Drug Policy Forum 2012 / Out line

From the unilateral decriminalization in Guatemala, to the devastating war on drugs in Mexico, or the shooting rooms in Portugal – Drug Policies have become a central theme of inquiry and debate around the world. Academics, politicians and opinion leaders have placed this subject at the forefront of their agendas, both on national and international levels. Addressing controversial questions about harm reduction strategies and international cooperation amongst producer-, transit- and consumer-states, is a necessary step to assess the reach and impact of the current strategies.

The LSE-SU Colombian Society is proud to announce the Drug Policy Forum 2012, which will gather a group of recognized scholars, politicians and civil-society representatives with the aim of building-up a more comprehensive understanding of the current challenges faced by states and societies affected by illegal drugs

APRIL 25th, 2012

18.30 – 20.00, New Theatre, LSE 

The Drug Policy Forum 2012 will start with an opening lecture by Ethan Nedelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance

Ethan is a high profile critic on international drug policies and has initiated many efforts in reforming them. He holds a B.A., J.D. and PhD from Harvard University and an MSc in International Relations from LSE. Furthermore he has thought politics and public affairs at Princeton University and an Internet petition was filed to name him the new Drug Czar of the Obama Administration. 

Drug Policy Alliance is a New York based non-profit organisation that works on the end of the War on Drugs. Among the prominent members of Drug Policy Alliance one can find names like George Soros, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz as well as Harry Belafonte.   

APRIL 26th, 2012

13.30 – 15.30, New Academic Building 2.04., LSE

 The programme on April 26th will start with the Film screening of the documentary Cocaine unwrapped, which was part of the official selection for OPENCITY, the London documentary festival.  

“Cocaine unwrapped” shows the story of one of the most popular drugs, from coca farmers in Bolivia, drugs mules in Ecuadorian prisons, cocaine factories in the Colombian jungle, and dealers on the streets of Mexico and Baltimore – to the consumers in the clubs and at the dinner tables of the West. This documentary portrays a story of death, economic devastation and human suffering and provides unprecedented exclusive access to the political leaders of Latin America and interviews with drugs tsars on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cocaine Unwrapped is a riveting mixture of front line reportage and exclusive interviews with leading politicians and drugs tsars.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with director Rachel Seiffert, chaired by Daniel Bear. 

Daniel is a PhD Candidate at LSE, researching on Drug Policies in the United States.  

APRIL 26th, 2012
16.30 – 18.00, Hong Kong Theatre, LSE

Expert Panels 1

The afternoon session will kick off with the First expert Panel on “Reducing the harm of drugs: the current challenge”.

Officially, in England “one in five young people have used one or more illicit drugs in the last year (2010) and around one in nine have used drugs in the last month” (Statistics on Drug Misuse: England, 2011 – NHS). Apart from looking at statistics on illicit drugs, one has to consider that smart drugs, that are legally accessible, have also found their way into our society. In other words, both legal and illegal drugs form part of our every day environment. 

In the past, it seems that the War on Drugs has focused on controlling demand and supply of illicit drugs and on criminalizing their use, rather than addressing health and social issues generated by drug consumption.

This forum intends to share and discuss different ways to address this controversial issue. In the first part of the panel, each presenter will have 15 minutes to present his/her point of view on the following questions:

1. Are the current policies and interventions effectively diminishing the harm of drug consumption in our societies?

2. Are we aware of the real threats of drug consumption? Do we have institutions capable of carrying out harm reduction programs and practices?

3. How can we enhance the debate about harm reduction programs in our communities?

After these presentations, there will be a round of questions from the public, and 5 more minutes for each panellist to answer them.

The participants of this panel will be:

Jörgen Sviden, Director of the organisation European Cities Against Drugs

Harry Shapiro, Director of Communications and Information of Drugscope, the leading centre of expertise on drugs in the UK

David Barrie, Chair of Make Justice Work, a campaign to boost public support for a change in Britain’s attitude towards minor offenders.

Vanessa Buschschluter, Americas Editor of the BBC

The Chair of this Panel will be Michael Shiner

Michael is a Professor at LSE and has expertise in both quantitative and qualitative methods and has worked on a diverse range of projects although his recent work has been concentrated in the fields of youth studies, criminology and socio-legal studies.

