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News Release

First Drugs Debate Highlights Need for Policy Reform

Fon Mathuros, Head of Media, Communications Department, Tel.: +41 (0)79 201 0211, e-mail fma@weforum.org

  • General consensus that prohibitionist drugs policies have been largely unsuccessful
  • Leaders debated the pace and direction of change in drugs policies
  • The theme of the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business
  • For more information, visit: http://wef.ch/Davos

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January 2014 –  In the first debate of its kind the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting hosted a discussion with leaders on both sides of the rising debate over drug policy. Although there was vigorous disagreement on many points, the leaders marked out a pathway towards at least some decriminalization. While Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, USA, and Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia, defended current law enforcement in both of their jurisdictions, they agreed with the general need for policy reform.

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, USA, said the war on drugs has been a disaster; “It has inflicted enormous harm.” Kofi Annan, Chairman, Kofi Annan Foundation, Switzerland, and Secretary-General, United Nations (1997-2006), agreed: “I believe that drugs have destroyed many people. But governmental policy has destroyed many more.” He asked: “Do we have the courage to change it?”

“I’m probably the only person who is going to be an anti-legalization person on the stage tonight,” Perry said. Nonetheless, he lauded his state’s implementation of Drug Courts, which encourage the treatment and reform of users. “As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization.” However, he emphasized that the change would not be overnight.

Perry said that it was perfectly constitutional for states such as Colorado to experiment with decriminalization, but that Washington should not impose such policies from above.

President Santos hailed Colombia’s success in fighting production, but explained: “I come from the country that has suffered most of all the countries in the world in the war against narco-trafficking.” After 40 years, his country finds itself “on a static bicycle”. He said that although it may be very costly politically, leaders must “try to encounter new ways, more effective ways, to combat drug trafficking”.

The moderator Enrique Acevedo, Anchor, Univision, USA, summed up by saying: “There is a clear idea that this policy has failed.” He thanked the World Economic Forum for having “the courage to promote the discussion today”.

The Annual Meeting 2014 is taking place from 22 to 25 January under the theme, The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. Participating this year are over 2,500 leaders from nearly 100 countries, including 300 public figures, 1,500 business leaders and representatives from civil society, academia, the media and arts.

The Co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting 2014 are: Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); Vice-Chairman, Infosys, India; Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Board, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, People’s Republic of China; Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer, Novartis, Switzerland; Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Total, France; Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer, Yahoo, USA and Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation, USA.

Notes to Editors

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