London School of Economics

International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU)

LSE’s role within the project is to lead the policy engagement and advocacy strands of activities.

LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU) will ensure that the research produced by the project plays a key role in global drug policy debates in the coming years by increasing the capacity of country partners to utilise academic and local research to drive policy discussions at local, national and international levels as appropriate.

LSE will also work to enable new government-funded research initiatives across partners and countries as we develop new networks and government interest in this topic.

John Collins
Co-Investigator; Communications Lead; Policy Engagement co-lead

I earned my PhD from the Department of International History at the London School of Economics with a thesis focusing on Anglo-American relations and international drug control over the period 1939-1964. In particular I looked at the creation of the United Nations (UN) Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961.

While working on my PhD I became involved in drug policy as the failures of the “war on drugs” became a topic of intense public debate. Feeling that academia had something important to contribute to these discussions I set up LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit in 2012 to try provide greater context and insights to debates at the time. Since then IDPU has been working on a wide variety of projects across Europe, the Americas and Asia while continuing to develop my own research on the history of international drug control.

I see this project as an opportunity to fundamentally change how policy makers and populations think about illicit drug economies and development.

I am the co-lead on policy engagement and the communication lead. I also serve as the strategic link between the LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit and this GCRF project. My research focuses on the history strand, developing archival-based historical research explaining the political economy of drug control in national, regional and international contexts

Dave Mansfield
Co Investigator – Lead on Research Strands 1-3 in Afghanistan

My background is in development and drugs policy. I have worked in each of the main drug crop producing regions over the last three decades but focused my efforts in Afghanistan, conducting research in rural areas each opium poppy growing season since June 1997.

My work within and for governments means that I have deep insights into the policy making process as well as in operational work in Afghanistan. For example, I worked as a technical adviser to the government of the United Kingdom in its role as lead nation (subsequently partner) on counter-narcotics for 12.5 years, as well as for a variety of different national, bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental organisations.

Most recently, I led an in-depth review of the US counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan for the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) acting as lead researcher and writer of their Lessons Learned Report on the subject. I have supported the World Bank, Asia Development Bank and the European Commission in integrating the drugs issue into their rural development programs and worked with contractors like DAI in the field. I have also provided expert advice for a variety of different academic and government organisations, including the Afghan government, as well as briefed some of the most senior policy makers in the UK, US, Afghan governments, as well as the United Nations.

As one of the original architects of the project my hope is we can build a solid and robust evidence-base alongside resilient research partners, and thereby reshape the debate on illicit economies and drugs in development policy.

Alexander Söderholm
Researcher - Ethics and Security Lead Coordinator

I am currently an MPhil/PhD Candidate in Social Policy at the LSE Department of Social Policy with a project titled 'Drugs, Livelihoods, and Development: The Role of Illicit Markets in Determining Development Outcomes'.

This reflects my research interest in the intersection between illicit drug markets and development outcomes, specifically on questions related to harm reduction and health, livelihoods, and security. I have been at LSE since 2015, and prior to that I worked at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Tehran as well as on projects in a number of developing countries on issues related to sustainable development.
I hold an MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from LSE (2015), and a BA in International Relations with Political Science from the University of Birmingham (2014). Through this project I hope to contribute to the academic debate on conducting research in fragile and conflict-affected environments.

I am the lead for Ethics and Security, liaising with partners, field researchers, and other stakeholders on the ethical and security aspects of the project. I am also coordinating the effort to build an evidence-base of the opportunities and obstacles to study drugs and development in borderland areas, contributing to the academic debate on conducting research in fragile and conflict-affected environments.

Sallyann Oates
Administrative and Financial Coordinator – LSE IDPU

I am the Administrative Coordinator for LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit.
Prior to this I gained over a decade of experience working within LSE’s Finance Division.

I am coordinating the LSE’s involvement in the project, including covering event management, financial oversight, and project support services.