Rebels without a clue PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

Posted: 5 March 2008

Within Europe in recent years, a few influential pop stars and other fashion-conscious celebrities have been at the forefront of efforts to improve living standards in Africa. Bob Geldof's renowned Live Aid concerts and Bono's Drop the Debt campaign have been vital in raising political awareness and money to tackle the continent's economic crisis. Stopping the trade in blood diamonds and promoting fair trade with Africa have been two other favoured causes of the celebrity elite.

And yet for every rebel with a cause, there are ten others without a clue. While some well-meaning pop idols and film stars might rage against suffering in Africa, their work is being undermined by the drug habits of their careless peers. Because much of the cocaine used in Europe passes through impoverished countries in West Africa, where the drugs trade is causing untold misery, corruption, violence and instability.

As a result, there is a danger of history repeating itself. In the nineteenth century, Europe's hunger for slaves devastated West Africa. Two hundred years later its growing appetite for cocaine could do the same. The Gold Coast is becoming the Coke Coast. So severe is the problem that it is now threatening to bring about the collapse of some West African states where weak and corrupt governments are vulnerable to the corrosive influence of drug money. This comes at a time when the region was starting to get on its feet after suffering years of conflict and poverty. In short, while some glitterati are trying to save Africa, others are contributing to its demise.

Coke snorting fashionistas are not only damaging their noses and brains - they are contributing to state failure on the other side of the world. Amy Winehouse may adopt a defiant pose and slur her way through songs like 'Rehab'. But does she realize the message that she sends to others who are vulnerable to addiction, and who can not afford expensive treatment? Are such stars who flaunt their drug use aware of the damage caused by the trafficking of cocaine from South America via Africa to Europe? One song, one picture, one quote that makes cocaine look cool can undo millions of pounds worth of anti-drug education and prevention.

Yet why is this behaviour socially acceptable? If Ms. Winehouse or Kate Moss advertised fur coats or blood diamonds, there would be a backlash. And yet when they are poster girls for drug abuse nobody seems to care.

The media deserves much of the blame. The entertainment industry puts a gloss on the latest drug scandal and uncritically spins the story for all its worth. Notoriety sells. Whereas when stars, like Eric Clapton, discreetly seek treatment for their addiction there is little interest. If the media wants to assume some social responsibility, it should not act as cheerleader or megaphone for celebrity junkies.


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January 2011 11:07