APRIL 26th, 2012
18.30 – 20.00, Hong Kong Theatre, LSE

Expert Panels 2

Consequently Panel two will address “International Coordination: Dissimilar Challenges and Power disparities”.

The interests of the different countries involved in the supply chain of illegal drugs differ. The incentives and challenges for drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia, Mexico or Guatemala contrast with those of countries with high consumption rates like the US or England. 

 Producing countries witness high levels of violence, corruption and instability while consuming countries deal with drug addiction and criminality. Under this scenario, there seems to be a collective action problem to coordinate a global policy on drugs. Given the complex network of economic and political relations between countries, the room for unilateral deviations from a global agreement on drugs is limited, and yet their negative effects on societies are still widespread around the globe. Several Latin American countries have expressed their concerns about the direction of the current global drug policy, and this topic is now part of the international agenda. 

This context seems to be a perfect opportunity to rethink the most pressing issues regarding international coordination on drug policy. In the first part of the panel, each presenter will have 15 minutes to present his/her point of view on the following questions:

 1.     Given the asymmetries of power in global governance, what is the capacity of small countries to unilaterally change their Drug Policies?

 2.     What has been more effective in customizing Drug Policy, unilateralism or multilateralism?

 3.     Which strategy could be pursued to catalyse a global agreement on Drug Policy? How to promote convergence of interests?

After these presentations, there will be a round of questions from the public, and 5 more minutes for each panellist to answer them.

The panellists will be:

 – Amanda Feilding, Director of The Beckley Foundation, which conducts scientific investigation of drug policies.

 – Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs of the think tank Transform Drug Policy Foundation

 Virginia Comolli, The International Institute for Strategic Studies

Eduardo Medina Mora, Ambassador of Mexico to the UK

Mauricio Rodriguez, Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia to the UK 

Thomas Grisaffi will chair this panel. His research interests include community radio, the illegal cocaine trade, social movements, citizenship and democracy. Thomas has taught a number of courses at the LSE and also at the University of Manchester.




For the past decades, Drugs have progressively become a problem with various faces in many regions of the world. Hence, it is well known that the illegal production, trafficking and use of drugs have caused numerous problems to society. From the unstoppable violence of the cartels in Colombia, México and Central America to the conviction and treatment of addicts in big cities such as London and New York, the range of threats imposed by drugs has been very broad and uniquely challenging. As a consequence, debates about the most adequate policy to deal with Drugs have come once again to the forefront of academic and political arenas. So much so that recently, and like never before, a wider and more rigorous debate is being demanded in order to adjust the current policies to the challenges the existing state of affairs pose.

In this context, the London School of Economics and Political Science, one of the leading academic institutions, known for its commitment to engaging in relevant global research and debate, forms an ideal platform to discuss Drug Policies. Therefore, the LSE-SU Colombian Society is organizing an academic event, The Drug Policy Forum, to be held on the 26th of April 2012 at the London School of Economics.

The goal of the Forum is to gather academics, activists, journalists and experts from the civil society and the public sector, to analyse the growing challenges that current drug policies around the world are confronted with. Furthermore, the aim is to promote a better understanding of underlying causes in order to form informed and objective opinions on Drug-Policies.

This one-day event will include panel discussions and informative lectures. The subject will be tackled from three different angles: Drug Policies in Producing States, Drug Policies in Transit States and Drug Policies in Consuming States. Although schematic, this categorization will facilitate the dialogue, debate and exchange of experiences.

The Drug-Policy Forum 2012 will have a multidimensional and holistic approach: social and health issues in conjunction with economic and political payoffs must be considered in order to evaluate, and ultimately judge the most effective strategy to minimize the negative impacts of drugs.

Issues that will be tackled from all three angles are, of course, security, crime and violence. Discussions will, however, also concern issues specific to each group of states. Concerning producing states, alternatives to plantation will be discussed along with social implications; for transit countries, border control and judicial issues will specifically be addressed; and the panel dealing with consumer states will be focusing on health, prohibition and alternative strategies for addressing the issues.

The panellists’ expertise will guarantee a profound and highly evolved debate.