UN gears up for special session on the world drug problem to be held in New York from 19 to 21 April

Francesca Washtell
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The special session will include discussions of the global war on drugs (Source: Getty)

The United Nations General Assembly is gearing up for a major summit on the world drug problem, which will be held from Tuesday to Thursday this week at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

The UK, the US, France and a slew of Latin American countries are among the countries that will speak at the conference, which will consist of a general debate and roundtables. It will be the first such session since 2008, which had been set as a deadline year to end the illicit trade in drugs a decade earlier in 1998.

A report from the Count the Costs initiative released on Saturday has said the UN violates its own charter by continuing to fight the global war on drugs.

"It is a tragic irony that the institution founded after the Second World War to uphold global peace, has waged an unwinnable drug war for over half a century. In doing so it is fatally undermining peace and security, development, and human rights – the "three pillars" of the UN, and its raison d’être. In effect, the UN drug control system has become a war machine, and in the process the UN effectively violates its own founding charter based upon maintaining world peace," a spokesperson for Count the Costs said.

Drug law enforcement alone worldwide is estimated to total more than $1bn (£700m) per year, while the illegal market totals $320bn annually.

Writing in The Observer on Sunday, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said his government will call for a "more effective, lasting and human solution" to the war on drugs. He added that Colombia will begin working with members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerilla group to tackle narcotics-related crime.

Ahead of the session, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson recently attacked the war on drugs and advocated legalisation as the only way to "wrest back control" from criminal networks.

"It's high time we stop pretending we have any control over drugs. The only way to wrest back control is to end the drug war, take the markets back from criminal networks and put governments in charge, so that drug production, supply and use can be regulated via doctors, pharmacists and licensed retailers," Branson said in his introduction for a new book, An Introduction to the War on Drugs, which he released online in a blog post.

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