First day of the CND 2020

The 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) started on 2 March in Vienna, Austria. The CND is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is the central drug policy-making body within the United Nations system. It monitors the world drug situation, develops strategies on international drug control and recommends measures to address the world drug problem.

As expected, the meeting started with an information on the coronavirus outbreak. Austrian Health Authorities have mandatory reporting cases – no travel restrictions currently. 1826 tests in Austria, 15 confirmed.

New UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly was presented. UNODC will be launching on 26 June the World Drug Report, hoping spurring dialogue and action.

INCB President: The Board expresses its serious concern with the continued reports of great human rights violations perpetrated in the name of drug control. We call for the immediate end to extrajudicial responses to suspected drug criminality and sue. When drug control measures violate international human rights standards, they also violate the drug control conventions.

Director General of WHO (video link): The increase in the use of psychoactive drugs claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

Croatia on behalf of EU: [a number of Balkan states are also aligned with the statement]: The situation is worsening in many parts of the World. The EU and its MS stress the importance of rebalancing the public health and human rights aspects in our responses to the problem. The health consequences of drug use are more severe and wide-spread than we thought; NPS emerging, synthetic opioids are a serious threat as is the non-medical use of painkillers. EU’s recent reports remind us of the severity of the issue but also underscore the complexity of the problem so we need a balanced and comprehensive approach. We are planning to continue to support drug-related commitments to support human rights. We need to develop policies based on evidence-based practice. Civil society contributes valuably to complement our understanding of the world drug situation and also in designing national, regional prevention and harm reduction responses.

Side events

Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the UNODC in the Fight Against the Illicit Drug Threat: Countering Drug Trafficking via Darknet

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UNODC: reports show half of dark net activities are associated with drugs. International operations have had some high profile successes in closing dark nets, including Silk Road, Alpha B, and Hanza. However, more spring up in their place.

Vladimir Norov, SCO Secretary-General: According to specialist evaluations, up to 60% of transactions are of narcotic drugs, instead of cash payments crypto currency is used to settle accounts. The process leads to risk of involvement of money laundering, hinders the local authorities attempt to counter narcotic drug trafficking and hinders the stability of young people and states. This business is growing – in 2018 less than 600 million US dollars, 2019 more than 800 million US dollars a year

Drug reform: From a punitive to a supportive approach – The Norwegian proposal

Minister Bent Høie, Norway: Replacing punishment by support and decriminalising drug use was an initiative prior to UNGASS 2016. It came from civil society. In 2018 the government declared we needed to transit away from punishment into assistance, treatment and follow-up. We will conduct drug policy reform to ensure better services to people who use illicit drugs, transferring the responsibility of questions of personal use from justice to health service. A government mandated committee has concluded a report, thorough and interesting, “from punishment to support”, which will be the subject of a public hearing. On the basis of this, the government will submit a proposal to the parliament in spring 2021.

Gilberto Gerra, UNODC: The Conventions, in 1988, clearly says in art 3 that the possession for personal consumption needn’t be punished; there are alternatives. UNGASS2016 reiterates this position. It is important that what has been said by Portugal and Norway; the Conventions allow this and this is not legalisation. The motto of our programme with WHO, ten years ago, nothing less than what is provided for any other chronic disease. No stigma, no discrimination, full access to healthcare.

Devora Kestrel, WHO: We support a move away from a criminal justice approach to a social support approach. To ensure support for people who use drugs. While it is recognised that one size doesn’t fit all, drug policies are moving towards a more balanced and comprehensive approach that highlights public health and development, which is consistent with the original purpose of the Conventions: promoting the health and welfare of humankind.

Mr. Zaved Mahmood, Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights (OHCHR): The criminalization of personal drug use and possession impedes realization of the human right to health. Criminalization of possession and personal use of drugs often results in disproportionate sentencing in addition to hindering persons in need of treatment for drug use from receiving such treatment. Criminalization of drug use and minor drug offenses also aggravates the stigmatization of and discrimination against people who use drugs. Evidence indicate that decriminalization, in tandem with “the provision of a continuum of support, prevention and treatment measures, can result in a decrease in overall drug use and in the drug-induced mortality rate.” Three international drug control conventions afford flexibility to introduce non-criminal responses to the possession of drugs for personal use.

Jamie Bridge, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs: VNGOC has long held the position that greater attention needs to be given to health and human rights. This means providing evidence-based prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration, mental health, harm reduction and recovery services. It means working closely with people who use, or used, drugs to ensure that services meet their needs and are fit for purpose.

Alexis Goodeel, EMCDDA: The idea is that higher penalties deter use. We studied the situation and found no direct link of causality. No clear impact of penalties on use. Recent research on what makes policy work suggest taking into account three levels: System (wording of the law, definition of legislation), Provider (criminal justice and health system), Client (experience and perceptions of the system). Punishment  has nothing to do with a medical or public health approach. Especially for women and minority populations that face bigger barriers to access to health and other services.

Reducing health risks of the use of NPS in EECA region

Organized by Estonia and Moldova and Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, with panellists from UNODC and Eurasian Network of PWUD.

