UNODC launched toolkit on synthetic drugs

UNODC launched the United Nations Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, a web-based platform with a wide range of electronic resources that offer innovative and practical tools on how to approach challenges related to synthetic drugs and particularly opioids.

The toolkit is part of UNODC’s Integrated Opioid Strategy that was launched last year to deal with the deadly opioid crisis. UNODC is the lead UN Secretariat entity in providing assistance to Member States in addressing the world drug problem and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and other international and regional organizations is coordinating the development of this toolkit to support countries in addressing the threat of synthetic drugs.

The Toolkit offers a selection of different topics critical in addressing the key challenges presented by synthetic drugs. Generally, these topics range from legislative approaches, forensic capacity, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, and access to medicines to regulation, detection and interdiction. Currently, three modules are complete and accessible: Legal, Forensics and Precursors. The remaining modules are in development and will become available soon. Moreover, the toolkit will be frequently updated and complemented with additional resources.

The toolkit was formally presented by Justice Tettey, Chief of UNODC’s Laboratory and Scientific Section, at a side event during the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), co-organized by the governments of Canada, Columbia and the United States of America.

Justice TetteyMr. Tettey, Chief of UNODC’s Laboratory and Scientific Section, underlined, “the toolkit has been developed in an interactive and user-friendly way for the benefit of Member States. You can have a toolkit in your pocket.”  The U.S. Head of Delegation to the CND’s 62nd Regular Session, Mr. James A. Walsh highlighted the fact that “as an online platform, the toolkit will serve as a self-assessment tool that allows countries to identify and address the specific synthetic drug challenges they are facing.”

Over the past 150 years, humanity has experienced several opioid crises, but none as devastating as the present one. Opioids remain one of the most important classes of medicines, providing essential pain relief and palliative care for many millions of people in need. But the deadly consequences of non-medical use pose some of the greatest drug challenges we face today.

The Toolkit is available following this link>>>

CND 2019 started!

After the two-day Ministerial segment held last week, the Regular segment of the UN Committee for Narcotic Drugs (CND) started on Monday 18 March in Vienna. Several representatives of member organisations and DPNSEE participate in the 62nd CND Session.

The Plenary sessions were dealing with business as usual of the CND and UNODC: Strategic management, budgetary and administrative questions and Implementation of the international drug control treaties.

Side events are of specific interest because they present activities, project, policies, approaches and other results from a variety of stakeholders. Here is a review of a few of them in which we participated today.

Scaling the UNODC-Lions Clubs International Foundation global partnership for school-based prevention

This international programme, implemented in cooperation between UNODC and the International Association of Lions Clubs in the region, seems like recycling the results of the project in previous years. It is a Social and Emotional Learning Program promoting Connection to school, Positive behaviour, Character education, Anti-bullying, Drug, alcohol, and tobacco awareness and Service-learning. The programme included training for a large number of teachers. The project started in South East Europe, first in Serbia, then in Montenegro and North Macedonia and then in Bosnia Herzegovina and El Salvador. Now, preparations are at the end to start it in Croatia, Guatemala and Ivory Coast. More about the programme is available at www.lions-quest.org.

Addressing stigma: Continuing the discussion

Organized by the Governments of Canada, Estonia, Norway and Uruguay, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section and the Civil Society Task Force. Good example of three-times expanding the health care for drug users in Uruguay was presented. Three Whitepapers QuitStigmaNow in Health Services, Workplace and Media prepared by Dianova International were also presented and are worth reading. Dr Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Health at UNODC stated that ‘Evidence suggests that incarceration because of drug related offenses is associated w low socio-economic status. This can result in more stigma & discrimination making them more vulnerable.

Strengthening equity in health and resilience: Taking into account the social determinants and risk factors for non-medical use of drugs and criminality

Organised by governments of Portugal and Sweden and UNODC. The Portuguese representative simply explained that their approach is based on two principles: humanism and pragmatism. In Sweden, they have the Strategy on Alcohol, Narcotics, Doping and Tobacco. Health is in all the policies. The highest prevalence of drug use is in groups with lowest education, especially women. UNODC presented data about strong connection between poverty and drug dependence.

