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Amidst food insecurity, mental health concerns, labor rights, and school feeding, top countries spend massively on anti-drug efforts.
US and Europe Leading Massive Investments in Anti-Drug Efforts
New findings by Harm Reduction International (HRI), indicate the US and Europe are top investors to sustaining the decades-old global war on drugs.
A 2021 research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania commemorated the 50th anniversary of the war on drugs. The research estimated that the United States has invested over a trillion dollars in enforcing anti-drug efforts.
Ironically, the more funds pumped into bankrolling uniformed personnel who violate human rights, particularly among colored and marginalized communities, there hasn’t been any commendable result.
According to the recent HRI report titled “Aid for the War on Drugs,” between 2012 and 2021, 30 countries donated $974 million for international narcotics control. These contributions included about $70 million in aid to countries that punish drug crimes with death.
Among the thirty donors, expectedly, the U.S. was the top donor funding the war with a whopping $550 million, followed by the EU with $282 million and Japan, with $78 million.
Other beneficiaries are:
- United Kingdom $22 million
- Germany $12 million
- Finland $9 million
- South Korea $8 million
The UK, among other countries, is reducing its budget for the global drug war. Meanwhile, some others, like the U.S., are investing more.
Ninety-two countries benefited from the funding during the period the study covered. The top beneficiaries were Colombia, Afghanistan, Peru, and Mexico, receiving $109, $37, $27, and $21 million, respectively. Guatemala and Panama got $10 million each.
The report exposed how, in 2021, the US aid funds were sent to Indonesia to counter a narcotics training scheme. Disturbingly, 89 people were sentenced for drug offenses in the same countries. The same year, Japan funded Iran’s drug-detection dog units. Yes, no less than 131 people were sentenced to death for drug crimes.
Historical Context and Racial Dynamics of Drug War
Since the funding does not seem to solve the intent. Drug cases and death sentences are increasing, and many are questioning the real motive behind the war on drugs.
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According to the HRI report, “There is a long history of drug policy being used by world powers to strengthen and enforce their control over other populations, and target specific communities…Racist and colonial dynamics continue to this day, with wealthier governments, led by the U.S., spending billions of taxpayer dollars around the world to bolster or expand punitive drug control regimes and related law enforcement.”
“They rely on and reinforce systems that disproportionately harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous people worldwide,” it adds.
Catherine Cook, HRI’s sustainable financing lead, recommended possible ways citizens from countries funding the drug war can react.
In an interview with Filter, Cook suggests that by way of expressing their voting rights, citizens should mount pressure on the government via local and global mediums, especially exploiting international platforms like the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs 2024 mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration.”
She further advised voters to place a demand on their government for transparent spending and accountability in their aid budgets without hypocrisy. Many of the donors, while supporting the war on drugs on the international front, pursue “more effective, non-punitive, health-based policies locally.
While the US tops the list of donor countries, the report revealed a fluctuation in its drug war aid budget over the years. For instance, from $31 million spent to aid global “narcotic control” in 2020, the figure leaped to $301 in 2021. But what isn’t entirely clear is how the money was spent, as such data are not disclosed for the best interest of “health and security of implementing partners, and the national interest of the United States.
The Shifting Attitude Around Anti-Drug Efforts in America
Regardless of its international anti-drug fronts, there is no doubt some commendable change toward drugs. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legal adult-use cannabis regulations.
Interestingly, conversations are fast-shifting grounds on their support for the drug war. One-time anti-cannabis campaigners are becoming more concerned about addiction as a disease than drug use as an offense. Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and erstwhile chair of the Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, commented on these efforts.
“It can happen to anyone, and so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them.,” said Christie.
While the United States seems to be on the right path to possibly reversing some tough impacts of the drug war, the country may not give up on its fight against illicit substances anytime soon.
Speaking to CNBC, Christopher Coyne, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, says, “I don’t think the war on drugs is going anywhere anytime soon as a political program and a political talking point.”