The UK is the fourth leading country on ‘humane and health-driven’ drug policies, according to the new Global Drug Policy Index. Norway is in first place, followed by New Zealand, Portugal, the UK and Australia, with Brazil, Uganda, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico occupying the bottom five places.
The index, which has been developed by the Harm Reduction Consortium, is made up of 75 indicators across five main themes – criminal justice, extreme responses, health and harm reduction, access to internationally controlled medicines, and development. However, even first-ranked Norway only has a score of 74 out of 100, with the UK scoring 69. The median score across all 30 countries ranked is just 48.
Drug law enforcement continues to target non-violent and possession offences, says the index, with only three countries surveyed managing to ‘truly’ divert people away from the criminal justice system. Just five countries, meanwhile, have allocated ‘adequate’ funding for harm reduction programmes, and the ‘militarised and law enforcement’ approach continues to prevail. ‘Some level of lethal use of force by military or police forces was reported in half of the countries surveyed, with widespread cases in Mexico and Brazil’ it states.
There also remains ‘a huge gap’ between government policies around access to controlled medicines and their availability on the ground, it adds, especially in countries like India, Indonesia and Mexico. The disproportionate impact on people marginalised on the basis of their ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status was reported to some extent across all countries, with the UK marked down for the way its policies impact ‘to a very large extent’ on low-income and some ethnic groups and ‘to a moderate extent’ on women.
‘Forty-eight out of 100 is a drug policy fail in anyone’s book,’ said Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, lead partner in the Harm Reduction Consortium – a group that also includes HRI, EuroNPUD and Youth RISE. ‘None of the countries assessed should feel good about their score on drug policy, because no country has reached a perfect score. Or anywhere near it. This index highlights the huge room for improvement across the board.’
Until now most countries had been ‘looking at the number of people they’ve arrested for drugs, the number of people they’ve incarcerated, the amount of drugs seized, the hectares of crops eradicated, as indicators for drug policy,’ she told Channel 4 News. ‘We’re hoping that with the index they’ll consider a different set of indicators that will look at the health and human rights outcomes of their drug policies.’ This would help them shape their policies ‘away from repressive and punitive approaches that have failed to reduce the scale of the drug market but have also had very serious and devastating impacts on the lives of so many people,’ she stated.
‘The Global Drug Policy Index is nothing short of a radical innovation,’ said chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark. ‘Good, accurate data is power, and it can help us end the “war on drugs” sooner rather than later.’