Almost $1bn from aid budgets intended to help end poverty was spent on the global ‘war on drugs’ over the last decade, according to a report by Harm Reduction International (HRI).
Beneficiaries of the donor funding included police and prosecutors’ offices and projects that increased surveillance and arrests, says Aid for the war on drugs, with at least $70m of overseas development aid going to countries that retain the death penalty for drugs, including Iran and Indonesia. More than 90 developing countries were recipients of aid funding for drug control, the report states, with Colombia receiving $109m and Afghanistan $37m. More than half of the funding for drug control since 2012 has come from the US, at $550m, followed by EU institutions ($282m), Japan ($78m) and the UK ($22m).
HRI analysed reports of donor spending that are submitted to the OECD each year. ‘Though data availability and transparency vary across projects and donors, this analysis reveals how aid money has supported approaches that undermine global development goals and “do no harm” principles,’ the report states. ‘Put simply: aid funding is supposed to help poor and marginalised communities, while punitive drug control regimes have been shown to disproportionately negatively affect them.’
The report is calling for governments and donors to divest from ‘punitive and prohibitionist drug control regimes’ and instead invest in evidence-based programmes such as harm reduction.
‘International aid is supposed to help end poverty and support development, not fuel human rights violations,” said HRI executive director Naomi Burke-Shyne. ‘Using aid budgets for drug control doesn’t help meet development goals. These funds are being used to increase policing, surveillance, and arrests of vulnerable people and communities. Drug control must have no place in the future of aid.’
‘Governments need to ensure that development assistance budgets are used to promote people’s health and human rights, and not to fund repressive drug control policies which have proven to be harmful and ineffective,’ added chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark. ‘It is particularly abhorrent that development assistance is applied to so-called narcotics control activities in countries which continue to execute people for drug-related offences.’
Aid for the war on drugs at hri.global/publications/aid-for-the-war-on-drugs/