This continental report reflects on the changing drug policy environment in Africa.

Globally, support for drug policy reform has grown over the past 10 years. Even as the drug prohibition consensus-keepers in Vienna have voted for yet another 10-year extension to their still unsuccessful 20-year strategy for global drug control at the March 2019 Commission on Narcotic Drugs High Level Review meeting, a reform movement among global member states has been gaining credibility and strength.

The purpose of this report is to reflect on the changing drug policy environment in Africa, particularly in the period leading up to and after the seminal UNGASS 2016 meeting of member states. It also examines the politics of continental drug policy prohibition and reform in the context of the growing global movement to embrace drug policy alternatives to the once universal approach of strict prohibition. Observations and recommendations are made regarding incorporating drug policy reform in the context of achieving developmental success with respect to the continental Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 goals.

The evolution of illicit drug markets and drug policy in Africa

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Jason Eligh

Jason Eligh is a public health and human rights professional with extensive technical and development assistance programme design, management and delivery experience throughout Asia and Africa, including in fragile and conflicting-affected areas. He is a former technical expert and advisor with the United Nations, specializing in illicit drugs, drug use and trafficking. Prior to joining the UN he was an institutional researcher, focusing on the sociobehavioural & geographic dynamics of drugs and development; as well as a university lecturer in economics. Jason undertook the first in depth analysis of drug using behaviour and patterns among highland ethnic minority populations of the Vietnam – Lao – China borderlands, and he established one of the first harm reduction and needle syringe distribution programmes for people who use drugs in these communities. He has pursued the rights of detained populations across countries of East Asia and Africa, including working to reform national criminal justice systems and procedures, as well as developing public health intervention programmes centered on meeting the rights and needs of these prisoners and detainees. He has spent many years working with communities of people who use drugs and people who cultivate drugs, emphasizing the need to bring in their community voices to the redesign of national drug policies and legislation. His work has included also pioneering social research on drug production communities in conflict areas, developing national reform programmes for law enforcement agencies, and the negotiation of a ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar military and Shan ethnic forces. Currently Jason’s main areas of interest include illicit drug economies & geographies; transnational organized criminal networks; and, the political & policy impacts & responses to each.

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