62nd CND Session – Day 2

The second day of the 62th CND was full of side events and sharing with participants.

An overviews of the side events we participated in today includes:

Psychoactive substances and the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda

Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International. Jože Hren started his presentation reminding that for 20 years already the approach in Slovenia is that drug use is primarily a health problem and that possession of small quantities is a misdemeanour also since 1999. Those who are caught in possession of drugs get a fine of 40 Euro, but there is a process to change it to an oral warning or referral to treatment in more complex situations. Representative of the Pompidou Group spoke about the bi-annual prize the Group awards to innovative prevention programmes created by young people for young people. Another Slovenian representative presented their work emphasizing the need to invest in mental health programmes for adolescents. Cost of mental health disorders in Europe take 3 to 5 percent of GDP. There is a need for a reallocation of resources for more sustainable and impactful outcomes in tackling harmful substances and behaviours. Medical help is not enough – it has to be combined with comprehensive and long lasting prevention. They have a programme called “This is me”, which is in line with the Goal 3 of the SDGs. Kristina Sperkova, president of the IOGT International (international network of Templar organisations) works on prevention of alcohol and other drugs harm world-wide. Sanela from Utrip Institute advocated for a community approach to prevention. Notes from the side event are available at the CND Blog following this address>>>.

Leaving no one behind: People at the centre of a harm reduction, human rights and public health approach to drug use

Organized by the Netherlands and Norway, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, IDPC, AFEW International, Harm Reduction International, INPUD, Open Society Foundations, Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. Ann Fordham from IDPC highlighted that the new UNADIS report indicates that 99% of people who use drugs doesn’t have a proper access to health services. WHO representative reminded that half a million people worldwide die of drug related deaths, mainly overdose and blood borne diseases HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. People also suffer because they can’t access the medicines they need. The Netherlands has “put people first” in their approach to harm reduction. The right to health is fundamental to all people irrespective of whether they are using drugs. Drug policies should seek to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, support the most marginalized and vulnerable, lift up human rights. Prohibition and criminalization means a continuation of armed conflict supported by disproportionate spending. Naomi Burke-Shyne from HRI reminded that funding for harm reduction has flat lined from 2007 to 2016, which stands in shocking contrast to the estimated funding need by UNAIDS: existing funding represents only 13% of this estimated need. Judy Chang from INPUD stated that “Existing drug policies threaten security, democracy and the well-being of all, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable. The war on drugs and drug-free agenda undermines the SDG agenda.” Zaved Mahmood from ‎UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that People who use drugs are not just left behind, they are kept out. The right to life includes the obligation to take measures where peoples’ lives might be threatened, including in relation to the use of drugs and HIV and hepatitis.

Drug prevention approaches that make a difference

Organized by the Governments of Iceland and Serbia, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. Serbian representative to the OSC made an introduction speech. The same like the Minister of Health on Thursday 14 at the Ministerial Segment, he said that the Drug Strategy has 5 chapters instead of 7, avoiding to say that Harm Reduction is one of them. Jelena Janković from the Ministry of Health presented the latest developments, including information about overdose deaths in 2018 and creation of the Ministerial Commission (for fighting narcomania in schools). She also presented the project the Ministry did with experiences and support from Israel. Iceland presented their project with are seen as the flagship project on prevention. Almost 2% of the alcohol and tobacco taxes go to prevention programmes! They see as the main risks and protective factors family factors, peer group effect, general well-being and extra-curricular activities and sports. Their learning is that the multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to success. The change thy achieved is different attitude of parents and society – don’t buy alcohol for children. It is not OK for adolescents to be drunk in public. It is not the amount of time that parents spend with their children – it is the quality of time. There are no unsupervised parties. Pompidou Group emphasised the role of police in prevention. Interventions from the floor were on offering more than just sports and having campaigns that cover illicit but also legal substances.

Other side events held today that may be of interest are:

Other events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held regular Annual General Assembly. The Committee welcomed new members, reviewed and approved the VNGOC annual report and reflected on activities for 2018/19 including those of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), got information about the annual accounts for 2018, the latest financial status and audited accounts for 2018, Strategic Plan 2019-21 and Budget for 2019 and Voluntary Code of Conduct for NGOs at the CND and received an update on developments within UNODC. The Committee discussed the future organisation of the VNGOC, based on the background paper presented by the Board.

Following a governance review process undertaken in 2017, VNGOC agreed to stagger the elections for the VNGOC Board to ensure greater stability and continuity. In order to do this, three of the positions elected last year were given one-year terms, the other three positions were given the standard two-year terms. This year, the following three positions were up for re-election: Chairperson, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Secretary. Our friend fro International Drug Policy Consortium Jamie Bridge was re-elected for the Chairperson. Congratulations!

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.