***

An incident

During the Ministerial segment, a group of NGO activists protested in front of the Philippines exhibition. NGO’s were warned to abstain from protesting. Today, we were all invited to make a Vienna NGO group photo. Some used the opportunity to hold posters of their friends who were prevented to participate, because of being arrested or killed. The security of the Vienna International Centre estimated this as an act of demonstration, one which NGOs are doing even if they are warned not to do it, took away the posters, forced people to take of shirts with messages (mainly of the campaign Support. Don’t Punish) and informed us that they will propose that NGO participants will be kicked out of the event.

Civil society disappointed with the Ministerial Declaration

The United Nations (UN) agreed to a new framework for global drug control: a Ministerial Declaration ‘Strengthening our actions at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of our joint commitments to address and counter the world drug problem’. The text of the Declaration is available.

The International Drug Policy Consortium expresses disappointment following the UN’s adoption of a 10-year global drug strategy that fails to deal with the realities and the devastating impacts of punitive drug policies.

In the lead up to this Ministerial Segment, IDPC called repeatedly on Member States to formally and honestly evaluate progress made towards the overarching goal, in the 2009 Political Declaration, to significantly reduce or eliminate the illicit drug market, as well as in the implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document. Unfortunately, a formal and comprehensive review of the past decade of drug policies was not conducted by governments or the UNODC.

In the statement issued, IDPC pointed that governments the world over have utterly failed to make any progress in achieving a drug-free world. Over the past decade, there has been a 31% increase in the number of people who use drugs and an unprecedented rise in the cultivation of opium and coca. Organised crime has also flourished, with the illicit drug trade estimated to now be worth between USD 426 to 652 billion.

In blindly striving for a drug-free world, drug policies have had devastating consequences:

  • Half a million preventable deaths by overdoses and from HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis in 2015 alone
  • A global epidemic of pain which has left 75% of the world’s population without access to pain relief
  • Severe human rights violations, including mass incarceration, 3,940 executions, and tens of thousands of extrajudicial and other unlawful killings.

Unfortunately, the so-called ‘Vienna consensus’ won out and has once again stifled progress in UN drug policy. Even though the document includes a bleak acknowledgement of the scale of the problem, it re-commits the international community to another decade focusing on the elimination of the illicit drug market.

Ann Fordham, IDPC Executive Director, said: “Although some progress has been made in the new Declaration compared to ten years ago, it is disappointing that governments cannot be honest about how repressive drug policies drive devastating harms, more so than the drugs themselves. The consensus-based UN drugs debate has led to the unfortunate recycling of failed and flawed rhetoric that must be called out. Governments would do well to reflect on the evidence before them from the UN system as well as civil society.

To read full IDPC statement follow this link>>>

A week before the Commission for Narcotic Drugs session

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), a functional Commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is the principal policy-making body within the UN system on drug control issues and, as such, is the governing body of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in the area of drugs. It analyses the world drug situation and develops proposals to strengthen the international drug control system to combat the world drug problem. The Sixty-second session of the CND will be held in Vienna, Austria from 18 to 22 March 2019.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs was established in 1946 as a functional Commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The history of CND is presented in the clip presenting its timeline.

In 2019, an extra two days have been added to the usual CND meeting, for a high-level Ministerial Segment. This is because it has been ten years since the adoption of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem. The Ministerial Segment will include a general debate as well as two interactive, multistakeholder round tables and will precede the CND on 14 and 15 March 2019.

The International Drug Policy Consortium streamed a webinar on CND 2019 live on 1 Mar 2019. This webinar shed light on the key controversies that are likely to structure the debates, discussed tabled resolutions and opportunities for engagement and showcased the experience of IDPC network members in navigating and leveraging this forum for political advocacy. Presenters were Jamie Bridge (IDPC), Olga Belyaeva (Eurasian Harm Reduction Association – EHRA) and Nazlee Maghsoudi (Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation – CDPE).

