Let's Get Real About Drugs! - Poster Contest

February 17, 2016

Drugreporter is now accepting entries to a poster contest about the alternatives of punitive drug policies.

Call For Submissions

The Rights Reporter Foundation (RRF) is now accepting submissions to the “Let's Get Real About Drugs!” poster contest, as part of our campaign to raise awareness on alternatives to punitive drug policies. The contest is targeting the 20-year review of global drug control efforts at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in New York, April 2016. For details and the rules of the contest, please see below.

What is the UNGASS and why is it significant in drug history?

In April 2016, the UN will hold a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs – a meeting of high-ranking government officials in New York to review the past 20 years of global drug control efforts and to adopt an outcome document. The last UNGASS on drugs took place in New York 20 years ago, in 1998. That meeting was dominated by the slogan “A drug-free world: we can do it!” and, accordingly, the target adopted was to significantly reduce the demand and supply of illicit drugs within 10 years.

Twenty years later, we can see that member states have failed to achieve these targets. The problem is, that drugs are here to stay - a drug-free world is an illusion. However, we have learned in these 20 years what really works instead of more repression: more prevention, more treatment and more harm reduction. What works is not punishment - but investing in public health, respecting human rights and providing social care for vulnerable people. We have robust scientific evidence proving that programs such as needle and syringe programs, community treatment, street outreach, drug consumption rooms, opiate substitution treatment, drug checking, interactive school prevention, social reintegration are not only very effective in reducing drug-related harms, but save money for the whole of society. Still, governments spend trillions of dollars on drug law enforcement, but only a fragment of what would be needed on harm reduction programs. The first draft of the UNGASS outcome document does not event mention harm reduction programs. This is unacceptable in the 21st century!   

For further reading on the UNGASS 2016 and its significance, see:

What is UNGASS 2016? (Open Society Foundations)

The International Drug Policy Consortium’s info site
Official UNGASS site

UNGASS: Weighing the Chances (Drugreporter)

Why did we launch this contest?

We can see from recent UN statements that there is a spirit of reform in the air – but without pressure from civil society, we cannot expect governments to do anything other than congratulate themselves for what they have done already. There is very little knowledge or discussion, amongst the general public, about the failure of the punitive drug policies and the success of harm reduction – therefore we need to raise public awareness of the harms caused by this system, and promote alternatives to the current framework. This is the intended purpose of the posters we are calling for. The posters will be exhibited in New York City during the UNGASS in April. 


What Kind of Posters Are We Looking for?

This contest aims to contribute to the above aim by highlighting the unintended consequences of drug control efforts on public health, crime, environment, human rights – by articulating personal stories and tragedies, lost opportunities and liberties, and the irreversible damage that has been caused to lives and property. We are also looking for posters pointing out what really works instead of punishment: harm reduction and treatment programs, reality-based education, pragmatism, success stories, lives spared and money saved. We are looking for creative, attention-grabbing and poignant images which will graphically express the everyday reality and impact of the global drug war on public health, public security and human rights.

What posters are NOT ELIGIBLE

- drug prevention materials highlighting the dangers of drug use, promoting a drug-free lifestyle etc.

- posters with a racist/stigmatising message

- posters promoting drugs or drug use

- simplistic messages (eg. a cannabis leaf with “legalise it“ will not be eligible)

Recommended Topics


- Risky drug use in dark alleys vs. supervised drug consumption rooms
- Black market with organised crime vs. a regulated drug market with state control
- Wasting police resources on drug offences vs. on serious crimes
- Corruption of the criminal justice system in prohibition vs. rule of law
- Imprisonment of drug users vs. social reintegration of drug users
- Forced eradication of crops vs. development-oriented help to farmers in developing countries
- Fear-based vs. reality-based drug education & prevention
- Spending money on ineffective punishment vs. spending money on effective treatment and harm reduction programs 
- Stigmatisation of drug users vs. social justice and acceptance
- Contrast between attitudes towards licit and illicit drugs
- Spreading HIV/AIDS vs. effective interventions, such as needle and syringe programs
- Forced treatment vs. voluntary community treatment
Contest Rules


eligibility: this contest is open only to individuals and/or organisations from any country who submit original posters that they have personally created;
posters can illustrate fictional scenes – but they should be based on existing, real problems in the context of the global and national drug control regimes;

you may submit multiple entries, so long as each entry meets all requirements;

posters should be submitted in high-quality format. The file should be 300 dpi, ideally A2 size or bigger. It can be smaller than A3 but it has to have good resolution. The files should be sent to our email: rightsreporter@righstreporter.net;

you must add a title and a short description (where and when it was taken and what it illustrates) to the poster, in English;

each entrant can win only one prize.


Deadline for poster submission IS EXTENDED: 31 March, 2016

(Entries posted later than the deadline will not be considered.)

Where to send submissions?

All submissions should be sent to this email: rightsreporter@rightsreporter.net


RRF will select the ten best poster submissions. Each winner will be selected by a panel of experts based on the following equally-weighted criteria: originality, creativity, appeal to a worldwide audience and delivery of a clear message about the failure of the current drug control system and/or a positive message about alternatives to the current drug control system.


The Best Poster Submission will be awarded a prize of 800 USD, the Second Best Poster Submission, 500 USD, and the Third Best Poster Submission, 200 USD. Please be aware that winners must present a Tax Residence Certificate (available at the tax authority of the country of your residence) in order to receive their payments.


Creative Commons

All submissions to the contest will be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. The choice of license shows RRF’s commitment to the ethos of free culture.

Exhibiton & Ads 

RF plans to organise a poster exhibition of the best poster submissions in April 2016 in New York City. RRF may also use all photo and video materials in its campaign in the form of public ads, posters, flyers, stickers etc.

If you have any questions please write to Ms. Márta Dunay, our head of administration at rightsreporter@rightsreporter.net!