Drugs and Development Policies: a discussion with the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Hosted by the School of Public Policy and the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Online public event


Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

Helen Clark

Helen Clark

Ruth Dreifuss

Ruth Dreifuss

Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Motlanthe


Professor Andrés Velasco

Professor Andrés Velasco

In the last decade, the negative consequences of the international drug control regime based on repression and coercion have increasingly become visible barriers to sustainable development. Despite important reforms and paradigm changes in certain countries and regions, drug policies still pose serious challenges to the international development objectives.

These consequences range from negative outcomes in control of infectious diseases, in access to controlled pain relief, in over incarceration and disproportionality of sentencing targeting certain populations, to breaches in the rule of law as drug laws are not complied with. These consequences are visible and dire at all levels of governance, and affect the most marginalized populations first.

What can be done to mitigate the negative consequences of drug policies on development, and what reforms are suggested? This high-level discussion will explore the experiences of four former heads of state or government, from four regions in the world, to discuss the medium and long-term solutions to the harms created by current drug control policies.   

Meet our speakers and chair

Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (@JuanManSantos) is the former President of the Republic of Colombia, serving two terms, from 2010 to 2018. He was Colombia’s first Foreign Trade Minister, has been Minister of Finance and before being elected President, was Minister for National Defence. Prior to entering politics, President Santos was deputy director of El Tiempo newspaper, and wrote a weekly opinion column. He was awarded the King of Spain International Journalism Award and named president of the Freedom of Expression Commission for the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). In 2016 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a member of The Elders, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and a Honorary Graduate of LSE. President Santos studied for a Master of Science in the Department of Economics at LSE in 1975. 

Helen Clark (@HelenClarkNZ) is a global leader on sustainable development, gender equality and international co-operation. She served three successive terms as Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1999 and 2008. She then became the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator for two terms from 2009 to 2017, the first woman to lead the organisation. She was also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the Heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues. In 2019 Helen Clark became patron of The Helen Clark Foundation. In 2020, she was elected chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Ruth Dreifuss was elected Federal Councillor in 1993 by the Federal Assembly, and was re-elected twice. From 1993 to her resignation in 2002, she was Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, in charge of public health and social insurance. During the year 1999, Ruth Dreifuss was President of the Swiss Confederation. After her retirement from government, she chaired the commission mandated by WHO that reported on public health, innovation and intellectual property rights, and co-chaired the High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, mandated by the United Nations Secretary-General. Ruth Dreifuss is member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which she chaired from 2016 to 2020. She also serves as a member of the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

Kgalema Motlanthe was elected President of the Republic of South Africa by the Parliament in September 2008, a position he held until 9 May 2009. He was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to serve as the Deputy President. He served in that position from 11 May 2009 until 24 May 2014. Motlanthe also served two five-year terms as Secretary General of the ANC from December 1997 to December 2007, and was the Deputy President of the African National Congress from December 2007 to December 2012. He now heads the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation that was established when he left office of government and is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Andrés Velasco (@AndresVelasco) is the Dean of the LSE School of Public Policy. He was the Minister of Finance in Chile between 2006 and 2010 and has held professorial roles at the Harvard Kennedy School and Columbia University´s School of International and Public Affairs. 

More about this event

The School of Public Policy (@LSEPublicPolicy) equips you with the skills and ideas to transform people and societies. It is an international community where ideas and practice meet. Their approach creates professionals with the ability to analyse, understand and resolve the challenges of contemporary governance.

The purpose of The Global Commission on Drug Policy (@globalcdp) is to bring to the international level an informed, science-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs and drug control policies to people and societies.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEPolicy

Podcast, Video and Policy Brief

A podcast of this event is available to download from Drugs and Development Policies: a discussion with the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

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