The video from the IDPC webinar is bellow

World Health Organization Recommends Reclassifying Marijuana Under International Treaties

Global health experts at the United Nations are recommending that marijuana and its key components be formally rescheduled under international drug treaties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for whole-plant marijuana, as well as cannabis resin, to be removed from Schedule IV—the most restrictive category of a 1961 drug convention signed by countries from around the world.

The body also wants delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its isomers to be completely removed from a separate 1971 drug treaty and instead added to Schedule I of the 1961 convention, according to a WHO document that has not yet been formally released but was circulated by cannabis reform advocates.

Marijuana and cannabis resin would also remain in Schedule I of the 1961 treaty—they are currently dual-designated in Schedules I and IV, with IV being reserved for those substances that are seen as particularly harmful with limited medical benefits. (That’s different from the U.S. federal system, under which Schedule I is where the supposedly most dangerous and restricted drugs—like marijuana, heroin and LSD—are classified.)

WHO is also moving to make clear that cannabidiol and CBD-focused preparations containing no more than 0.2 percent THC are “not under international control” at all. It had previously been the case that CBD wasn’t scheduled under the international conventions, but the new recommendation is to make that even more clear.

Cannabis extracts and tinctures would be removed from Schedule I of the 1961 treaty under the recommendations, and compounded pharmaceutical preparations containing THC would be placed in Schedule III of that convention.

A number of countries that have historically opposed drug policy reforms, such as Russia and China, are expected to oppose the change in cannabis’s classification.

Other nations like Canada and Uruguay, which have legalize marijuana in contravention of the current treaties, are likely to back the reform, as are a number of European and South American nations that allow medical cannabis.

Also, while some experts state that this is a step forward towards serious independent researches on use of cannabis, others think that the news is still not good enough for consumers and those using cannabis for medical purpose.

cannabis

Preparations for the 2019 Ministerial Segment of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

UN member states have agreed to hold a Ministerial Segment immediately prior to the 62nd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) ‘to take stock of the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem, in particular in the light of the 2019 target date’ set out to eradicate or significantly reduce the overall scale of the illegal drug market. Tentative dates are 18 – 22 March 2019 for the CND and 14 – 15 March 2019 for the high-level segment.

Building on the successful experience of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) consultation organised in the run-up to the UNGASS of 2016 (which reached over 800 organisations from all over the world), a Global Civil Society Consultation has been launched in preparation for the 2019 Ministerial Segment of the CND. The CSTF’s Consultation asks respondents to consider the progress made towards achieving the goals enshrined in the 2009 Political Declaration, and whether these goals should be extended for the next decade. This is a crucial opportunity for civil society to provide input into the 2019 process.

The survey is available following this link>>>. The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2018.

The International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) latest publications provide valuable information for civil society organisations.

On the road towards the 2019 Ministerial Segment
IDPC outlines key issues for consideration as member states reflect on what has been achieved since 2009, and the implications for the next phase of the international drug policy regime.

In a new publication Taking stock: A decade of drug policy – A civil society shadow report (to be published on 22 October), IDPC evaluates the impacts of drug policies implemented across the world over the past decade, assessing progress made towards the 2019 goals and concluding on the need to move away from punitive approaches.

IDPC recommendations: On the road towards the 2019 Ministerial Segment

In preparation for the third intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to be held on 25th to 28th September in Vienna, the International Drug Policy Consortium has drafted an advocacy note to contribute to these international drug policy discussions.

The advocacy note outlines key issues for consideration as member states reflect on what has been achieved since the adoption of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, including in light of UNGASS implementation, and the implications for the next phase of international drug policy. In addition, we analyse issues likely to come up in negotiations of the annual drugs ‘omnibus resolution’ at the UN General Assembly, and offer suggestions for approaching these negotiations. Finally, we provide recommendations to address some of the outstanding procedural questions related to the 2019 Ministerial Segment.

The advocacy note is available as a PDF in the attached, as well as online following this link>>>

Two intense days at the CND

The event “got up steam” these two days. Here are some reflections and information.

Wednesday 14 March

Impact of life skills education programmes on prevention in schools: experience in southeast Europe and Latin America

Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch of UNODC welcomed participants, including diplomatic representatives from Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. He underlined importance of civil society role and the success of the programme and thanked Lions Clubs International.

