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Metrics Project

Although recent years have witnessed an increasingly honest and sophisticated discourse on the measurement of illicit drug markets, metrics relating to drug policy outcomes remain dominated by the activities of law enforcement agencies. This owes much to the underlying philosophy of the extant UN based international drug control system and an approach that has delivered few sustained and geographically widespread successes. Current metrics are resilient in part because they provide politically useful certainty within a complex, fluid and ultimately problematic policy domain. This is the case even though traditional indicators are increasingly at odds with policy shifts seeking to reduce the overall harm of illicit drug markets. While alert to the need for national, even local, specificity, more appropriate and holistic indicators at the multilateral level could be developed around the core purpose and principles of the UN itself and the security and health of citizens and the social and economic development of communities. 

 

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In Full: GDPO Submission to UNOHCHR Report on World Drug Problem & Human Rights

Global Drug Policy Observatory (GDPO) submission to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights' report on the implementation of the UNGASS joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem with regard to human rights

Dave Bewley-Taylor d.r.taylor@swansea.ac.uk 

In accordance with the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Resolution 37/42, this contribution aims to feed into the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHRHR) on the implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document, ‘Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem.’  This submission relates to the crucial yet largely overlooked issue of metrics and indicators as they pertain to the intersection of drug policy and human rights.

Click to read or download full report In Full: GDPO Submission to UNOHCHR Report on World Drug Problem & Human Rights


Can the Sustainable Development Goals Help to Improve International Drug Control

Bewley-Taylor, D., & Schneider, C., Working Paper No.2, GDPO, Swansea, Sept. 2016:

Can the Sustainable Development Goals Help to Improve International Drug Control?

Dave Bewley-Taylor d.r.taylor@swansea.ac.uk & Christian Schneider

How can the outcomes of international drug control policy be measured? Currently, the UN drug control system lacks appropriate metrics to do so. However, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a chance to find new – and potentially better – answers to this question.

In April 2016, the UN held a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. During this high-level conference, member states to the UN adopted an Outcome Document which, like previous soft law instruments on the issue, restated that the current approach of the international drug control system remains largely successful and appropriate to the task at hand.  This was the case even though the system is yet to achieve its core goal set nearly sixty years ago: to, in general terms, significantly reduce drug-related problems and associated harms. Indeed, the Document was adopted in New York despite the fact that there is little evidence that the current approach to international drug control – a combination of measures aimed at reducing simultaneously the supply of and demand for what are commonly known as illicit drugs – has led to any substantive or lasting reduction in drug-related harm…


Towards Metrics that Measure Outcomes that Matter

Bewley-Taylor, D., Policy Brief No.10, GDPO, Swansea, April 2016:

Towards Metrics that Measure Outcomes that Matter

Dave Bewley-Taylor d.r.taylor@swansea.ac.uk 

Although recent years have witnessed an increasingly honest and sophisticated discourse on the measurement of illicit drug markets, metrics relating to drug policy outcomes remain dominated by the activities of law enforcement agencies. This owes much to the underlying philosophy of the extant UN based international drug control system and an approach that has delivered few sustained and geographically widespread successes. Current metrics are resilient in part because they provide politically useful certainty within a complex, fluid and ultimately problematic policy domain. This is the case even though traditional indicators are increasingly at odds with policy shifts seeking to reduce the overall harm of illicit drug markets. While alert to the need for national, even local, specificity, more appropriate and holistic indicators at the multilateral level could be developed around the core purpose and principles of the UN itself and the security and health of citizens and the social and economic development of communities. Such a move would require the creation of some new data capture mechanisms. Yet much of the necessary data – as well as expertise – are already collected by and present within UN agencies, including those beyond the drug control apparatus in Vienna (E.g. the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the United Nations Development Programme and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) in April 2016 looks likely to be a missed opportunity for the initiation of a formal process to develop a new basket of drug policy objectives and appropriately refined indicators. Nonetheless, building upon some positive aspects of the UNGASS Outcome Document – particularly in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals – progress can be made in the lead up to the next high-level meeting on drug policy in 2019. A productive way forward would be the establishment of some form of expert technical review group. Such a move would not only help facilitate the implementation of more effective and humane drug control policies and interventions at local, national, regional and international levels, but would also contribute to the reduction of continuing systemic dissonance around the issue of drug control within the UN system....

Click here to read full report: Towards Metrics that Measure Outcomes that Matter


An opportunity to move towards metrics that measure outcomes that really matter

Bewley-Taylor, D., GDPO Working Paper No.1, GDPO, Swansea, January 2016:

The 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem: An opportunity to move towards metrics that measure outcomes that really matter

Dave Bewley-Taylor d.r.taylor@swansea.ac.uk

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of an increasingly honest and sophisticated discourse surrounding the measurement of illicit drug markets.  With this has come a growing acceptance among some governments and international organisations of the concept of uncertainty; an inherent characteristic of our understanding of any illegal market.  At the UN level, for example, this is reflected in the use of data ranges rather than specific point figures for drug use prevalence and associated variables within the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) flagship annual publication, the World Drug Report (WDR). The WDR also now openly contains the admission that there are enormous data gaps in certain regions, particularly in Asia and Africa. Both of these parts of the world possess expanding populations and accelerating rates of urbanization, phenomena associated with increasing levels of the illicit use of a range of psychoactive substances.  As such, although sometimes relying on extrapolation and expert opinion for some sense of ‘ground truth’, out-of-date and incomplete figures are omitted from some regional and sub-regional assessments of prevalence rates.  The result is a more candid, if still inherently problematic, attempt to offer an overview of aspects of a complex and increasingly fluid illicit market...

Click link to download full paper: GDPO Working Paper 1.0 January 2016


Getting high on impact: The challenge of evaluating drug policy

Schultze-Kraft, M. & Befani, B., Policy Brief No.3, GDPO, Swansea, June 2014:

Getting High on Impact: The Challenge of Evaluating Drug Policy

The official drug control community – the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and – at a national state level – the US government – and a growing number of drug policy reform groups are at loggerheads over how drug policies should best be evaluated.  This brief highlights the importance of reflecting carefully on (a) whether and, if so, how the definitions of, and perceptions on, ultimate policy goals differ or (b) whether any common ground exists between the proponents and critics of the drug policies.