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Public Letter to Kofi Annan

June 1, 1998

Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations
New York, New York
United States

Dear Secretary General,

On the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in New York on June 8-10, 1998, we seek your leadership in stimulating a frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts.

We are all deeply concerned about the threat that drugs pose to our children, our fellow citizens and our societies. There is no choice but to work together, both within our countries and across borders, to reduce the harms associated with drugs. The United Nations has a legitimate and important role to play in this regard -- but only if it is willing to ask and address tough questions about the success or failure of its efforts.

We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself.

Every decade the United Nations adopts new international conventions, focused largely on criminalization and punishment, that restrict the ability of individual nations to devise effective solutions to local drug problems. Every year governments enact more punitive and costly drug control measures. Every day politicians endorse harsher new drug war strategies.

What is the result? U.N. agencies estimate the annual revenue generated by the illegal drug industry at $400 billion, or the equivalent of roughly eight per cent of total international trade. This industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence, and distorted both economic markets and moral values. These are the consequences not of drug use per se, but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies.

In many parts of the world, drug war politics impede public health efforts to stem the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases. Human rights are violated, environmental assaults perpetrated and prisons inundated with hundreds of thousands of drug law violators. Scarce resources better expended on health, education and economic development are squandered on ever more expensive interdiction efforts. Realistic proposals to reduce drug-related crime, disease and death are abandoned in favor of rhetorical proposals to create drug-free societies.

Persisting in our current policies will only result in more drug abuse, more empowerment of drug markets and criminals, and more disease and suffering. Too often those who call for open debate, rigorous analysis of current policies, and serious consideration of alternatives are accused of "surrendering." But the true surrender is when fear and inertia combine to shut off debate, suppress critical analysis, and dismiss all alternatives to current policies. Mr. Secretary General, we appeal to you to initiate a truly open and honest dialogue regarding the future of global drug control policies - one in which fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health and human rights.

Figure 25 Open Letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, June 1, 1998.

Selected Signatories of Letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan


Domingo Cavallo, Congressman
Graciela Fernandez Meijide, Member of Congress
Irma Fidela Parentella,Member of Congress
Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Laureate (Peace, 1980)


Dick Adams, National Parliament
Lyn Allison, Senator, National Parliament
Ald. Pru Bonham, Deputy Lord Mayor, Hobart
Kate Carnell, Chief Minister, Australian Capital Territory
Barney Cooney, Senator from Victoria
Harry Jenkins, House of Representatives, National Parliament
Michael Kirby, AC CMG, President, International Commission of Jurists
Michael Moore, Minister for Health and Community Care, ACT
Richard Smallwood, Fmr. President, Royal Australasian College of Physicians


Vincent Decroly, Member of Parliament, Brussels
Patrick Moriau, Member of Parliament, Mayor of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont
Ilya Prigogine , Emeritus professor physical chemistry, Free University of Brussels; Nobel Laureate (Chemistry, 1977)


Antonio Aranibar Quiroga, Fmr. Foreign Minister
Edgar Camacho Omiste, Fmr. Ambassador to the OAS
Roger Cortez-Hurtado, Fmr. Member of Congress
Juan del Granado, Member of Congress
Alfonso Ferrufino Valderrama, Fmr. Vice-President of the Bolivian House of Representatives
Lidya Gueiler Tejada, Fmr. President of Bolivia
Roberto Moscoso Valderrama, Member of Congress
Ricardo Paz Ballivian, Fmr. Member of Congress
Carlos Julio Quiroga Blanco, Member of Congress
Guillermo Richter A., Fmr. Senator
Gonzalo Ruiz, Member of Congress
Manuel Suarez Avila, Member of Congress
Felix Vasquez Mamani, Member of Congress