Matthew Kiefer, Manager of the Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence Programme presented the programme which is based on social and emotional learning. It incorporates the community and family through activities such as service learning. Since 2014 piloting was undertaken in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. In 2017 Bosnia Herzegovina was added and plans for this year are to start in Guatemala and Albania.

Miloš Stojanović, UNODC Regional DDR Officer for South East Europe emphasized the importance of collaboration between UNODC and Lions Club which gives excellent results. So far, more than 4.500 adolescents were involved in the programme. UNODC plans scaling up of programme results in SEE in 2018 and 2019. Melva Ramirez, UNODC Regional DDR Officer for Central America and Caribbean, presented the initial results of the programme in Guatemala. Wadih Maalouf, UNODC Global Programme Coordinator, presented impact among adolescent on prevention and substance use (specifically alcohol, tobacco and marijuana).

Representatives of Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina presented results of the work in their countries.

The urgent need for harm reduction funding: Scaling-up evidence-based interventions for people who use drugs

This event was organised by the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use, with the aim to highlight the latest evidence on the state of the harm reduction response around the world and explore challenges related to increasing financial and political support for harm reduction and the strategies to overcome them.

Chair of the event was Anne Skjelmerud, NORAD, Norway. Speakers were Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief, Drug Prevention and Health Branch, UNODC, Dr. Monica Beg, Chief, HIV/AIDS Section, UNODC, Aljona Kurbatova, National Institute for Health Development, Estonia, Valentin Simionov, International Network of People who Use Drugs and Fionnuala Murphy, Harm Reduction International.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Anne Skjelmerud opened the event and presented Norwegian experiences with harm reduction. Today in Norway, HIV is not the key problem but HR is still an issue and programmes exist.
  • Anne Frodham from IDPC talked about the work of the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use which is comprised of various stakeholders coming from both governmental and civil society sectors.
  • Dr. Monica Beg presented facts about HIV and drug connection. Globally, PWID account for 8% of all new HIV infections. In EECA, they account for 65% of HIV cases. Average 33 needle-syringes are distributed per person a month, which is far lower than needed (200). UNODC supports some countries, none in SEE.
  • Aljona Kurbatova talked about harm reduction in Estonia.
  • Valentin Simionov presented history, aims and mission of INPUD. Death Penalty is still imposed in 32 countries. But, around 8 out of 10 drug related offences are for drug possession only. Only 8% of people in need get harm reduction services. 70.000 – 100.000 people die of opioid overdose annually. Stigma and discrimination are direct result of discrimination of drugs and drug users.
  • Fionnuala Murphy: overdoses kill more people than murders and traffic accidents together. Situation is critical due to donors withdrawal and lack of national funding.

Notes from this side event are available at the CND blog.

The future of drug prevention: How to personalize your strategy to be more effective

The event was organized by the Government of the Netherlands, UNODC, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Speakers were Victor Sannes, Dr Lonneke van Leeuwen, Trimbos Institute, Dr Sandra Bukman, University of Applied Siencies, Utrecht, Gilberto Gerra, UNODC and Danilo Ballotta, EMCDDA.

Project run by the Institute and the University to understand the types of young people to be able to prepare personalised prevention. Which substance use-related subgroups of young adults were identified in earlier studies? Five groups were identified: no substance; alcohol; plus tobacco and marijuana; plus ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamine and hallucinogens; plus prescriptive medicines. The same research was done interviewing young people. This led to identifying 14 subgroups varying on preferred substance, reasons for use, context of use and intention to reduce or quit.

Gilberto Gerra: Personalisation of prevention is important because we need to see people as persons, not as a statistic number.

Danilo Ballotta: Especially for young people, effective prevention interventions cannot ignore personality traits and environmental context. EU adopted the approach that prevention is not substance focused. EU doesn’t have a programme for nightlife setting.

Other side events

Notes about some interesting side events are available:

 

Thursday 15 March

The criminal justice role in the implementation of drug policies in a human rights perspective

The event, organized by the Brazilian Harm Reduction and Human Rights Network presented a model of alternative measures offered to people who use drugs.

