Ilona Szabó de Carvalho: 4 lessons I learned from taking a stand against drugs and gun violence

Throughout her career in banking Ilona Szabó de Carvalho never imagined she’d someday start a social movement. But living in her native Brazil, which leads the world in homicidal violence, she realized she couldn’t just stand by and watch drugs and guns tear her country apart. Szabó de Carvalho reveals four crucial lessons she learned when she left her cushy job and took a fearless stand against the status quo.

Ilona Szabó de Carvalho leads the Igarapé Institute in Rio de Janeiro, which focuses on security and development policy.

Ilona Szabó de Carvalho is a drug policy and public security specialist with experience from Brazil and around the world. A founder of the Igarapé Institute, a think-and-do tank, she also coordinates the international Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Over the past decade, Ilona has played a central role in triggering debate on progressive approaches to preventing violence, advocating gun control and police reform, and dealing with drugs, pushing for a radical re-examination of key policies. In particular, recognizing that drug prohibition has done little to slake demand for drugs or to reduce profit margins for the cartels (and the armed violence to which they are inexorably linked), de Carvalho believes we should shift the control of drugs from organized crime to governments -- and view abuse as a health problem, not as a criminal offense.

“Calling the global war on drugs a costly failure, a group of high-profile world leaders is urging the Obama administration and other governments to end ‘the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do no harm to others.’” — LA Times [on the GCDP, June 1, 2011]

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