Photo by Max Bohme via Unsplash

Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

By Jonathan Goodhand, Patrick Meehana, Jasmine Bhatia, Maziyar Ghiabia andFrancisco Gutiérrez Sanín.

Recent years have seen the emergence of a policy consensus around the need for fundamental reforms of global drug policies. This is reflected in the call for ‘development-oriented drug policies’ that align and integrate drug policies with development and peacebuilding objectives, as captured in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These calls have been important in acknowledging the damage caused by the War on Drugs and in drawing attention to how drugs are inextricably linked to wider development and peacebuilding challenges. Yet there is surprisingly limited academic research that looks critically at the drugs-development-peace nexus and which asks whether the goals of a ‘drug-free world’, ‘sustainable development’ and ‘the promotion of peace’ are commensurate with one another, can be pursued simultaneously, or are indeed achievable.

This article studies these policy fields and policymaking processes from the geographical margins of the state –frontiers and borderland regions – because they offer a privileged vantage point for studying the contested nature of policymaking in relation to the drug-development-peace nexus.

We set out a historical political economy framework to critically assess the assumptions underlying the integrationist agenda, as well as the evidence base to support it. By developing the notion of a policy trilemma we are critical of the dominant policy narrative that ‘all good things come together’, showing instead the fundamental tensions and trade-offs between these policy fields. In exploring the interactions between these policy fields, we aim to advance discussion and debate on how to engage with the tensions and trade-offs that this integrationist agenda reveals, but which have to date been largely ignored.