“As long as the stream of income from criminal drug organizations are not stopped, they will continue to threaten our societies and governments.” That’s the message from the countries affected. But will we listen to them?
In a Joint Declaration of the United Nations Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico brought a clear analysis of the prevailing global drug paradigm. They also came with a plea to the international community: “The enormity of the financial resources mean that transnational criminal organizations are able to penetrate and corrupt U.S. institutions. (…) The UN must urgently address this problem by establishing a new paradigm that prevents the flow of resources to organized criminal groups. “
Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico are far away from most nations, but we can not pretend it has nothing to do with us. Almost every country in the world plays a role – as either a producer, consumer or transit point – in the illegal multi-billion dollar deals that deliver drugs to nearly 200 million people each year and continue to grow.
So it was gratifying to hear a European politician (Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg of Norway) when she at the UN in March this year, on behalf of the her parliament and government, ask questions about whether we can continue to accept the costs of the current prohibition policies, or whether they should choose a new strategy. She refers to the cost of other countries and Norwegian solidarity, responsibility, and in particular the violence and killings associated with drug trafficking in the illigal market.
“With respect to the costs and all those suffering from drug related problems we need to be better from now on. And that is also part of our shared responsibility. What really is of concern is the high homicide rates and wide spread violence some regions have faced due to drug trafficking. These countries are paying a disproportionate high price. Is this acceptable, does it indicate more of the same or do we see a need for change? – Is it a success or a failure? “
The global left?
Unfortunately, there seems to be some way to go before the world governments do something to fix what is undoubtedly a “failure”. But maybe the left side of global politics is too concerned with the global aspect of drug policy? There are many politicians on the left who speak warmly of global solidarity therefore its disappointing to see that the many leftist do not care.“If the goal is to weaken the economic impact of the illicit market for cannabis, there is another strategy that will be more impact: reducing demand,” writes Mina Gerhardsen , former State Secretary of Labor and now head of a Norwegian based drug policy think tank “Actis”.
Mina Gerhardsens statements can be read as an answer to the question set by secretary of state at the UN. Gerhardsen recommends Norway to work toward a new global strategy. She believes implicitly that the cost of others is acceptable. She calls it “the faith of the community.” She might as well have called it “more of the same”. Gerhardsen recommends that Norway in 2016 vote against Latin America’s desire for a new global strategy to prevent the flow of revenues from drugs to criminal organizations, which generate war and violence, corruption, money laundering and weakening of democracies, because “more of the same “ supposedly provides “low consumption in Norway.” Community?
What should be our view of the world, the people we live with and what is this an expression of? When many nations talk about drug policy working or not, without regard to what their drug policy entails for others they often are left without saying anything about about humanity in general?
Heroin from the Taliban.
It is obvious that the central goal of most western nations drug policy is to reduce the problems associated with drug use. But it can not stop there. The global drug industry turnover is probably the size of the world’s oil and gas industry and twice as big as the automotive industry, writes the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). They consider international organized crime as one of the greatest threats to human security, and point out that the drug industry is one of the main sources of continued war.
In Afghanistan, NATO/ISAF secure areas while local governments destroy opium crops and without this protection this would be impossible. But inadvertantley the destruction (among other terrible crimes) causes little girls to be used as payment for the destroyed crops.The farmers grow opium to get loans for their crops by gangs linked to the Taliban. When authorities burn down crops farmers are coerced into selling their daughters to pay their debt. This was admited by the chief of UNODC in, the British documentary “Trapped by the Opium War.”
In 2003 officials in Afghanistan warned that opium poppy was cultivated over a record area of 80,000 hectares. In 2007, when the war worsened, the size of the opium fields increased to 200,000 hectares (equivalent to more than 90 percent of the world’s opium and heroin production). In some areas, this area has tripled – particularly in the areas controlled by the British . This money goes directly into the hands of the Taliban and the warlords. “I did not believe it before I went to Afghanistan. But it’s now clear that prohibition is no answer to this deadly scourge “, writes Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012.
The war is on full speed into Africa. 18 tons of cocaine smuggled through West Africa in 2010 . The average annual value amounted to 1.25 billion dollars. This is more than the total national budget for most West African countries. This money infiltrate institutions, buying political candidates, leading to violence and undermine development. The threat of this development is one of the main reasons why Kofi Annan was part of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and now spends all his force in pursuit of a new global drug strategy. Kofi Annan is even from Ghana in West Africa.
