Aligning Agendas: Drugs, Sustainable Development, and the Drive for Policy Coherence

A soldier from the Royal Thai 3rd Army eradicating opium poppies from an area where projects supported by the UN Drug Control Programme are reducing farmers’ reliance on illicit drug crops, Northern Thailand, January 1, 1991. (UN Photo/J Sailas)

Current drug policy too often has a negative impact on communities and runs counter to efforts to ameliorate poverty through sustainable development. However, this is often not captured by the metrics used to measure the impact of drug policy. One way to improve these metrics is to align them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This would not only help overcome many of the limitations of drug policies resulting from suboptimal metrics but also make sure these policies enhance, rather than hinder, efforts to achieve the SDGs.

This report analyzes how more precise, more complete, and better conceived metrics can help us to understand the impact of drug policy on sustainable development and the prospects of achieving the SDGs. The report is the result of over a year of work by the International Expert Group on Drug Policy Metrics, convened by the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum and the International Peace Institute. This group puts forward the following recommendations for the UN, member states, and the drug policy community:

  • Develop a framework for policy coherence between drug policy and sustainable development.
  • Create an external advisory committee bringing together experts on drug policy and sustainable development.
  • Add SDG indicators related to drug policy.
  • Put in place mechanisms to gather data on the effects of drug policies.
  • Use the SDG indicators as a model for improving drug policy indicators.
  • Prioritize outcome – rather than process-oriented metrics.