Chris Axworthy, Member of Parliament, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Sharon Carstairs, Senator, Fmr. Chair, Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Senate of Canada
Libby Davies, Member of Parliament, Vancouver-East
Bev Desjarlais, Member of Parliament, Manitoba
Yvon Godin, Member of Parliament, Bathhurst, NB
Rick Laliberte, Member of Parliament, Churchill River, Beauval, Saskatchewan
Wendy Lill, Member of Parliament, Dartmouth
Peter Mancini, Member or Parliament
Alexa McDonough, Member of Parliament, Federal Leader of New Democratic Party, Ottawa, Canada
Lorne Nystrom, Member of Parliament, N.D.P., Qu'Appelle, Regina, Saskatchewan
John C. Polanyi, Nobel Laureate (Chemistry, 1986)
Svend Robinson, Member of Parliament, New Democratic Party of Canada, Burnaby-Douglas
Gordon S. Earle, Member of Parliament, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Peter Stoffer, Member of Parliament - New Democratic Party of Canada
Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Member of Parliament, Winnipeg


Belisario Betancur, Fmr. President
Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, Fmr. Foreign Minister

Costa Rica

Oscar Arias, Fmr. President of Costa Rica; Nobel Laureate (Peace, 1987)


Hans Henrik Brydensholt, High Court Judge
Bjørn Elmquist, Fmr. Member of Parliament
Erik Merlung, District Attorney, Copenhagen
Erling Olsen, Fmr. Minister of Justice
Villy Søvndal, Member of Parliament


Washington Herrera, Fmr. Presidential Minister


Inkeri Anttila, Fmr. Minister of Justice
K.J Laang, Fmr. General Director of the Prison Service


Michèle Barzach, Fmr. Minister of Health
Georges Berthoin, International Honarary Chairman of the European Movement, Paris France
Catherine Lalumiere, Member of the European Parliament
Jacky Mamou, President, Médecins de Monde


Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Member, European Parliament
Peter Frerichs, Vice President, Frankfurt Police
Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger, Fmr. German Federal Minister of Justice
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Fmr. German Federal Minister of Justice
Hartmut Schneider, District Court Judge, Lbeck
Dierk-Henning Schnitzler, Police President, City of Bonn


Franglinos Papadellis, Fmr. Minister of Health, Member of Parliament
George Papandreou, Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece
Michaelis Papayannakis, Member European Parliament


Ramiro De Leon Carpio, Fmr. President of Guatemala


Yossi Beilin, Fmr. Minister, Member of Knesset, Tel Aviv
Haim Cohn, Fmr. Deputy President of the Israel Supreme Court, Professor of Penal Philosophy
Menachem Horovitz, Fmr. Director of Correctional Services


Monica Bettoni-Brandani, Undersecretary of State for Health
Emma Bonino, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs
Francesco Carella, President Health Commission of the Senate
Dario Fo, Nobel Laureate (Literature, 1997)
Luigi Manconi, Senator, President of the Green Party, Rome
Giuliano Pisapia, President, Justice Commission, Italian Parliament, Rome
Ersilia Salvato, Vice-President, Senate, Rome
Grazia Zuffa, President, Forum Droghe;Fmr. Member of Parliament, Florence


Rene Wagner, Member of Parliament, Luxemburg


Maria del Carmen Bolado del Real, Senator
Carlos Heredia Zubieta, Member of Congress
Gilberto Lopez y Rivas, Member of Congress
Jesus Silva Herzog, Fmr. Mexican Ambassador to the United States


Andreas van Agt, Fmr. Prime Minister of the Netherlands;Fmr. Minister of Justice
Hedy d'Ancona, Fmr. Dutch Minister of Welfare, Health, and Culture; Member of the European Parliament
Jan F. Glastra van Loon, Professor, Senator, Fmr. State Secretary of Justice
Sylvia van 't Hul, Public Prosecutor, Rotterdam
Free le Poole, Member of the First Chamber of Parliament (Senate)
E.H. Schuyer, Senator; Chairman of Democrats (D66), Senate
Jan G. van der Tas, Fmr. Netherlands Ambassador to Germany
J.M. vander Vaart, Judge, District Court of Amsterdam

New Zealand

Tim Barnett, Member of Parliament, New Zealand


Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Fmr. President of Nicaragua
Miguel d'Escoto Brockman, Fmr. Foreign Minister


Jo Benkow, Fmr. President of Parliament
Gunnar Garbo, Ambassador;Fmr. Member of Parliament


