We are monitoring global drug policies and advocating UN human rights alignment

the world

The Challenge

Existing drug policies around the world are founded on a “war on drugs” narrative. These exacerbate harms and lead to widespread human rights violations with drug policy debates and policy-making processes inherently complex, politically charged, multi-faceted and lacking in transparency.

A bold new approach is required to devise better policies, increase harm-reduction funding, and improve the lives of people who use drugs.

The Method

Utilising available data from governments, the UN and other sources, Professor David Bewley-Taylor and his team, as part of the Harm Reduction Consortium, have developed robust and transparent methodology for the construction of a new composite index to document, measure and compare government policies related to illicit drugs.  The Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI), the world’s first index of its kind, is a unique accountability tool that provides each country with a score and ranking that shows to what extent their drug policies on the books and their implementation on the ground align with UN principles on human rights, health and development.

The Global Drug Policy Index is composed of 75 policy indicators focused predominantly on the following areas:

  • Absence of Extreme Sentencing and Responses

Covering the use of the death penalty, extrajudicial killings, militarised drug law enforcement, life imprisonment and involuntary confinement of people who use drugs as a form of ‘treatment.’

  • Proportionality & Criminal Justice

Focusing on human rights violations in the criminal justice system, including acts of violence and torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, fair trial, the use of mandatory pretrial detention, decriminalisation and other alternatives to prison and punishment, the extent of imprisonment for non-violent drug offences, and differentiated impact of criminal justice responses on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

  • Health & Harm Reduction

Assessing the extent to which state policies prioritise a harm reduction approach for people who use drugs, harm reduction funding, availability and coverage of services, as well as equity in access to services for specific groups.

  • Access to Controlled Medicines

Evaluating whether access to medicines is prioritised in government policies, whether controlled medicines are available and accessible in reality and whether access for specific groups is equitable.


The GDPI seeks to exert considerable social and political pressure as a potent lever for policy change. The GDPI aims to:

  • Improve understanding of specific challenges related to studying drug policy and harm reduction
  • Increase understanding of methodological issues related to the creation of a complex index that captures multi-dimensional phenomena drawing on a range of sources
  • Provide practical and political lessons on how to make such an index impactful, transparent, and politically persuasive
The text reads United Nations Sustainable Development Themes
UN Sustainable goal - Justice
Text reads Swansea University Research Themes