Jamie Bridge from the IDPC was re-elected as the Chairperson of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) through the electronic voting held 12 – 13 April 2021. Jamie has been on the VNGOC Board since March 2017, and the Chair since March 2018.
Out of 174 members in good standing 150 registered to vote and in the end 147 voters cast their ballots electronically. Jamie won 88 votes.
In his candidature, Jamie said that:
I started my career working in further education and drugs services in the UK, having graduated in psychology in 2002. I went on to gain a Masters in drug policy, and have also worked with Harm Reduction International (HRI) and the Global Fund in Geneva, before returning to the UK to join the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC). In addition to my roles at VNGOC, I have previously served on the Boards of Harm Reduction International and the UK National Needle Exchange Forum (NNEF). Throughout my career, I have gained invaluable experience at the UN level as well as in networking and diplomacy.
Despite the breadth of views that are represented within the VNGOC membership, we have worked hard to emphasise our commonalities and work together. The Board has demonstrated its commitment to balance and transparency, and I would like to thank all VNGOC members for their support and engagement over the past few years. I hope that I can continue to deliver all of these things as your Chair for the next two years as well.
The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) – the global network of nearly 300 NGOs with the purpose of coordinating and supporting meaningful participation at the CND and other fora – published an urgent position statement. Ahead of the 64th CND in April, with its new hybrid format, the statement outlines our recommendations and expectations for the effective, meaningful participation of civil society online.
The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) together with the UNODC Civil Society Team are inviting you to a joint webinar presenting the NGO Marketplace and giving guidance on how to engage effectively at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
The webinar will include a tour through the new features of the NGO Marketplace, information on this years CND intersessional meetings and guidance on how to best apply for speaking opportunities.
To ensure a broad engagement, the webinar will be held twice:
Each webinar includes a formal presentation of the World Drug Report 2020 by UNODC, a civil society presentation about how they work with the data of the World Drug Report, and an open question and answer session.
The webinars will be held in English on Monday, 27 July 2020, at 15:00 CET.
Organized by Canada, and Association Proyecto Hombre, Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction, Dianova International, The Interest Organisation for Substance Misusers and Turkish Green Crescent Society.
Role of social networks to take action is to:
Reach bigger audiences
Organize campaigns to end stigma
Fund more research
Authorities should monitor for dangerous content
Encourage influencers to promote a healthy life style
An interesting source is Addictionary, produced by The Recovery Research Institute.
Kristina Stankova presented “The role of social networks and alternative media in the field of drugs”. The threats identified include misleading information and fake news, peer pressure, the influence of advertisement in social networks, famous people and influencers promoting unhealthy lifestyle as fun and cool, etc. Tips on how to use social networks and alternative media in a positive way include use of social networks as a tool to access information for research, use them as a tool to raise awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle, reach hidden populations, to end stigma, to spread accurate and understandable information, etc. Studies have found that as many as 75% of teens felt pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs after seeing their friends post these activities online.
Communities at the centre: Barriers and opportunities for community led interventions
Organized by International Drug Policy Consortium, International Network of People who use Drugs, Joint United Nations Programme in HIV/ AIDS, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNODC HIV/AIDS Section.
Since 2018, only one new country started needle exchange programme, while no new country started OST – despite all evidence base that these are important services for people who use drugs.
Mick Matthews from INPUD: We are not the enemy, work with us.
11 million people in the world inject drugs. Every eight has HIV, every second Hep C. 84% of those who have HIV also have Hep C. UNAIDS is clearly ready to work with and for people who use drugs (and they introduced this denomination to UN documents).
Harm reduction and rehabilitation program for inmates in prisons with mental and behavioral disorders due to use of psychoactive substances
Organized by Spain and Ukraine and European Union
Spain and Ukraine presented a cooperation project implemented in the context of EU cooperation program. Both countries used it to implement measures planned by their drug strategies.
Spain performs a survey on health services in prisons every 5 years. 75% inmates used illegal substances in their life. “Incarceration is an opportunity to improve health of inmates”.
Drugs are present in prisons in Spain and make serious problems resulting in fights between internal gangs.
Relapse after treatments in Spain is at 31,5%, while at those who go through treatments in prisons it is around 16%.
In Ukraine, with the support from the Global Fund, condoms are shared free of charge in prisons. There was a programme to evaluate syringe exchange programme. Results of the programme are discussed now, but the measures shall wait for the reform on the prison system. Civil society organisations are involved in the programme and discussion.
Unfortunately, a few Ukrainian CSOs were very critical and presented completely different view.
Shared responsibility in addressing the cocaine threat along the supply chain
Organized by European Union, UNODC CRIMJUST, UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa and UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch
Chloé Carpentier, Chief of the UNODC Drug Research Section in her presentation mentioned that the “new kids on the block” in the cocaine trade chain in Latin America are the Balkan cartel which holds 34% of the transfer of cocaine from Latin America to Europe and almost all street distribution! Production of cocaine is on the historical maximum, there are more organised criminal groups and purity is very high. More regional and international cooperation is needed to fight the problem.
UNODC-WHO Community Management of Opioid Overdose – initial results from the S.O.S. study
Organized by Australia, Kyrgyzstan and the United States of America, and UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs and World Health Organization
Representatives of UNDC and WHO expressed their dissatisfaction that we have to fight for Naloxone, as this is a medication that has no controlled substance. Stigma associated with opioid use disorders is so potent that it extends to naloxone itself. Every day, week, year of inaction means that persons are dying due to opioid overdose when there are medicines that could save their lives. Naloxone is officially registered as a medicine across 51% of all countries, but most countries don’t provide data on the availability of Naloxone.