Main message from the event is that users switch from traditional drugs to new substances, while appropriate harm reduction services are missing. The darknet plays a big role in the rise of NPS in the EECA. We need to be proactive about creating and implementing harm reduction initiatives on the dark web.

David Subeliani (ENPWUD): The states in general are not ready to respond to NPS posed problems. People reach for alternatives before the legal system can respond to the new market dynamics. If we squeeze out substances from markets, users will find ways to achieve similar effects with other means. I saw a fast change on the drug scenes in Easter European Member States – cities have moved on from traditional illegal drugs to whatever the market was able to provide. A very aggressive takeover on the market. It increased the risk of infections as the effects are wearing off maybe faster and users might need to administer more often.

Eliza Kurcevic (EHRA): We conducted a research with Swansea University about NPS use in Belarus and Moldova to collect data on use, needed services, etc. Our recommendations: periodic data collections from various stakeholders, research risks and consequences on NPSC consumption, adjust harm reduction programs and implement relevant interventions, adapt existing interventions and ensure effective work together with the affected populations, review repressive policies and redesign it based on evidence.

Health Responses to the Opioid Poisoning Crisis: On-the-Ground Experiences and International Implications

Fatal drug-related overdose is a pressing health crisis in North America. Highly potent synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and analogues, are increasingly present in the unregulated opioid supply and have contributed to unprecedented increases in overdose deaths. Several countries in Europe have also recently experienced a rising loss of lives from accidental opioid overdose. While the expanding opioid poisoning crisis has been a focus of international attention in recent years, discussions have primarily focused on supply reduction, rather than health, interventions.

Asma Fakhri, Coordinator, UNODC Opioid Strategy, presented UNODC strategy pulled together in response to opioid crisis. 5 pillars for balanced framework to respond to opioids.

  1. Early warning and trend analysis: generating evidence in support of effective policy decisions and operational responses
  2. Rational prescribing and access to opioid for medical and scientific use: promoting interagency cooperation in addressing the non-medical use of opioids
  3. Prevention and treatment programmes: strengthening and supporting prevention and treatment programmes related to opioids
  4. International law enforcement operations to disrupt trafficking: enhancing operational activities to prevent the diversion and trafficking of synthetic opioids
  5. Strengthening national and international counternarcotic capacity: raising awareness, sharing best practices and promoting international cooperation

Meetings

CND is an excellent opportunity to meet with those involved in drug policy from all around the World and from all sectors. Certainly, most of the short meetings in corridors were with those from our region, but also we had a good exchange with EMDCCA Director Alexis Goodeel.

Meeting with Dr Christos Koumitsidis, Greek Drug Coordinator

CND was an opportunity to meet with Dr Koumitsidis who, due to the professional obligations he has in the UK was not able to join the Dialogue we had in Belgrade in February.

Three main points characterise situation in Greece: homelessness, immigrants and cooperation between authorities and CSOs

There is no Drug strategy so far. Dr Koumitsidis expects that Government will adopt one this spring and the Action plan in summer.

He was interested to hear about experiences in other countries. We presented him the results of the recent SEE government – civil society dialogue on drugs 2020 and offered to organise the next in Greece.

We also expressed concern about the situation of our member organisations and other civil society organisations from the area of drug policy in Greece.

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.

EU drugs agency and the Republic of Albania strengthen their cooperation

The Director of the The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Alexis Goosdeel and Albanian Deputy Minister of the Interior Besfort Lamallari and Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection Mira Rakacolli signed the document of the agreement to cooperate more actively on monitoring the drug phenomenon in future. The signing ceremony took place at the Delegation of the European Union to the International Organisations in Vienna, hosted by EU Ambassador Didier Lenoir, and in the presence of Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

The Working Arrangement originates in a request from the Albanian Ministry of the Interior to the EMCDDA Director in 2017 and follows the seal of approval of the European Commission and EMCDDA Management Board. While the agency has signed similar agreements with other third countries, this is the first request of its kind from the Western Balkans. The new agreement provides for the exchange of expertise between the entities concerned and will contribute to developing drug data-collection and reporting capacity in the country.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship in the European Commission, emphasised that “the Agreement will strengthen the cooperation to develop the right common policies to address drug trafficking in our regions and will pave the way for similar arrangements in the Western Balkans.”

emcdda

The EMCDDA began its cooperation with Albania in 2007 in the framework of EU-funded technical assistance projects designed to prepare Western Balkan countries for accession to the EU (and for participation in the work of the EMCDDA and its Reitox network. The EMCDDA and Albania are currently working together to consolidate Albania’s capacity to monitor the drug phenomenon through the use of evidence-based tools and knowledge built and promoted within the EU. They also exchange data on new psychoactive substances as well as expertise on establishing a national early-warning system.

While no formal national drug observatory has yet been established in Albania, along the lines of a Reitox national focal point, the EMCDDA has developed close working relations with the Ministry of the Interior and with the Institute of Public Health of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. This cooperation led to the financing of the first national general population survey on drugs in Albania in 2014 as well as the production of a Country Drug Report for Albania in 2017 following EMCDDA guidelines.

Albania is one of six candidate and potential candidate countries to the EU currently receiving assistance under the EMCDDA IPA 6 project, which kicked off in July 2017 and will run until June 2019.

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

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.