An exciting CND

The 67th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was held from 14 to 22 March in Vienna. The programme included a high-level segment (14-15 March), including the mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration and the ordinary session (18-22 March). It was the largest ever meeting of the Commission, with 140 Member States represented, as well as representatives from 18 intergovernmental organizations, 141 non-governmental organizations and 9 United Nations bodies. In total, the record with more than 2.500 people in attendance, including 600 civil society representatives from a wide range of organisations. Many more were able to follow the proceedings on UN Web TV, both in real time and on demand.

A central element of the high-level segment has been the analysis of progress on 11 specific challenges already identified in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration. One of the 11 challenges identified is the increase in drug-related deaths due to lack of treatment and health services.

Civil society organisations from all around the World contributed with the Global Civil Society Report. DPNSEE and our member organisations was also involved in this process.

The most interesting moments of this event was the intervention in person of Mr. Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (for the first time!), stating that “After decades of following a largely punitive approach, we can see this simply is not working. Not by any metric”, and the joint statement calling for the reform of the international drug control system, initiated by a coalition of 60 countries led by Colombia.

During the ordinary session, only four resolutions were proposed, discussed (very slow and in details) and finally adopted.

The CND 67th session culminated in a historical day on Friday 22nd March, as member states voted on resolutions for the first time in modern history, and finally included the words “harm reduction”. The overdose prevention resolution, proposed by USA and driven by the appalling human toll of a domestic overdose epidemic, recognies harm reduction for the first time as an important part of an effective public health response. It represents a landmark in political commitment to a rebalancing of drug policy towards a public health approach.

Previously, the CND’s dedication to the so-called “Vienna spirit” (whereby all resolutions and policy documents are agreed by consensus) had allowed certain member states to block progressive language or anything that they did not like. Things have changed thanks to the pressure from civil society and the increased presence of human rightsand health mechanisms in Vienna.

More about this historic moment is available in an IDPC blog post following this link>>>.

DPNSEE President Nebojša Djurasović, Board member Marios Atzemis and Executive Director Milutin Milošević participated in the CND 67th session. They firstly joined the civil society events on Sunday 17 organised by IDPC.

The side event on decriminalisation, hosted by DPNSEE, was one of 174 side events – a record number for the CND. The majority were hosted by, or involved, civil society organisations. Our event was fully appreciated by many and mentioned at later events and in corridors.

The CND is an opportunity to organize meetings outside the formal sessions. DPNSEE participated in the VNGOC annual meeting, a CSFD meeting with representatives of the EU delegation, several side events organised by our colleagues and partners, individual meetings with EMCDDA Director, UNODC HIV prevention department, national drug coordinators from Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Serbia, missions of Montenegro and Serbia to OSCE, Rome Consensus 2.0, Trimbos Institute andd much more.


The CND67 side event!

DPNSEE hosted the side event “Decriminalize drug use and possession for personal use: Why, what, and how?” at the Sixty-seventh session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND 67) on 20 March 2024.

At this side event, we presented the scientific and political background for such policy changes and models of decriminalization that may be used, using Position paper on decriminalisation recently published by the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD).

The event was supported by Montenegro and Serbia missions to OSCE, the Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs, the Fédération Addiction, the Forum Droghe, the International Drug Policy Consortium, the Juventas, the Knowmad Institut, the Positive Voice, the Prevent and the Villa Maraini Foundation.

At this side event, we presented the scientific and political background for such policy changes and models of decriminalization that may be used, using Position paper on decriminalisation recently published by the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs. Panelists from Macau, Croatia, Greece and Italy shared dilemmas, examples of results and challenges from their countries that implemented decriminalization or discuss making that move.


Recording of the side event:


Civil society pre-CND events

Prepared using the IDPC event report

Traditionally, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) organises civil society events the day before the CND meets every March in Vienna. One of them is orientation training for newcomers, those that participate in this important event for the first time.

This year, parallel to that, IDPC hosted the Consultation on OSF Drug Policy Opportunities.

In 2023, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) announced plans to adopt a new operating model and related changes in their structure and teams – moving away from different regional and thematic programmes, towards a more “opportunity-based” grant-making approach in which all resources are to be focused on achieving a smaller number of big, transformational changes. As part of this process and acknowledging the important role that OSF continues to play for the drug policy and harm reduction sectors, IDPC was invited to conduct a consultation of our membership to provide inputs and ideas into the future of OSF funding in this area. An online survey was issued to all 195 network members, from 75 countries, with translations in English, French and Spanish. A total of 198 suggestions were received from 76 organisations, and these will be shared in full with OSF colleagues. The results then helped to shape discussions at a face-to-face meeting in Vienna, Austria. Approximately 60 people attended this meeting, held ahead of the IDPC members meeting in the margins of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Kasia Malinowska, Director of Drug Policy at OSF, to help frame the meeting and subsequent discussions. Kasia explained the new operating model at OSF, with current plans to focus on 19 headline, transformational opportunities – one of which is progressive drug policy reform.

Six key themes emerged from the survey responses, and these were divided (in no particular order) across two sessions with participants asked to join one of three break-out groups each time and help elaborate key 3, 5 and 8-year goals for each area:

  • Community leadership, mobilisation and campaigning
  • Decriminalisation and criminal legal reforms
  • Narratives, culture and media
  • Reform at the international stage (including regional work)
  • Access to harm reduction, treatment and medical services
  • Legal regulation

Presentation of the group work was held in plenary.

Afternoon was dedicated to IDPC member organisations meeting. We learned about several actions taken by IDPC, discussed network’s strategy and strategic plan and shared interesting information.

The call for the reform of the international drug control system

From the IDPC website>>>

At the first day of the high-level segment of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which took place in Vienna on 14th and 15th March 2024, a coalition of 60 countries led by Colombia took the floor at the opening of the event to call for the reform of the international drug control system, which has remained unchanged since the height of the “war on drugs”. The joint statement sounded the alarm on the catastrophic consequences of punitive drug policies, which fuel violence, corruption and environmental devastation, whilst undermining health, development and human rights.

The joint statement was preceded by a strong intervention by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who described the current international system as “anachronistic and indolent”, and by an address by the United Nations own human rights chief, Volker Türk, urging “transformative change in global drug policy”.

This unprecedented call for global reform is the result of heightened frustrations over the current state of global drug policy. Despite overwhelming evidence on the devastation brought about by “war on drugs” policies, UN drug control bodies have refused to conduct a meaningful evaluation of the current approach. As a result, the UN summit started with the adoption of a weak politically negotiated document that mainly recycles commitments from the past decade – mostly because of the outdated tradition of adopting all UN political documents on drugs by consensus.

Joint statement, delivered by Colombia on behalf of 60 countries, among which are all 10 UN member states from South East Europe, is available following this link>>>.