We heard about the project “REDES” – Social inclusion in crime and drug use prevention – which is a response to harsh situation in Brazil. Law enforcement structures launched “Custody Hearings Project” which ensures a quick presentation to the judge, a maximum 24 hours after the arrest. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation was part of the partnerships that developed the project. It provides a support network: health, social assistance, human rights, personal identification documents, housing, work and others. Those who are charged for drug use pass through the process and are granted liberty. They are addressed to the social services providers. One of the most important results is improved sensibility of the judges.

Special event: Strengthening the global prevention response: International standards for drug use prevention – second edition, listen first campaign and stronger families programme

This special event was organized by the Governments of France, Norway and the United States of America, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Drug Prevention and Health Branch, and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs.

The high-level representatives of organising institutions from France, USA, Norway and Mexico spoke about the role of evidence-based prevention in strengthening the global response and the role of civil society in supporting evidence based prevention.

Giovanna Campello, Officer in Charge, Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, presented the UNODC and WHO Second Updated Edition of the International Standards on drug prevention (LINK NA http://vngoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Concept-note-2017-International-Standards-Update.pdf). Dr Virginia Molgaard and Dr Alaa Al Khani presented “Strong Families” – a new UNODC programme for families in low- and middle income families, including refugee families (LINK NA https://www.unodc.org/ropan/en/DrugDemandReduction/strong-families.html). The first 2018 video the “Listen First” campaign was released.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVvHNFeUlL8

HIV prevention, treatment care and support for people who use stimulants

This event was organized by the Government of Romania and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime HIV/AIDS Section.

Romania showcased their experience with stimulants, which they simply call new psychoactive substances. We think that it is not quite good connection. Other speakers, Monica Beg, Chief of the HIV/AIDS Section, UNODC, Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD, Brun Gonzales, Mexico and Ukrainian activist spoke more about actual new substances.

The right to science and freedom of research with scheduled substances

This interesting side event dealt with conventions and the current barriers regarding research with scheduled substances, as well as present cutting edge scientific research on the therapeutic use of scheduled substances, such as cannabis, MDMA, psilocybin and ibogaine, as treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and problematic substance use. The full video of the side event is bellow.

Other side events

Notes about some interesting side events are available:

VNGOC General Assembly

The Vienna Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held its General Assembly on 15 March. A new Board was elected, with our good friend Jamie Bridge serving as the Chairperson. DPNSEE paid the membership fee and hope to complete the membership process soon.

 

Closing Notes

The 61st session, chaired by Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro Massieu of Mexico, agreed 11 resolutions on various topics among them enhancing international cooperation to combat the synthetic opioid crisis, removing stigma as a barrier to the availability and delivery of health, care and social services for people who use drugs, and on preparations for the planned ministerial segment at the 2019 session. The first ever resolution of stigma and discrimination of people who use drugs is a great step forward!

“Ministerial segment” refers to high level meeting of ministers – a very important meeting that will be held as part of the CND next year. Some very important fights and decisions are expected. This CND indicated that there will be a lot of disagreements between those who still believe in rigid repressive approach and those who think that modern and innovative solutions are needed. Civil society organisations were very active in promoting the later, working hard around the meeting to promote it.

The Commission also agreed to schedule six analogues of fentanyl, including carfentanil, under the international drug control conventions. Abuse of fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, has led to thousands of overdose deaths around the world.

More than 1.500 participants from Member States, inter-governmental organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector took part in the session.

The CND was an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues and partners. We used it to share with Alexis Goosdeel, Director of the EMCDDA, Daniel Wolfe, director of International Harm Reduction Development and Matthew Wilson, Global Drug Policy Program, Open society Foundations, Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications and Juan Fernandez Ochoa, Campaigns and Communications Officer, IDPC, Jose Queiros, Executive Director APDES, Portugal, Thomas Bridgen, Grants Coordinator, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Richard Elliott, Executive Director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Framework, John-Peter Kools and Daan van der Gouwe, Trimbos Instituut, Dr Claire Mawditt, Secretary of Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN) and Matej Košir from Institute for Research and Development “Utrip”, Slovenia.

