International Drug Trafficking

International Drug Trafficking

“The war on drugs, that started in the 70s, has not inhibited the production, traffic, or consumption of drugs in the world”, said Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto when addressing the special session on drug policy of the United Nations General Assembly on April 19, 2016. His words were not stated without reason– in the 2015 World Drug Report, which was released roughly a year before, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concluded, that in spite of the widespread efforts to control international drug trafficking more thoroughly, worldwide drug use and abuse is more prevalent than ever. The problems that need to be addressed are manifold: Ever-increasing globalisation has led to numerous new trafficking routes, newly surfacing synthetic drugs defy current legal standards, and the measures undertaken to control this thus far have proven to be much less effective than what was to be hoped.

Due to the global aspect, which has allowed drug cartels to expand rapidly, the persecution and regulation of drug trade has become what has been called “an international game of whack-a-mole”. Though many drug producing countries and quite a few trafficking routes are known, the structures and the people behind transnational drug trafficking remain elusive. Cracking down on specific areas of the problem has thus far mostly helped to create a vacuum, which is usually rapidly filled again. There are also many dissenting opinions on how this problem should be tackled: Traditional economic theory dictates that demand creates supply, and since the UN’s approach has so far been largely supply-focused, the international community has seen much criticism. There are also quite a few who argue that these traditional models do not apply to drugs, and that, to a certain degree, drug availability creates demand.

While some of the facets of the issue have long since been known, some others are newly surfacing. Some countries are known hubs of drug production, such as Afghanistan and the so-called “Golden Triangle” comprised of Laos, Thailand, Myanmar (and in some depictions also Vietnam) for opium, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia for cocaine, or again Afghanistan and also Mexico for marihuana. But with new, synthetic drugs emerging, and because of the ever-shifting and uncontrollable nature of the trade and its routes, international legislation has found itself in something of a rut – some new substances remain in a “technically legal” grey area, and far too often the decisions agreed upon by international actors prove to be ineffective once they are actually put into action. Additionally, with some countries such as the Philippines resorting to rather extreme measures in combatting drug use, the local side to what is a worldwide problem should not go unnoticed either.

With dissenting opinions as to whether increased stringency and force is necessary to tackle the issues at hand, or if legalisation, rehabilitation, and regulation should be the way of approach, the world finds itself confronted with a figurative behemoth of a task. There is little to no certainty as to which approach should be taken and which measures will prove to be effective in the long run, the negative implications of worldwide drug trade are as rampant as never before, and the consequences are being felt. Whether your views are governed by trust in the traditional approaches, or whether you opt for a complete overhaul of the entire system – this is a problem that screams to be solved.

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