Divest from the unjust drug war. Invest in justice.

The war on drugs is unjust and ineffective.

Prioritising communities, health and justice works.

But governments continue to fund the war on drugs and fail to invest in justice.

Criminalising drugs doesn’t decrease drug use or sale, and it doesn't help to reduce drug-related harms.

However, these punitive laws result in human rights violations, the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, and the avoidable loss of life. They fuel stigma and discrimination, especially towards people from marginalised communities.

We know that public health programmes that prioritise community and justice are effective and save public funds. Yet governments and donors around the world continue to waste vast amounts of money on funding punitive responses to drugs, with little transparency or accountability. 

We must divest from this ineffective and unjust response to drugs. When we do, we free up essential funds to invest in programmes that prioritise community, health and justice. This includes harm reduction as well as other social and community programmes that benefit marginalised people and lead to healthier, safer societies.

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Divest from the unjust drug war. Invest in justice.

We spend over USD 100 billion on drug law enforcement each year, but at last count investment in harm reduction totalled only USD 131 million. This is merely 5 percent of what is needed in low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. Decades of punitive drug laws have not decreased drug use or sales. Instead, they have resulted in human rights violations, increased HIV and hepatitis, and the loss of life. These laws stigmatise and criminalise people, particularly those from marginalised communities. Globally, drug laws have upheld racist and colonial structures and resulted in poor health for people and communities.

At the international level, prominent global powers exert influence over drug policy in low-and middle-income countries via funding flows, the provision of resources and technical assistance, and the promotion of prohibition. A striking example of this is the use of public funds for narcotics control, as governments use official development assistance (ODA) budgets to fund the global war on drugs.

As part of the advocacy leading up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016,we called for a redirection of funds from punitive drug law enforcement to harm reduction. However, a campaign to divest from the unjust drug war is about more than just harm reduction. When we divest from the drug war, we free up essential funds to invest in programmes that prioritise community, health, and justice.

People working on racial justice, criminal legal reform, women's rights, sex workers’ rights, and LGBTQIA+ rights are our natural allies in challenging exclusion, criminalisation, stigma, and discrimination. With this campaign, we want to build a broad and diverse coalition of people working in allied social justice movements calling on governments and donors to divest from punitive approaches so that we can invest in community, health and justice. 

  • We call on government and donors to divest from the unjust drug war and related punitive drug law enforcement at the international, national, and subnational levels, and invest in programmes that prioritise community, health and justice.
  • We call on donor countries to stop using money from their limited development aid budgets for narcotics control, which often violates human rights and undermines health and development goals.
  • We call on donors and governments to be transparent about their national and international spending on drug policy.
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We want the Divest/Invest campaign to reach movements that intersect with harm reduction. If you or your organisation identifies as part of the following movements please tick all that apply:

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Report: Aid for the War on Drugs
Report: Aid for the War on Drugs
Case Study: Jamaica
Case Study: Jamaica
Case Study: India
Case Study: India
Case Study: Oregon
Case Study: Oregon
Invest in justice
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Invest in Justice_3
Invest in Justice_2
© 2023 Harm Reduction International
The Divest/Invest campaign is brought to you by Harm Reduction International