The relationship between drug control policy and human development is complex and multifaceted; both share a common objective to reduce drug-related harms. Yet policies aimed at prohibiting and punishing the cultivation, sale and use of certain drugs have played a disproportionate role in shaping the international approach to drug control and country responses, irrespective of countries’ development goals. Drug control policies have been justified by the real and potential harms associated with illicit drug use and markets, such as threats to safety and security, public health, crime, decreased productivity, unemployment and poverty.

However, evidence shows that in many countries, drug control policies and related enforcement activities focused on reducing supply and demand have had little eff ect in eradicating production or problematic drug use. Various UN organizations have also described the harmful collateral consequences of these eff orts: creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence and instability; undermining public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalization of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women and youth.4 Evidence shows that in many parts of the world, law enforcement responses to drug-related crime have created or exacerbated poverty, impeded sustainable development and public health and undermined human rights of the most marginalized people.