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UN Development Program Head and Former NZ Prime Minister Slams Drug War

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #776)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

It is increasingly clear that the "war on drugs" has failed and there needs to be room for new approaches, the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said Thursday. UNDP head Helen Clark's remarks ahead of the presentation of the organization's 2013 Human Development Report came in a pre-ceremony interview with Reuters.

UNDP head Helen Clark (
Clark is no small-time functionary. From 1999 to 2008 she served as the prime minister of New Zealand -- three terms, according to Wikipedia -- and before that headed the nation's health ministry, among others. As UNDP chief she is the UN's third highest-ranking official.

"To deal with drugs as a one-dimensional, law-and-order issue is to miss the point," Clark said. "Once you criminalize, you put very big stakes around. Of course, our world has proceeded on the basis that criminalization is the approach. We have waves of violent crime sustained by drug trade, so we have to take the money out of drugs," she said.

Clark didn't go as far as calling for drug legalization, but she said she was encouraged by recent efforts by Latin American leaders to put the issue on the global agenda.

"The countries in the region that have been ravaged by the armed violence associated with drug cartels are starting to think laterally about a broad range of approaches and they should be encouraged to do that," she said. "They should act on evidence."

Latin American leaders have said "that the approach being followed has failed so we need a fresh set of eyes on this as well," the former New Zealand prime minister added. "And I think the debate going on at the regional level is a very, very useful one."

"I've been a health minister in my past and there's no doubt that the health position would be to treat the issue of drugs as primarily a health and social issue rather than a criminalized issue," Clark explained.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Paul Pot (not verified)

What a hypocrite.

When she was PM she would not even discuss marijuana.

Now she has no power she's prepared to talk about it like all the other retired politicians.

Sat, 03/16/2013 - 7:40pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

and this is a welcome split in their unity, from one of the less bureaucratic and more respected parts of the UN. But yeah, that sure is becoming a familiar and curious phenomena, the once powerful politician no longer in power who then speaks out about the need to liberalize drug prohibition laws. It's possible they become more aware what the general public is thinking nowadays when they get out of the cocoon of office.

Sat, 03/16/2013 - 10:08pm Permalink
Jim Rogers (not verified)

Exactly why the Government should be left out of the decision making process, and the people given the responsibility of saying what they want and need. We seem to have lost sight of who is working for whom.

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government.

Sat, 03/16/2013 - 11:21pm Permalink
Duane R. Olson (not verified)

In reply to by Jim Rogers (not verified)

Jim;  "WE, the sheeple" need to be told "where to sit", otherwise, they would die "standing up"!  Any person arrested and prosecuted by the feds who is NOT 'VOLUNTARILY' REGISTERED with the attorney general of the United States for federal jurisdiction to be federally regulated to buy, sell, use, or abuse, "drugs or other substances' (controlled substances) need to instruct their defense attorney to say the following when arraigned in United States District Court; "Produce the contract that my client signed and paid a fee that allows the executive and judicial branch of the government of the United States to treat my client in this fashion" and the government cannot produce such a signed-contract for federal jurisdictional authority in personam over the lawyer's UN-registered client who has been arrested and charged with an alleged; "violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)"!

The central government of the United States, in any of its branches, has no "intrinsic or inherent" governing power over "any person" at random to "enact", much less "enforce", an ACT of PROHIBITION that would PROHIBIT, FORBID, or make it UNLAWFUL to buy, sell, use, or abuse, melons, marijuana, cocaine, cabbage, heroin, hot-dogs, or controlled substances, whatever they are now or ever will be!  

It's not the subject matter of drugs or other substances that is the issue here, it's the people's perpetual protections secured in Our Constitution for self-government by "WE, the people" and Guarantees by the Original Ten Articles of Amendment thereto that is the subject matter in the instant discussion stupid!  Why else do you think Our government had to Amend the Constitution to  PROHIBIT, FORBID, or make it UNLAWFUL for any person to possess, manufacture, distribute, or dispense . . . . alcohol?  (Amendment XVIII, PROHIBITION of LIQUOR)

Criminal lawyers don't want to go back to chasing ambulances and defending DUI'S for a paltry $500 fee when they are able to ask and obtain a fee of several thousand dollars for a federal drug case that they will ultimately lose. After all, how does any criminal defense lawyer expect to WIN a charge of a federal-crime against "the laws of the United States" when there is NO FEDERAL-CRIME against "the laws of the United States!  Doctors at least have the digity to "bury" their mistakes while criminal defense lawyer's mistakes go to prison! 

A violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1) is a material breach of a 'voluntary' real and binding contractual agreement where money changed hands between the professional registrant in the health care of humans/animals and the attorney general creating privileges, obligations, and liabilities to possess, manufacture, distribute, and dispense, controlled substances, and therefore, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1) is a matter of Civil Equity . . . . NOT A FEDERAL CRIME!

Mr. Justice JOHN PAUL STEVENS was right when he opined in Raich v. Gonzales; "the similarlity between Wickard and this case are striking" in that wheat and marijuana are both issues of PLANT LIFE and  CIVIL MATTERS of EQUITY . . . . unless . . . . the reader knows of a farmer who has had his farm, animals, equipment, cash, and real assests confiscated ("stolen") and is in federal prison serving a medieval sentence of 10, 20, 30, years or LIFE without parole!