The WHO-UNODC S.O.S. programme (S.O.S. for Stop Overdose Safely) is a peer-distribution programme in which we attempt to provide take home naloxone to likely witnesses of overdoses. The goal at the launch of the SOS Initiative in March 2017 was to have 90% of those likely to witness an overdose are trained to implement Naloxone; 90% of those trained to provide naloxone are provided with a supply; and having 90% of provided with Naloxone are actually carrying it with them.
Ms Leigh Toomey, member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention attends the 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. For the occasion, she was willing to meet with selected IDPC members and partners to discuss the Working Group’s activities, including its upcoming report on the use of arbitrary detention in drug policy.
Cases presented to Ms Toomey mainly came from countries which have harsh approach to drugs. DPNSEE Executive Director added a couple of issues from the region.
We participated in the Vienna NGO Committee Annual General Meeting. Half of the Board have been elected, all from recovery organisations which have obviously well prepared for the elections.
The 62nd CND is running full steam on the third day. Besides plenary work with national delegations discussing and voting on formal decision, a variety of side events present interesting experiences, projects, results and challenges from around the globe.
Decriminalizing drug use and possession: A cross-national perspective on lessons learned and best practices
Organized by the Czech Republic, the Drug Policy Alliance, Release and the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy. Niamh Eastwood from Release (UK) reminded that UN agencies estimate that 83% of all drug offenses globally are related to possession and use of drugs. Tough sanctions don’t deter people from using drugs. Decriminalisation is not a new option – some countries use it since seventies of the last century. No country that recently decriminalised experiences increase in drug use! It is time to start exploring new models of decriminalisation. An argument against is that “we need to protect kids”, but the majority of those who are under criminal justice systems are young people up to 24 years of age. For young people, we should work on preventing long-term problematic drug use. Caitlin Hughes from the National Drugs and Alcohol Research Centre (Australia) presented results of several studies on decriminalisation. Barbara Janikova and Viktor Mravčik from the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions presented successes their country achieved adopting decriminalisation. After they criminalised drug use and possession in 1999, use of cannabis was growing; on contrary, when they decriminalised it in 2010, the cannabis use dropped significantly. There is a national consensus that there is benefit of decriminalisation for public health and general wellbeing. Same way, Dagflin Hessen Paust from the Norwegian Association for Safer Drug Policies (Norway) presented their change of approach, which included a large national debate. Finally, there is the proposal for decriminalisation in process now, evidence based and proposed by the ruling conservative party. Supply issue is the elephant in the room when discussing decriminalisation. Theshia Naidoo from the Drug Policy Alliance (USA) had a large discussion where the three main issues were: How to define the conduct that is decriminalised? Who are the optimal decision makers? Appropriate response to drug use and possession? Decriminalisation should be followed by large investment in social services to people who use drugs. Blog notes from this side event are available following this link>>>.
Aligning data collection with UNGASS implementation and the Sustainable Development Goals: Recommendations for a review of the Annual Report Questionnaire
Women, incarceration and drug policy: Special vulnerabilities that call for focused responses
This side event gathered various representatives that agreed that women that are drug users face various obstacles and are much more vulnerable in prison settings and their human rights. Ms Ivana Radačić from OHCHR pointed out the fact that in general more women than men are serving drug use related sentences and that there are significant obstacles for them to be provided with fair trial. Project officer in Eurasian Harm Reduction Association Ms Eliza Kurčević presented the results of the research conducted by EHRA and said that “33,6% out of total number of prisoners in Russia are women, while 19.628 of them are sentenced for drug related offences. They face many challenges relate to human rights violations, family rights and other justice related problems.” These challenges remain one of the key priorities that should be addressed through both drugs and justice policies.
Launch of UNODC-VNGOC civil society guide on UNGASS outcome document and SDGs
Organized by the Sweden, UNODC, Civil Society Team and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs. Jamie Bridge, Chairman of VNGOC, emphasised that more than 85% of the civil society organisations replied that they contributed to at least one SGD, while a quarter of them said they contributed to all 17 SGDs. HE Mikaela Ruth, the Ambassador of Sweden, presented the key features of the guide for NGOs “Working together: Drugs and the Sustainable Development Goals“. The UNODC representative Billy Batware underlined how the UNGASS outcome document and SDGs are connected and presented the structure and content of the guide. Dayana Vincent from Fourth Wave Foundation working in India, Wangari Kimemia from Médecins du monde France in Kenya and Heloisa Broggiato Mater from International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care about their workshops on Availability and Access to Opioid Medications in Latin American Countries presented their experiences in working on programmes related to sustainability development goals.
The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs held an Informal Dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. NGOs had an opportunity to propose questions and 11 of them were selected for Mr Fedotov to reply to. Participants of the dialogue touch upon topics like prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, alternative development, healthcare, opioid crisis, prevalence of drug use, Listen first and Strong families programmes and research and analysing new trends. One of the questions was asked by Janko Belin, about if UNODC have programmes related to drugs and migrants.
Another Informal Dialogue was held with with the INCB President Viroj Sumyai. Blog notes from this dialogue are available following this link>>>.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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