Interesting and important exchange was held with heads of national agencies responsible for drugs: Milan Pekić from Serbia, Željko Petković from Croatia, Ognjen Zekić from Bosnia Herzegovina and Catalin Negoi-Nita from Romania.

With our colleagues from Diogenis Thanasis Apostolou, Sofia Galinaki and Olga Pateraki, we had very good information share and some concrete agreements for future events.

CND opening day

NGO briefing by the Vienna NGO Committee

The briefing was a useful orientation, especially for the newcomers, to what will happen and the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the role and involvement of civil society organisations.

Opening of the sixty-first CND Session

The opening session was held in plenary, with all national delegations and civil society representatives present and transmitted to other rooms. It included welcome messages of the CND 61 Chairperson Alicia Buenrostro Massieu, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, International Narcotics Control Board President Dr Viroj Sumyai, UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov, WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and introductory speeches of country groupings: Group of 77 and China, Africa Group, Asia Pacific Group, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and European Union Group (including accession countries). The Session then continues with general debate.

It should me mentioned that Deputy Minister of Health of Bulgaria Svetlana Yordanova spoke on behalf of the European Union (Bulgaria holds presidency of the EU). She underlined that current UN Drugs Policy has been an utter failure and that EU expresses deepest regret that the UNGASS Outcome Document does not mention a moratorium on the death penalty. She said that “In 2009, we set 2019 as a target date for ourselves to eliminate cultivation of opium, coca and cannabis plants and social risks, trafficking and money laundering related to illicit drugs. We have not achieved this target: today we have an equally severe and diversified situation. The problems are evolving. We have never seen such a complex set of challenges in the drug area: NPS, the internet, trafficking, new players and increased production. EU supports bringing public health and human rights to the core of the drug policy by balancing law enforcement with equally firm health and social services and evidenced based actions.

Side events

Bringing human rights to the forefront of drug policy: Development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation

The event was organised by the governments of Malta (represented by Ambassador Keith Azzopardi), Germany (Ambassador Friedrich Dauble), Norway, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe (Jan Malinowski, Executive Secretary). Speakers were also Damon Barrett, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, University of Essex and Zaved Mahmoud, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This event was an attempt to move beyond highlighting human rights problems by examining the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights and exploring the application of human rights standards and tests as a basis for national and local led initiatives to incorporate human rights into drug policy development, monitoring and evaluation.

In the outcome document of the 2016 UNGASS on the world drug problem, UN member states reiterated a “commitment to respecting, protecting and promoting all human rights fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals and the rule of law in the development and implementation of drug policies”. In drug policy – as in all other policy areas – human rights are not a choice, they are an obligation.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Human rights start in small places, close to home – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Jan Malinowski: There is no discussion about death penalty and extrajudicial killings. CoE is condemning inhuman treatments. There must be mechanisms in place to bring to light rights issues arising from drug policy
  • Damon Barrett: There is no universal prescription due to diversity in country situations, but we have universal standards! The challenge for policy makers is to resolve the tension between human rights and drug policy in favour of human rights. Health services should be available, accessible, acceptable (by different populations) and of sufficient quality. Consider harm reduction in funding decisions.
  • Zaved Mahmood: Wrong policy decisions influence various segments of life. For instance, punishing legislation leads to overcrowded prisons. Until we address the human dimension of drug policies, those policies will fail.

The world drug perception problem

This event was organized by the Governments of Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay and the Global Commission on Drug Policy to discuss the current perceptions but also progress already made in some countries to fight negative perceptions, stigma, discrimination and criminalization of people who use drugs, as well as possible further steps.

Speakers included Pavel Bém, Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), Michel Kazatchkine, UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, João Goulão, National Drug Coordinator, Portugal, Martín Rodríguez, Executive Director of the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), Uruguay, Nora Kronig-Romero, Ambassador for Global Health, Switzerland and Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD.

