By Javier Solana

Austria has always had a unique role in international drug policy, being the host and the defender of the multilateral organizations that define drug control measures. This role is further enhanced as the country assumes the EU Council Presidency for the next six months, and thus bears the responsibility for coordinating and strengthening a single EU voice on this issue.

This is particularly important in light of the United Nations’ high-level meeting in March 2019 on drug policy, when the international community will convene in Vienna to review how every country has fought drugs in the past ten years, to examine what has worked and what has been a failure. With the steadily increasing prevalence of drug use, production and trafficking, we know that the international drug control system has failed to achieve any of its objectives. Many governments around the world know it as well, and are starting to introduce different drug policies, including the decriminalization of drug consumption, the provision of maintenance therapies to those heavily dependent on drugs, and as far as legally regulating some substances such as in Uruguay and Canada.

The meeting next March is a major milestone and offers a unique opportunity to change course. Rarely do the UN member states discuss in any depth the flaws of prohibition – not only its failure to curb supply and demand, but also its negative consequences on public health such as HIV and hepatitis transmission, on the lack of enjoyment of human rights due to police abuse and traffickers’ violence, and on the rule of law, with regard to the arbitrary nature of drug interventions, which mainly target the already vulnerable communities.