3. The Global Drug Policy Index: A unique accountability tool to assess and rank countries’ drug policies
Background: Drug policies have traditionally been measured with indicators focusing on numbers of people arrested and incarcerated, amounts of drugs seized and hectares of crops eradicated, instead of evaluating broader impacts on health, human rights and wellbeing. The Global Drug Policy Index is the first composite index that measures and compares national drug policies according to how well countries align with the rights-, health- and development-centred recommendations of the United Nations (UN).
Methods: The Harm Reduction Consortium partnered with Swansea University to develop the complex Index methodology with inputs from civil society, academia, experts in indices, and UN officials. The Index comprises 75 indicators running across five dimensions: absence of extreme responses, proportionality of the criminal justice response, harm reduction, availability of controlled medicines, and development. It looks both at policies and their implementation on the ground, with the first edition evaluating 30 countries from around the world. Data collection included both desk-based research and a civil society survey.
Results: Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK and Australia ranked at the top of the Index, with Norway – raking first – only scoring 74/100 overall, with a particularly low score on criminal justice. The lowest-ranking country – Brazil – only received a score of 26/100. The median score across all countries and dimensions reached a mere 48/100.
Conclusion: The Index underscores that: 1- drug policies based on repression and punishment continue to prevail; 2- there are wide disparities between policies on paper and their implementation on the ground, especially in the areas of harm reduction and access to controlled medicines; 3- drug policies are inherently complex, with various countries scoring relatively high in some dimensions of drug policy, while receiving very low scores in others; 4- drug policies disproportionately impact people marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic status.