From the Ann Fordham’s article published at the IDPC webiste
For decades, debates and political commitments on drug policy at the United Nations have been plagued by the goal of ‘achieving a society free of drugs’ (or ‘drug abuse’). This fantastical notion has underpinned unimaginable harm as governments all over the world have strived to eradicate drugs through draconian measures. Despite these efforts, the global market in illegal drugs grows ever larger, more robust and with a greater diversity of substances. In parallel, the human cost of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ continues to grow exponentially – a devastating crisis of mass incarceration, overdose deaths, extrajudicial killings and a litany of human rights violations that have impacted some of society’s most marginalised.
Last week the UN General Assembly made history by adopting a resolution on drugs that did not include the long-standing reference to ‘actively promote a society free of drug abuse’ for the first time in three decades. Not only was this overly simplistic, ‘war on drugs’-era notion absent from the text, but the resolution includes some of the strongest ever human rights language relating to drug policy, an aspect on which the main UN drug policy forum in Vienna (the Commission on Narcotic Drugs) has made little progress in recent years.
Resolutions on drug policy at the General Assembly have always been agreed by consensus, however this resolution broke new ground as it was adopted – for the first time in history – after a vote.
It was a reluctant breaking of the consensus with an unprecedented number of countries making statements before the vote in the 3rd Committee, many of them lamenting the need for a vote and noting their hope for a return to the usual consensus for future drug policy resolutions. Ultimately, when the resolution reached the plenary of the General Assembly, a total of 124 Member States voted in favour of the resolution, while 9 voted against, with 45 abstentions.
Overall, by emphasising human rights concepts and doing away with tired and ultimately harmful ideological objectives such as ‘a society free of drug abuse’, the resolution goes a long way towards refocusing international cooperation away from reducing illegal cultivation, production and drug trafficking and towards reducing the negative consequences of the global drug situation on individuals and communities.
Crucially, this progressive text was adopted by an overwhelming majority of Member States, with only 9 countries voting against it. This demonstrates that the ‘Vienna consensus’ has been an instrument to hold back progress on drug policy making, pushing the international community towards policies and narratives that are far more conservative than those of a majority of Member States.
Read more about in the article at the IDPC website following this link>>>.