Response to INCB's Annual Report 2007

International Drug Policy Consortium Briefing
March 5, 2008

The 2007 INCB Annual Report shows some signs of a more balanced approach by the INCB to the policy dilemmas around proportionality of sentences and harm reduction. While this is welcome, the Board still falls a long way short of what is necessary for it to play a positive and objective role in helping governments to find the right balance between their drug control obligations, and wider policy objectives related to social development, public health, and human rights protections. On the issue of the coca leaf especially, the INCB shows complete intransigence towards the issue of indigenous uses in the Andean region.

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In this brief paper, the IDPC provides an initial view on the contents of the 2007 Annual Report of the INCB, launched on the 4th March 2008. Our members recognise that, with this report, the INCB has taken some important positive steps in emphasising the importance (and the presence in the drug control conventions) of the principle of proportionality in the enforcement of the global drug control regime.

In addition, the report moderates some of its language regarding, and general resistance to, harm reduction. However, we believe that these welcome elements of the report will be rendered meaningless if the Board does not consistently reflect these principles in its ongoing work with national governments and other UN agencies.

Of greater concern is the continuing intransigence shown towards the issue of indigenous use of coca products in Bolivia. Where there is an unresolved inconsistency within the drug control conventions, and between drug control and other international obligations and treaties, the role of the INCB should be to highlight these dilemmas and help governments to find a resolution, instead of issuing rigid and non-universal declarations.

The report also disappoints in the absence of development or analysis of the implications of its statement regarding the importance of universal human rights and the rule of law as the context for drug control.