Mission Statement: the Beckley Foundation Public Letter

The global war on drugs has failed. It is time for a new approach.

We call on Governments and Parliaments to recognise that:

Fifty years after the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was launched, the global war on drugs has failed, and has had many unintended and devastating consequences worldwide.

Use of the major controlled drugs has risen, and supply is cheaper and more available than ever before. The UN conservatively estimates that there are now over 250 million drug users worldwide.

Illicit drugs are now the third most valuable industry in the world, after food and oil, all in the control of criminals. Fighting the war on drugs costs the world’s taxpayers incalculable billions each year. Millions of people are in prison worldwide for drug-related offences, mostly personal users and small-time dealers.

Corruption amongst law-enforcers and politicians, especially in producer and transit countries, has spread as never before, endangering democracy and civil society. Stability, security and development are threatened by the fallout from the war on drugs, as are human rights. Tens of thousands of people die in the drug war each year.

The drug-free world so confidently predicted by supporters of the war on drugs is further than ever from attainment.The policies of prohibition create more harms than they prevent. We must seriously consider shifting resources away from criminalising tens of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens, and move towards an approach based on health, harm-reduction, cost-effectiveness and respect for human rights.

Evidence consistently shows that these health-based approaches deliver better results than criminalisation. Improving our drug policies is one of the key policy challenges of our time. It is time for world leaders to fundamentally review their strategies in response to the drug phenomenon.

At the root of current policies lies the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is time to re-examine this treaty, which imposes a “one-size-fits-all” solution, in order to allow individual countries the freedom to explore drug policies that better suit their domestic needs.

As the production, demand and use of drugs cannot be eradicated, new ways must be found to minimise harms, and new policies, based on scientific evidence, must be explored.

Let us break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.

Yours faithfully,

President Juan Manuel Santos

President of Colombia

President Otto Pérez Molina

President of Guatemala

President César Gaviria

Former President of Colombia

President Lech Wałęsa

Former President of Poland, Nobel Prize winner

President Aleksander Kwaśniewski

Former President of Poland

Sir Richard Branson

Entrepreneur and Founder of the Virgin Group

Bernardo Bertolucci

Oscar-winning Film Director

Carlos Fuentes

Novelist and essayist

Sean Parker

Founding President of Facebook, Director of Spotify

Thorvald Stoltenberg

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Asma Jahangir

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Execution

Louise Arbour, CC, GOQ

Former UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights

Professor Sir Anthony Leggett

Physicist, Nobel Prize winner

Dr. Kary Mullis

Chemist, Nobel Prize winner

Maria Cattaui

Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce

Wisława Szymborska

Poet, Nobel Prize winner

Professor Sir Harold Kroto

Chemist, Nobel Prize winner

Professor Sir Harold Kroto

Chemist, Nobel Prize winner

Gilberto Gil

Musician, former Minister of Culture, Brazil

Professor Thomas C. Schelling

Economist, Nobel Prize winner

Professor Sir Peter Mansfield

Economist, Nobel Prize winner

Professor Niall Ferguson

Professor of History at Harvard University

Professor Colin Blakemore

Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and University of Warwick

Professor David Nutt

Former Chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs

Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta

Professor of Economics at Cambridge

Dr. Julian Huppert, MP

Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform

Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari, MBE

Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

Trudie Styler

Actress and producer

Professor Peter Singer

Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University

Lord Mancroft

Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Foundation

Professor A. C. Grayling

Master of the New College of the Humanities

General Lord Ramsbotham

Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Lord MacDonald, QC

Former Head of the Crown Prosecution Service

Sir Peregrine Worsthorne

Former Editor of The Sunday Telegraph

Tom Brake, MP

Co-chair of the Lib Dem Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Parliamentary Policy Committee

President Jimmy Carter

Former President of the United States of America

President Fernando H. Cardoso

Former President of Brazil

President Ruth Dreifuss

Former President of Switzerland

President Vincente Fox

Former President of Mexico

Professor Noam Chomsky

Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT

George P. Schultz

Former US Secretary of State

Yoko Ono

Musician and artist

Mario Vargas Llosa

Writer, Nobel Prize winner

Jaswant Singh

Former Minister of Defence, of Finance, and for External Affairs, India


Musician and actor

Michel Kazatchkine

United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS

John Whitehead

Former US Deputy Secretary of State

John Perry Barlow

Co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Javier Solana, KOGF, KCMG

Former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Professor Kenneth Arrow

Economist, Nobel Prize winner

Jeremy Thomas

Film Producer

Professor John Polanyi

Chemist, Nobel Prize winner

Pavel Bém

Former Mayor of Prague

Dr. Jan Wiarda

Former President of European Police Chiefs

Professor Lord Piot

Former UN Under Secretary-General

Professor Martin L. Perl

Physicist, Nobel Prize winner

Lord Rees, OM

Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore

Former President of the Royal College of Physicians

Professor Trevor Robbins

Professor of Neuroscience at Cambridge

Caroline Lucas, MP

Leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton

Professor Jonathan Wolff

Professor of Philosophy at UCL

Carel Edwards

Former Head of the EU Commission’s Drug Policy Unit

Professor Robin Room

School of Population Health, University of Melbourne

Gary Johnson

Former Republican US Presidential Candidate

Bob Ainsworth, MP

Former UK Secretary of State for Defence

Nicholas Green, QC

Former Chairman of the Bar Council

Peter Lilley, MP

Former Secretary of State for Social Security

Tom Lloyd

Former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire

Professor Robert Grayling

Dean of School of Medicine, KCL

Paul Flynn, MP

Labour MP for Newport West

Dr. Patrick Aeberhard

Former President of Doctors of the World

Amanda Feilding

Director of the Beckley Foundation

  • 2012