Our video report from the panel discussion "Drugs and Development: Punishing the Poor"
In collaboration with the Open Society Foundation’s Global Drug Policy Program , the CEU School of Public Policy presents a series of debates devoted to complex and interdisciplinary issues raised by illicit drugs and global and national policy responses to drugs. One of this events was organized on February 20, entitled “Drugs and Development: Punishing the Poor". Please watch our video report from the event!
Throughout many parts of the developing world, the cultivation of illicit crops is the only economically viable option for small farmers. Despite major investments in alternative livelihood programs, such efforts have rarely met with success and in some cases, actually worsened living conditions. Elsewhere, poor young people with little access to education and few opportunities for employment may turn to drug consumption or be drawn into other roles in the drug trade. These people take on the most hazardous jobs and face the greatest risk of ending up in conflict with the law, either at home or abroad.
Even crime reduction – a critical element in ensuring development – presents a number of risks. In many parts of the world, efforts to crack down on drugs have resulted in serious human rights abuses. In extreme cases, this has even risen to incidents of summary, arbitrary or extrajudicial killings. In countries with harsh drug laws, a high percentage of drug users may be in prison or pretrial detention at some point in their lives. These facilities often offer little in terms of HIV prevention services and pose a high-risk environment for transmission of HIV and other blood-borne viruses or bacterial infections. Moreover, harsh laws may drive people at risk away from life-saving services.
To succeed in both drug control and achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, countries must provide other opportunities to those most likely to find drug markets to be their most viable means of survival, and they must ensure that reducing drug crime does not violate human rights or undermine HIV services.
In our video, you can hear about Joseph’s story, which is yet another example of the typical attitude of the police in Borsod and Heves Counties: they fine local Roma for acts that are unnoticeable, and the punishment doesn’t nearly fit the crime, if they even committed a crime at all.