UNGASS and the "Drug Free World" illusion

The killer fact is a public speaker’s friend. It can be used as a way of not so much simplifying a complex argument, but of giving the audience a peg on which to anchor the complexity. I deployed a few of them in my talk introducing the drug policy discussion at Splore on Saturday, but none of them stirred as audible a response from the crowd as this part:

At UNGASS 1998 – the second meeting of the United Nations’ most senior policy-making body, the General Assembly, to discuss the global drug problem – the boundlessly confident slogan for the event was: ”A drug-free world – we can do it!”

The slogan was the key line in a UN-funded promotional video, screened as a paid ad on television, featuring helicopters spraying herbicides, fields of burning drug crops, armed soldiers and a farmer processing coffee. The message was clear:

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