Philippines war on drugs reveals UN tensions

Josh Baah:

The new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has declared a clampdown on drug users and traffickers. Since he became president earlier this summer over 2000 people have died in this war on drugs. One of the main concerns here is that the majority of the killings seem to not be carried out by the police. Last Friday, the national police chief encouraged the general population to go out and kill drug traffickers by suggesting they “pour gasoline on their homes and set these on fire.” The stark rise in violence towards drug users and traffickers has raised some concern amongst the international community in the Philippines with the vice-president of BDO Unibank stating their “concerns centre on the extra-judicial killings.”

This approach to combating drug related problems comes at a time where the international community is debating a much more liberal research-driven approach to the war on drugs with Ex UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaking at the UNGASS on drug policy earlier this year. Here the failures of criminalisation on communities were highlighted and a focus on health and well-being promoted. Countries such as Portugal were frequently mentioned with a drug policy which managed to reduce drug usage through medical help rather than criminalisation. By creating a working relationship between public health officers and the police you can address the root of the problem (demand), rather than simply attacking aspects of the supply chain.

With the numbers of deaths associated with this drug clampdown continuously rising various UN officials expressed their concern over the rise of these extra-judicial killings as a way to curb the country’s drug problem. To which the President responded with hasty comments highlighting some of the inefficiencies within the UN stating that The Philippines could easily invite other countries such as China to create a new international forum. This statement clearly concerned The White House as Obama is set to meet the leader next week in Manila.

However, this comment does highlight further tensions over the current ordering of UN seating being still dominated by the United States despite the rise of many emerging economies who feel they are not adequately represented. Although some do ask whether countries with questionable human rights records should be given power in large multinational global governance institutions? If not, then we have to consider how will we decide if a country has a genuine interest towards the international community, and thus a justified seat within the UN? Whilst in the mean time some have concerns that within the current UN Security Council, the five permanent members are five of the top seven largest arms exporting countries in the world. These are questions which will continuously pop up as economies in the global East and South emerge to converge with ‘The West’.

Image:  REUTERS/Erik De Castro