Another front in a losing war: Human rights and drug policy in Africa

Date: 15 May 2014


University of Essex, Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as a new front in the global struggle for control of illicit drugs.  Significant trafficking routes of drugs from Asia and Latin America criss-cross the continent, benefiting in some cases from weakly supervised borders and ports.

Africa also has some of the most repressive national drug laws in the world, many of them dating from the 1960s, and hundreds of thousands of people are in pre-trial detention or other state custody for minor drug offenses. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the government of the United States -- two heavyweight players on the global drug control scene -- both see opportunities for replicating in Africa the human rights-unfriendly drug-control approaches used in Latin America.  Both also invoke links between drugs and terrorism as a justification for a militarised response to drugs.  This talk will consider the lessons, including human rights-related factors, that should inform drug control strategies in Africa.

Joanne Csete is the Deputy Director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program. Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, she was associate professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York, where her research focused on health services for marginalized and criminalized populations.  She was the founding director of the HIV and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and spent more than 10 years working on health programs in Africa

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