The latest GCDP report on the issue The World Drug Perception Problem: Countering Prejudices About People Who Use Drugs was published in 2017.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Michel Kazatchkine: presented an interesting fact from the report that “UNODC estimates only 11.6% of those who used drugs in 2016 are considered to suffer problematic drug use or addiction. The most common pattern of drug use is episodic and non-problematic.” and that “Legal status of #drugs rarely correspond to potential harms, not based on scientific evidence.”
  • Martín Rodriguez: “There have been no episodes of violence between the people who use or in the surroundings of the sale places” (in Uruguay, who legalised sale of cannabis) and “Before the sale of recreational cannabis in pharmacies started, almost ¾ were against it; 6 months later and due to the positive experiences, this has fallen to 43%”
  • Nora Kronig-Romero: The main factors leading the Swiss population to approve drug policy reform was failure of law enforcement only approach and experiences with small projects of harm reduction. Direct democracy contributed to an informed discussion about drugs, drug perception and drug policy in Switzerland.
  • João Goulão: “Problematic drug use reached all parts of society and that led to a change in the popular view of drug use – changing perceptions about people who use drugs”
  • Judy Chang – We don’t believe in reducing a behaviour to an identity. We prefer the phrase “people who use drugs” to more stigmatising language but emphasise drug dependency is not incompatible with a person living a happy and fulfilled lives

A note from this side event is available at the CND blog.

Pre-CND events

Sunday 11 March was full of preparatory events for the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Here is an information about a few of them where DPNSEE participated.

IDPC pre-meeting with member organisations

The International Drug Policy Consortium held a day-long meeting with member organisations representatives to help them oriented to the CND participation and agree on approach and actions.

In the morning, two separate sessions were held. One was the orientation session for new CSO representatives. They also had an opportunity to learn about the CND through a webinar which is available at the IDPC website.

The other session was intended to those who already had experience with CND. It was a strategy discussion, focused on the substantive details of tabled resolutions, with overview of member states dynamics at the CND, detailed review of CND resolutions and discussion on other key issues for CND 2018.

In the afternoon session, participants from the second morning session informed others about their discussion on resolutions (and resolutions themselves) to inform collective thinking on advocacy, strategy and the work of the network during CND and beyond. This session also included presentation of the IDPC 5-year Strategy and opportunities for collaboration, a report from the civil society meeting held at the end of 2017 in Berlin and presentation of the IDPC Members Survey results.

There are a few interesting things from this event.

An interesting proposed resolution is the one from the CND Chairperson addressing the Preparations for the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in 2019. The resolution already includes various positive elements, but should be strengthened my emphasising the role of the UN Secretary-General, references to civil society participation, active participation of all UN member states (not only 53 CND countries) and mentioning harm reduction in country presentations at the CND debate. This is very important because it is obvious that unrealistic targets of a “drug-free world” declared in 2009 Plan of Action will not be achieved. The world now have two possible ways forward: either continue with same policies that have proven insufficient (promoted by countries with rigid and conservative approach) or promote an active approach which bring public health and human rights to core of drug policy.

WHO proposes 12 substances for control – 6 of them are fentanyl based.

There will be 95 side events at CND – an invitation was shared to go to those which are critical. The same goes for some of the exhibitions of “usual suspects” (Russia, Singapore, Bahrain, Turkey… and especially Iran).

IDPC Asks from the Strategy include:

  • Move away from drug-free world targets
  • Reflect the UN goals of promoting health, human rights, development, peace and security
  • Reflect the realities of drug policies on the ground, both positive and negative – the elephant in the room
  • End punitive approaches and put people and communities first

Deadline for comments to the IDPC Strategic Plan is end of April.

SSDP Rally

Students for Sensible Drug Policy Austria organised a rally in the Vienna’s Sigmund Freud Park in the afternoon and evening. It was the first local CSOs event related to UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs held annually in this city. Besides stands which promoted new approach to drug policy and abandoning the “drug war”, several speakers addressed the public, including representatives of Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, INPUD, Global Drug Survey, Veterans for Medical Marijuana, ENCOD — European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, ARGE CANNA and LISTE PILZ.