Drugs, Security, and Democracy Fellows: Making a Difference in Latin America

When advocates for drug policy reform look back upon 2012, they are likely to regard it as a turning point for drug policy in Latin America—as the year when the “war on drugs” paradigm began to be seriously and publicly called into question. Starting with the Summit of the Americas in March, when Latin American presidents began to publicly critique the current strategy, to the audacious proposal of President Mujíca of Uruguay to control and regulate the marijuana market, to new proposals for decriminalization in Brazil, there is now a thriving debate on international drug control policies. In the search for alternatives, however, it has become clear that much more research is needed to understand the dynamics of the drug trade as well as the collateral impacts on security and violence.

To that end, the Drugs, Security, and Democracy Fellowship program was created in 2010 by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), with support from the Open Society Foundations. The ultimate goal of the program—which supports doctoral and post-doctoral research on drugs and security issues for up to a year—is to develop a concentration of researchers who are interested in achieving policy-relevant outcomes, participating in a global interdisciplinary network, and serving as public intellectuals on drug and security issues in their respective countries. 

Currently, there are only a few academics and scholars who have studied these issues, and very little new scholarship is being developed particularly by a younger, new generation of scholars. The Drugs, Security, and Democracy Fellowship aims to develop a new group of scholars to begin to fill this gap. Their research and policy proposals will be essential for shaping new and innovative policies. While helping researchers who can have an impact on policy is a long-term aim of the program, fellows are already participating in major drug policy conferences (at Brown University and a Google Ideas conference), briefing policymakers in government (in Mexico and the United States) and international organizations (e.g., for UNDP), and leading workshops for journalists (Central America). 

Thus far the fellowship program has supported two cohorts of doctoral and post-doctoral fellows, with 20 fellows in the 2011–2012 cohort, and 26 in the 2012–2013 group. Collaborating with the SSRC are two Latin American universities in this enterprise, both of which have begun new drug policy research centers, one at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and the other at CIDE (Region Centro) in Aguascalientes. In addition to providing funding for field work, the fellows are brought together—at the beginning and end of their fellowship year—to a seminar in which they discuss their work with other fellows and senior academic mentors. In the first two years, this meeting was held in Colombia, while in 2013 the seminar will take place in Mexico.

In the video above, the Open Society Latin America Program and the SSRC asked some of the first-year fellows to share their thoughts on their experience with the fellowship program. The new call for applications for the 2013–2014 fellowship is now online, where a list of the 2011 and 2012 fellows and their topics can also be found.

Learn More:



Realmente no es un asunto en lo cual haya estado involucrada con respecto a trabajo, pero mi opiniòn personal es que los esfuerzos conjuntos de los paìses para erradicar este flagelo, deben empoderarse a un mas. Nuestros hijos y familias sufren las consecuencias de violencia que causa el crimen organizado y por ello cualquier programa que se utilice para ponerle un alto es siempre importante. Divulgarè el contenido de esta Beca y el valor que pueda surgir en la aplicaciòn de acciones que contribuyan a ponerle un alto a este serio problema social. Gracias

I commend Open Society Foundations for their work and hopefully more institutions will follow suit ASAP for the need is ever greater!

me encantaria saber porque en Puerto Rico las personas que realmente estamos trabajando con inmensa intensidad en las areas de servicio, politica publica, defensa de derechos y denuncia publica ademas de crear estructuras de abordaje afines con politicas liberales, no somos tomados en cuenta NUNCA cuando este tipo de becas se presenta, me pregunto a quien debemos de conocer, cual es el criterio para no se excluido? Abra alguien que se atreva contestarme ya.

I would love to know why people in Puerto Rico we are really working with immense commitment in the areas of service, public policy, advocacy and public denunciation besides create structures similar approach with liberal policies, are not taken into account when such scholarship is presented, I wonder who we should know to get access to this type of forum, what is the criteria for not be excluded? Will anyone dare to answer?

I am the Executive Director for one stop career center of PR that organization serve to victim of crime with exoffenders, women, men and youth at risk. I would like working with your organization and I would like to create an alliance.
Thank you so much

Drug Policy review is an important issue not just for Latin America but for West Africa too. I served as Governmentv Chemist from 1991-1997, during the period, one worked with the Dru Control Agency to develop a National Strategy, but that is now part of history. The challenges in drug control are multidimensional and a lot of understanding of the dynamics of the communtiy has to be taken on board to get some level of success.
I would be very glad to share experiences on this subject.

good work; stop the violence-legalize drugs !

Gracias por compartir información de este magnífico trabajo. Me gustaría tener la posibilidad de capacitarme en este Programa. Soy abogada y trabajo en el Poder Judicial de la provincia de Formosa- Argentina como directora de capacitación judicial. Por favor, si puedo participar, le solicito me envíe información. Gracias nuevamente.

Please, how can i participate in this campaign to change lives. I want to. Thank you.

Imagine a village. Democratic. A horrid beast kills 10% of people. The village pays a “power” to get rid of the beast. No result, same 10% killed but, meanwhile, the “power” takes control of the village. End of Democracy. Obvious solution: dismiss the “power”. The “power” will cry .. But I am trying to save lives. Will you listen to it ?

I would like to be one of the participants on war against drugs.kindly advise.

My hat is off to the Open Society Foundation. Coming from Mexico and seeing what is happening in my own home makes me want to be part of such projects like this one. Amazing work.

I am not either Puerto Rican, or live in Puerto Rico, but have worked in rehabilitation from Miami in Puerto Rico and have insight knowledge of Puerto Rican heroin users both in Miami and Puerto Rico. The need in Puerto Rico is extraordinarily huge, creating a lot of social and economic problems in the island and abroad. I could see the frustration expressed by the doctor, and his wish to contribute to the solutions by developing studies. My hat is off to you doctor and you have my emotional support, as well as my recommendation. If you need someone that can provide you with reference to the problem in Puerto Rico, please do not hesitate to email me [email protected]
Good luck sir.

Quisiera recibir información sobre vuestro programa de becas doctorales y otras becas para participar en pasantías. Me podrían indicar cómo registrarse, mi correo anterior lo perdí y me gustaría retomar contacto con ustedes. Saludos cordiales, Alejandra Lunecke.

Add your voice