Javier Alva Orlandini, Member of Congress
Rolando Ames, Fmr. Senator
Arturo Castillo Chirinos, Member of Congress
Antero Flores Araoz Esparza, Member of Congress
Lourdes Flores Nano, Member of Congress
Ernesto Gamarra Olivares, Member of Congress
Diego Garcia-Sayan, Executive Director, Andean Commission of Jurists
Alfonso Grados Bertorini, Member of Congress, Peru
Manuel Lajo Lazo, Member of Congress
Javier Perez de Cuellar, Fmr. Secretary General of the United Nations
Alejandro Santa Maria, Member of Congress
Annel Townsend Diez Canseco, Member of Congress
Allan Wagner, Fmr. Minister of Foreign Affairs


Marek Balicki, Psychiatrist, Fmr. Deputy, Ministry of Health
Mikolaj Kozakiewicz, Fmr. Speaker of Parliament (1989-1991); Vice-President of IPPF
Marek Nowicki, President, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

South Africa

Helen Suzman, Fmr. Opposition Member of Parliament, Johannesburg


PerfectoAndrés Ibañez, Judge; Presidente de la Secc. 15. Audiencia provincial de Madrid
Heriberto Asencio Castillan, Judge. Audiencia provincial de Sevilla
Emilio Berlanga Ribelles, Judge. Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Cataluña
Ricardo Bodas Martin, Judge. Juzgado de lo Social n° 30 de Madrid
Ascension Sole Puig, Judge.Juzgado de lo Social n° 28 de Barcelona
Luis Yaez-Barnuevo, Member of Parliament


Claes Örtendahl, Fmr. Director General, Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden
Ingegmar Rexed, Judge, Svea Court of Appeal, Stockholm


Peter Albrecht, Judge, Court of Bâle-Ville
Christian Brunier, Member of Parliament, Geneva
Jacqueline Cogne, Member of Parliament, Geneva
Herve Dessimoz, Congressman, Geneva Parliament
Dr. Dominique Hausser, Member of Parliament, Geneva
Albert Rodrik, Member of Parliament, Geneva
Francoise Schenk-Gottret, Member of Parliament, Geneva

United States

Morton Abramowitz, International Crisis Group;Fmr. Assistant Secretary of State;Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Dr. Jeremiah A Barondess, President, New York Academy of Medicine
Nicolaus Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate (Physics, 1981)
Willie Brown, Mayor of San Francisco
Alan Cranston, Fmr. U.S. Senator
Walter Cronkite, Author, Broadcast Journalist
John Curtin, Federal Judge, Buffalo, NY
Lloyd N. Cutler, Lawyer, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering;Fmr. Counsel to the President, 1979-1981, 1994
Joycelyn Elders, Fmr. U.S. Surgeon General
Val L. Fitch, Nobel Laureate (Physics, 1980)
Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate (Economics)
Terrence Hallinan, District Attorney of San Francisco
Morton H. Halperin, Fmr. Department of Defense and National Security Council Official
Susan Hammer, Mayor of San Jose
John Kane, Federal Judge, Denver, CO
Nicholas Katzenbach, Fmr. Attorney General
Whitman Knapp, Senior District Judge, Southern District of New York
Robert E. Lucas, Jr., Nobel Laureate (Economics, 1995)
Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP
Claiborne Pell, Fmr. U.S. Senator
Elliot Richardson, Fmr. US Attorney General
Kurt Schmoke, Mayor of Baltimore
George Shultz, Fmr. Secretary of State
Richard E. Smalley, Nobel Laureate (Chemistry, 1996)
George Soros, Chairman, Open Society Institute
Robert Sweet, Federal Judge, New York, NY
Paul Volcker, Fmr. Chairman, Federal Reserve Board

United Kingdom

Austin N.E. Amissah, Judge, London
Edward Ellison, Operational Head of Scotland Yard Drug Squad
Paul Flynn, Member of Parliament, House of Commons
Dr. Brian Iddon, Member of Parliament, London
Austin Mitchell, Member of Parliament, UK
Lord Rae, MD, House of Lords
Anthony Tibber, Judge, London
Carole Tongue, Member of European Parliament


Simon Alberto Consalvi, Fmr. Minister of Foreign Affairs
Diego Arria, Ambassador

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