Is the War on Drugs a “Humanitarian Crisis”?

Policy brief

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora & Kristian Hoelscher (2016) Is the War on Drugs a “Humanitarian Crisis”?, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

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The War on Drugs in Latin America has encouraged a highly militarized yet unsuccessful approach to drug control, leading to violence, displacement and human suffering throughout the region. In response, humanitarian organizations have begun to frame the War on Drugs in the language of “humanitarian crises”. Moreover, they are increasingly labeling violence in Latin American cities as “complex urban emergencies” to facilitate new spaces of humanitarian entry. To contribute to critical conversations in the Latin American drug policy community in the run-up to the April 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session, this policy brief considers four policy implications of the strategic use of the humanitarian crisis label in the context of the War on Drugs: the abdication of state responsibility; the ‘invisibilization’ of policy alternatives; the impediment of discussions on regional drug policy; and the sidelining of civil society in favor of international humanitarian actors.

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