Links between cocaine trafficking to Europe and the financing of terrorist groups in the Sahel pose a threat to regional and European stability . Cocaine, mainly imported from South America is generating a transatlantic market worth more than 70 billion dollars annually. Heroin, mainly from Afghanistan, feeding a global market worth about 55 billion dollars annually.
Over half of the designated terrorist groups in the world today gets most of there funding from the illegal drug trade.
Recently Italian police seized 42.7 tonnes of cannabis off the coast of Sicily, one of the largest drug seizures ever in Europe. There are an estimated 3,600 organized crime groups that are active in the EU. A third of those involved in the drug trade, which is ever on the rise. The UK government writes in its analysis of country’s illegal drug markets that it is worth about 3.7 billion pounds a year. Money laundering is an important activity for criminal groups, which represent between two and five percent of global GDP, according to the UNODC.
Jack Blum , one of the world’s leading experts on money laundering of black drug economy, already said many years ago : “The kinds of money these people have available are a threat too democracy everywhere.” For each year prohibition policy continues, cross-border crime activities, and organized criminal networks are growing richer and more powerful. Global mafia business has a turnover in line with multinational corporations, and even states. With this kind of force the Mafia can go from more traditional crime to infiltrating society even more insidiously and in a lasting manner. The experts have identified nine parent groups who control the largest financial flows:
- Cosa Nostra in Sicily.
- Ndrangheta in Calabria.
- Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia.
- Camorra in Campania.
- In the Balkans is the Albanian language mafia.
- Then there is the Turkish mafia.
- In Asia, the Chinese triads, on the mainland and in Taiwan.
- Japan’s mafia, the notorious yakuza.
- Then there’s the Italian-American Mafia.
In addition there are significant groups of Mafia in the former Soviet Union, the Latin American cartels in Colombia, Mexico and networks in Nigeria. They are just as dangerous, but without the traditional confidentiality and territorial culture and earn (mostly from the drug trade), sales estimated up to 3,000 billion annually. Trade with cannabis make up the majority of this economy . This is why Kofi Annan, Thorvald Stoltenberg and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, so loudly urges Governments to explor models for the legalization of drugs in order to undermine organized crime and secure citizens health and safety. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis.
What scenarios and threats are we actually facing? This is the question I hope will occupy the minds of the worlds politicians and become a significant part of domestic political debates. After all, Europol warned last year that the Mexican drug cartels were on their way to conquer Europe and impose their brutal violence .
Norway as an example
Cannabis is the most sold of all illegal drugs (about 80 percent), in Norway. Researchers have analyzed sewage and wastewater in 44 European cities to identify drug use among residents. This is the most comprehensive wastewater analysis project ever undertaken. The figures show that cannabis consumption was above the European average, with Oslo consumption ranked number 10 of the 44 cities surveyed. Someone sold this and pumped billions of dollars into the illegal economy.
A Norwegian Publication made a major report on the illigal cannabis market in Norway : the black economy, money laundering and corruption. Perhaps the most important Norwegian article ever on this issue. There are vast sums of money that have been laundered before they can be put into legal circulation. There are many intermediaries who will have their share of the profits. Norwegian organized criminals plainly state that “the sale of marijuana is our dairy cow.”
The criminalisation of canabis is an incentive for illegal immigration, a barrier to integration, and a source of racial prejudice that affects countless people with dark skin in Norway and in other European nations. How can we ignore this?
Community and UN conventions
Its clear that there must be greater emphasis on the cost of others and violence and killings associated with the illegal drug trade. But are all these other people infinitely less valuable than the user in the home nations? The western world must have a urgent debate about its drug strategy on this basis. Western nations can not vote no to a change of international conventions because it “might” provide slightly higher consumption among their popualtions.War, smuggling, crime, corruption and money laundering are global problems that are significant and western nations play a very real part, as the world’s richest drug-consuming countries.
We need to find solidarity with supplier nations and work to change UN policy. To legally regulate drug markets so they can find the most appropriate way to replace criminal markets – and thus secure citizens’ health and security, democracy and development, and allow for a peaceful coexistence between people and nations.
We need to take the threat from the huge black drug economy seriously.