIPU event at the House of Commons
Later in the month, and further afield, Dave attended the International Studies Association annual conference in New Orleans. There he presented on the current dynamics of the international drug control system as part of a vibrant roundtable discussion entitled ‘Drug policy: Challenges and Possibilities of Reform’. The session was expertly chaired by Renata Segura (Social Science research Council, New York – SSRC), with the other speakers including Sabrina Stein (SSRC), Alison Holcomb (American Civil Liberties Union), John Walsh (Washington Office on Latin America) and Heather Haase (Harm Reduction Coalition and International Drug Policy Consortium, IDPC).
The ISA Roundtable Panellists. (L-R: Dave, Renata, Alison, Sabrina, John and Heather)
As is the norm at this time of the year, much energy was devoted to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) at the UN in Vienna. With Ross relocating from Argentina to Bogotá - as a visiting researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Los Andes - to research drug eradication in Colombia, Dave was involved with preparations for and participation in the CND’s annual session. In terms of the former, this involved support for and work on a Fact Sheet/sign on ‘letter’ on the proposal to discuss the international scheduling of ketamine at the 58th CND. At the Commission itself, GDPO co-organised an official side event with IDPC, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the OSCE, the United Nations and the International Organizations titled, ‘Towards better measurements and improved system-wide coherence: Policy indicators, development and public health’. With the other speakers, Mike Trace (IDPC) and Alison Crocket (UNAIDS), covering various aspects of the issue, Dave presented parts of ongoing GDPO research and focused on ‘Norms, Numbers and the Metrics Trap’. While at the CND, he also chaired a Harm Reduction International, IDPC and Reprieve side event, ‘Drugs and the death penalty: Prioritising human rights, health and harm reduction over punitive approaches to drug policy’ and, on behalf of the ECOSOC accredited IDPC, made a statement in the Commission’s plenary discussion on supply reduction measures.
CND Panel, ‘Towards better measurements and improved system-wide coherence: Policy indicators, development and public health’ (L-R, Martin Matter, Permanent Mission of Switzerland, Alison Crocket, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor)
During the quarter, the GDPO continued to publish a steady stream of outputs relating to different research projects. As part of the UNGASS work stream the Observatory published The Rise and Challenge of Dark Net Drug Marketsand, as noted above Drugs and Development: The Great Disconnect. The latter is also available as an abridged version. The past few months have also seen a number of new Situation Analyses, namely Assessment of the first year of the legally regulated cannabis market in Uruguayand, as part of the GDPO’s ongoing work on drugs and the Dark Net, Silk Road: After being closed twice, can the brand ever ‘rise again?’, A year since the closure of silk road, The growing industry of Darknet Marketing, Operation Onymous: International law enforcement agencies target the Dark Net and The booming market of alternative cryptocurrencies. And, last but not least, drawing on research conducted during his time in Argentina, Ross produced an insightful and timely blog on the drug market in Rosario. This is the first in a new ‘View from the Ground’ series of blog posts that seek to complement desk based research by drawing upon GDPO fieldwork and the experiences of colleagues working within different parts of the world.