For that matter, has the reader ever heard of a train, airplane, ship, truck, grain elevator, or flour making factory being confiscated ("stolen") for the transportation or manufacturing wheat?  While we're at it, how about when you set down to a Breakfast of Champions, WHEATIES or lunch on a peanut-butter and banana sandwich on WHOLE WHEAT BREAD?

GOOGLE NIXON'S WAR on DRUGS, the daddy rabbit of FRAUDS! 

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 2:09pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

What drug trade ? How has the opium crop been doing in Afghanistan since the U.S.A. invasion ? When was the last time that you heard of a bank getting caught up in money-laundering activities ? How hard is it to find cocaine in New York city ? What does California know about Cannabis ? Alaskans don`t know what heroin is . Kids don`t use drugs . What is Big Pharma ? I think you get the idea .

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 3:46am Permalink
Gart (not verified)

Once a politician always a politician. Yet, any voice questioning Prohibition and the War on Drugs is always welcome. Now, if the reaction within the UNDP, the organisation of which she is the boss, is anything to go by, Mrs Clark won't be repeating said declarations any time soon! Here is how her PR department tried to downplay the whole issue:

Every time I witness this sort of PR maneuvers it makes me wonder who is more stupid: those who think that people are gullible enough to believe their trite and lame tricks, or those who actually do believe their trite and lame tricks!

Gart Valenc

Twitter: @gartvalenc

Mon, 03/18/2013 - 3:36pm Permalink
Thisis Insane (not verified)

Judging by the story I read earlier today about the UN being chewed out being drunk on the job, after calling on the block the legalization efforts of the United States, the hypocrite train keeps chugging along. They eve get caught talking about pot in a positive way, they get their little hand smacked, and go back to their beer.

It's laughable, and I agree with previous commenters, that this carp needs to stop, by alleged intelligent incumbents, who run for their lives at the mere sound of the word marijuana, until after they have finished their time in public office, and they are pretty sure they won't be in again, anytime soon. I support and the many judges, police officers and politicians around the world who wish for nothing more than for this drug war and it associated cost in terms of human life, familial destruction, and the slave trade in place by the prison system in this country, to be over. There is plenty of law enforcement work to be done by the DEA, even if the drug war DOES end (as MOST wars do). REAL law enforcement work, like investigating crimes that count like murder, rape, robbery, home invasions (currently also being done by swat teams in military type uniforms), and maybe a white collar crime or two, while actually doing something about the bank who help the cartels wash the cash clean.

Maybe somebody needs a little of the generous mandatory sentences they hand down to the John Q Citizens for doing much much less. Some of the police I have seen, like busting people who offer little resistance when high, like it way too much. I have personally been through the 'war machine' and let me tell those of you who have not had the 'pleasure', it is almost as demeaning as POW camp. The names they call you, the questioning of your parents' honor, and the snide remarks they made about my wife, was just cheap shots by them. The laughing was what really got me. They took real pride in the fact that they took me down so easily. There are nothing but bullies with a gun, a badge and the blessing of the people, who have no idea what is actually being done behind their backs. These guys get OT for the paperwork they do for every one of these weak busts. Must be nice work.Yet, some of them are coming clean about what is going on and speaking out against this huge. high level hypocrisy.

The fight to end this, is so difficult, because the government propaganda had been drummed into our country's consciousness, for generations, and is now being taken as gospel, by the general population. Break the Taboo, Stomp out the STIGMA! Give it up for the most beneficial plant in the world, and stop all this foolishness. We don't have the money to waste on it, anymore.

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 5:13am Permalink
Simon Wood (not verified)

Considering nothing changed on this problem in NZ during Helen's 9 yrs as PM, is this a sign of an 'awakening' to the issue, or just hypocrisy, as the 1st 'readers comment' on the story maintains...??? would be an awakening if she actually started to lecture current NZ PM John Key to change the law, otherwise its just platitudes & a useless puffery of hot air...maybe it'll make a difference in 5-10 tears, but world leaders need to make radical changes to drug policy NOW, not later...!!

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 5:59am Permalink
mike dar (not verified)

" "And I think the debate going on at the regional level is a very, very useful one." 
Some Politicians, once becoming plutocrats, still use the speak ease about debate/s. Most of the entire world understands 'debate', discussion' and the ever so popular 'look into', only signifies a total lack of concern and completed answer for any follow-up question, especially "Just when is this debate going to happen and end" (never ever).


And as far as taking the 'money out of drugs', start off with not paying for 'speak-ease', or Drug Warriors, DEA, ONDCP, DOJ, IRS, State and local prosecution wastes, there's a lot of money in drugs and this woman is one of those that get that money.

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 9:38am Permalink
zedd (not verified)

As a Kiwi who supports law reform.. I point out the following :

1) NZ has amongst the highest cannabis use in the world (per capita)

2) NZ has a total ZERO-TOLERANCE approach to Cannabis/Illegal Drugs

3) NZ does not allow medicinal use.. similar to other western nations

4) NZ spends $millions annually; arresting, prosecuting & criminalising cannabis users

5) NZ has amongst the highest prison population (per capita) for 'Drug offenders' in OECD

6) The indigenous 'Maori' make up about 20% of NZ polpulation, but over 50% of prison population. About 40-50% of these are for 'drug related' offences

7) Ms Clark was PM for 9 years & did NOTHING to even address these stats. She is a HYPOCRITE !

"Kia-ora Koutou Katoa"

Fri, 06/21/2013 - 11:23pm Permalink

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