Mission and History
Global Commission on Drug Policy
Established in 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy is a key international reference regarding the impacts of the current drug control strategy, proposing innovative and effective policy recommendations that protect human rights, scale-up harm reduction and promote development. It is composed of 23 political leaders and leading thinkers from across the political spectrum.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy builds on the experience of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy convened by former Presidents Cardoso of Brazil, Gaviria of Colombia and Zedillo of Mexico. Convinced that the association between drug trade, violence and corruption was a threat to democracy in Latin America, the Commission reviewed the current ‘war on drugs’ policies and opened a public discussion about an issue that is often surrounded by fear and misinformation.
Using informed advocacy and quiet diplomacy, the Global Commission has redirected the conversation away from prohibition and legitimized a more balanced, comprehensive and evidence-based debate on drugs, privileging human rights, safety and public health, proposing humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.
The Global Commission carries out this role in particular through the publication every year of a comprehensive, detailed, evidence-based policy report including the commission’s opinions, as well as other targeted reports, opinion pieces, and interviews with government officials and intergovernmental organizations, in collaboration with civil society leaders.
Since its inception, the Global Commission has produced six major reports and three documentary films with visibility in thousands of news outlets around the world. These reports have addressed issues ranging from the failure of the war on drugs, the effect of criminalization on public health and pathways to drug regulation.
The first yearly report by the Global Commission, published in 2011, made news stories around the world when it diagnosed the current drug control system as having failed. The Commissioners came out in support of decriminalization, and it was the first time that such high-level political figures, intellectuals and business leaders had positioned themselves in favor of comprehensive drug policy reform. Hundreds of news stories were written about the founding of the Global Commission and its innovative policy recommendations.
The Global Commission continued breaking the taboo when in 2014, it released a ground-breaking report that highlighted five pathways to drug policies that work, including: putting the health and community safety first, ensuring equitable access to controlled medicines, ending the criminalization of people who use or possess drugs, promoting alternatives to incarceration for low-level participants in illicit drug markets, including cultivators and encouraging diverse experiments in legally regulated markets, beginning with, but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain other psychoactive substances.
The yearly report published in 2016 examined in further depth the third proposed pathway, full decriminalization, explaining why ending all criminal and civil penalties for drug consumption and possession for personal use is an essential step in drug policy reform towards regulation.
The Global Commission is coordinated by a Secretariat in Switzerland, which is responsible for overseeing the publications and products disseminated by the Commission, major events as well as organizing communications and outreach strategies. The Commission also counts on a wide network of experts and partners that have contributed to its work since its inception.
The Global Commission also inspired the creation of regional groups, such as the West Africa Commission on Drugs (convened by Global Commission member and former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan). Not Just in Transit, published by the West Africa Commission on Drugs in June 2014, highlighted the ways in which drug trafficking, consumption and production was undermining institutions, threatening public health and harming development efforts.