Monday, October 29, 2012

Governing the Global Drug Wars

Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed, and worse, have spurred black market violence and human rights abuses. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform?

This IDEAS Special Report contains is a superb set of essays about the origins of global drug prohibition and the current policy debate. It was launched at The Global Drugs War event.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Revisiting the Limits to Growth.

At 2.00 pm. on Monday 5 November, the Development Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy in partnership with Australia 21 and the Purves Environmental Fund will be presenting a forum entitled Revisiting the limits to growth: A global forecast for the next forty years.

The principal speaker will be Jorgen Randers, Professor of Climate Strategy from the BI Norwegian Business School, is one of the world's most respected and rigorous global systems experts. Forty years ago he co-wrote the best-selling environmental book of all time -- The Club of Rome's 1972 Limits to Growth, which set out different scenarios, including ones of overshooting and collapse, out to 2100.

Now, 40 years later, Randers asks the question: “What will the world look like in another 40 years?” His answer is in his new book, 2052 - A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years.

Following the presentation by Professor Randers, Paul Gilding will offer his perspectives. Paul Gilding recently published The Great Disruption, and also serves on the global faculty of the University of Cambridge's Program for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL). He argues that the world will embark on an emergency response to prevent environmental catastrophe. A member of Crawford School of Public Policy will also provide comments.

Registration may be effected here, where you can also find venue details.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sarah Edelman on the rights of the dying

Yesterday’s edition of The Sydney Morning Herald carried an opinion piece by Dr Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist and vice-president of Dying with Dignity NSW.

After describing the sufferings endured by her father in the last weeks before he died from stomach cancer, despite receiving the best of palliative care, she notes that

Repeated opinion polls have found the overwhelming majority of Australians (more than 80 per cent) believe euthanasia should be legal under specific circumstances.

In spite of this, she says, most of the bills relating to voluntary euthanasia to be introduced in four states next year are unlikely to pass because of the strong religious views held by some members of the major parties:

The two main parties have strong religious advocates among their MPs who consistently oppose moves for reform on popular social issues such as gay marriage, stem cell research and euthanasia. Others who do not personally hold strong religious views are cowered by the powerful religious lobby.

Religious groups, including Right to Life Australia, argue all that is necessary is good palliative care. If only it were that simple. The sad reality is that not all suffering can be alleviated, even at the best facilities. Many complex medical conditions come with terrible symptoms, and the process of dying often involves suffering.

She concludes:

It is time for Australians to stand up for the rights of the dying. When suffering is intolerable and death is inevitable a peaceful death should be a basic human right.

Read Dr Edelman’s full piece here.

Australia21 will have something to say on this subject shortly; we are planning to release next month a discussion paper on the subject, addressing the question “How should Australia regulate voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide”, with a view to holding a roundtable on it early in the new year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

UK Drug Policy Commission recommends decriminalisation

Today’s edition of The Guardian reports that a six-year study of Britain's drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

Their report says the £3bn a year spent tackling illegal drugs is not based on any evidence of what works, with much of the money wasted on policies that are not cost-effective.

Sadly, as in this country, the Government's attitude will remain knee-jerk rather than evidence-based. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, last month ruled out any moves towards decriminalisation, saying it would lead to further problems.

Read the full account in The Guardian here.