Globally it is difficult for governments to control drug trafficking. The UN estimates that there are more than 50 million regular uses of heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy worldwide. It is thought that the global illegal trade could be worth as much as $400 billion per year, almost as much as the international tourist trade. This creates employment for thousands of people legally and illegally.
How and Where?
It could be said to be the largest ‘industry’ worldwide. Predominantly it is the US and Europe who provide the demand and the market, and the poorest countries supply.
The illegal drugs trade is found all over the world.
Drugs are produced, trafficked, and consumed in most countries of the world.
Heroin and Opium– South East Asia and all along the Mexican border, Turkey, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Central Asia
Cocaine – Colombia and the Andes
The end of the Cold War and the increasing freedom of global economy have facilitated the traffic. It is generally accepted that it is easier now than it has ever been before to move legal or illegal goods around the world.
Even Laboratory-produced synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy are being distributed out of Europe to parts of Africa and The Middle East.
Do governments have the power to restrain the international drugs trade?
For years the government and other international organizations have tried to disrupt the trafficking of drugs between countries like Columbia and the profitable markets of the West.
These attempts were futile for a number of reasons:
1) Poverty: those who produce drugs are usually in the poorest countries of the world and producers frequently earn 20 times more than they would from poverty wages in a legitimate occupation. Individuals will take huge risks even when governments clamp down on such activities, to maintain production. In Colombia, it is estimated that 20% of the population depends on the production of cocaine for their livelihood and it outsells all other exports; including coffee.
2) : Countries like Afghanistan have been war torn for many years, and so the focus has not been on the production of Drugs. Interestingly, under the Taliban’s rule more effort was made to clamp down on production than after the US invasion. Since then Afghanistan’s share of Opium has risen from 76% in 2003 to 86 % in 2004 (UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2005).
3) Lack of financial aid and personnel to police the marketing of drugs, especially since production usually takes place in countries with struggling economies. George Bush 1980 managed to provide Columbia with financial aid and military personal to tackle the power of Medellin drugs cartel which had acted like a state within a state. After a year on the run Pablo Escobar was arrested but was still able to dictate the terms of his imprisonment.
4) Culture: in many countries such as Somalia, Jamaica and Columbia, it is suggested that there is no overt of firm boundary between legal and illegal business activity. Individual and groups move between the worlds of politics, crime and business almost effortlessly and this sustains and spreads the illegitimate activity.
5) Global Markets: if producers or traffickers find themselves under inspection in any particular country, business simply moves elsewhere. EG. When the US moved into Colombia, and neighbouring Bolivia the new source of activity.
6) Impact of law on other countries: in a