The Reframing of the War on Drugs as a “Humanitarian Crisis”: Costs, Benefits and Attendant Consequences

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora & Kristian Hoelscher (2017) The Reframing of the War on Drugs as a “Humanitarian Crisis”: Costs, Benefits and Attendant Consequences, Latin American Perspectives (Forthcoming).

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The War on Drugs has had grave humanitarian consequences for Latin America. It has encouraged a highly militarized yet ultimately unsuccessful approach to drug control, leading to violence, displacement and human suffering throughout the region. In acknowledging and responding to this suffering, humanitarian organizations have recently begun to frame this situation in the language of “humanitarian crises”. Moreover, these organisations are increasingly labelling violence in Latin American cities as “complex urban emergencies” to facilitate new spaces of humanitarian entry. This paper argues that there is a need for a more conceptual conversation about the use of the label “humanitarian crisis” in reference to the human costs of the War on Drugs in Latin America, particularly regarding its rhetorical and normative use by the media and civil society; and its strategic and moral use by humanitarian actors.