UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs listens to youth voices

UNODC’s Youth Forum, held from 28 February to 4 March 2022, welcomed its highest-ever number of participants in 2022. 74 young people connecting in from 43 countries were enthusiastic to learn about evidence-based substance use prevention and share each other’s different perspectives and experiences. Two representatives of our member organisations participated in the Forum this year: Sara Vukelić from Re Generation and Tedi Jaho from Aksion Plus.

Throughout the week, participants embraced take-home messages on evidence-based drug use prevention and imagined how they would like to see positive change reflected in their communities. Youth alumni (participants of previous Youth Fora) warmly welcomed the youth of 2022 and inspired the participants by describing the actions they took after their own experience of the Youth Forum. The young leaders also worked together actively to create a statement of the key messages they wished to convey to the global policymakers attending this week’s 65th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) (14-18 March).

The youth were invited to deliver their Youth Statement 2022 to delegates attending the Plenary session of the CND on Thursday 17 March. Speaking on behalf of all Youth Forum 2022 participants, Ms. Ingrid Engene Gøranson (Norway) and Mr. Carlos Araujo (El Salvador) urged Member States to continue to invest in evidence-based substance use prevention, and in doing so, to “recognize the tremendous competency, capacity, and motivation of youth by creating opportunities for involvement in policy and decision-making.”

We have a specific goal: for all people to be healthy,” they said. “In pursuing this goal, we must be committed to prevention now, for the success of future generations,” they added. In their joint statement, the youth requested that young people are engaged “not only as instruments, but as the driving force behind the global implementation of evidence-based prevention programs for youth.”

UNODC commends the young leaders on taking interest in and action towards drug use prevention amidst the continuing challenges presented by COVID-19. As the Youth Initiative steps forth into a new decade of action after marking ten years of its launch in 2012, UNODC reaffirms its commitment to support meaningful youth engagement in addressing the world drug problem, in particular through empowering youth voices in the field of substance use prevention.

The Youth Statement is available following this link>>>.


Police and Drug Treatment Together

The Rome Consensus 2.0, together with Chicago Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities TASC. and The Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative PTACC, organise the side event “Police and Drug Treatment Together: the Global Emergence of Deflection as a Humanitarian Crime Reduction Approach to Drugs” during the 65th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

The event is designed to bring together CSOs, professionals, leaders and public authorities from across the world to explore ways to effectively combine humanitarian attitude in health, criminal justice, prevention and community responses to addiction problems. The aim of the event is to focus and share on a new emerging health-based practice called “Deflection”, which sits at the nexus of policing, drug treatment, housing, services, recovery, and local community.

Deflection leverages the hundreds of millions of contacts that police and law enforcement have globally with people who use drugs for personal use but might otherwise 1) be arrested or 2) not be arrested without any action taken to address their personal drug use that causes, often repeatedly, contact with police and law enforcement. Yet, regardless of which of the two options is applicable, the person would do better from engagement in community-based drug treatment, housing, services, and recovery at that very point-in-time encounter. In other words, Deflection is an early, preventative, “upstream” approach that seeks to prevent possible future criminal conduct, death, or unrelenting drug use by addressing the problems associated with drug use for the person, their family and children, and for the community itself.

The side event will be held on March 14th at 1:10 PM (CET). It is co-sponsored by:

  • Red Cross and Red Crescent Partnership on Substance Abuse IFRC, The Villa Maraini Foundation, Italian Red Cross (Italy)
  • Pompidou Group – Council of Europe
  • Knowmad Institut (El Salvador/Germany)
  • Section Commander for Substance Abuse Program of SAPS South Africa Police Services (South Africa).
  • MENAHRA Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (Lebanon)
  • DPNSEE – Drug Policy Network of South East Europe, HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje (North Macedonia)

Our colleague Nataša Boškova, Legal adviser at HOPS and Coalition “Margini”, will present the model of cooperation with the police and the development of the module for training on ethical conduct of the police toward people who use drugs.

Register here to join the event on Zoom:


Rome Consensus 2.0 is a Humanitarian Drug Policy alliance, a call from professionals to governments to make urgent moves towards health and human rights based approaches. The Humanitarian Drug Policy’s primary objective is to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity by fighting social, legal and cultural criminalization of people who use drugs.


UNODC Youth Forum

The UNODC Youth Forum ’22 officially began on 28 February. This year’s forum brings together some 75 young leaders to learn about evidence-based drug use prevention, discuss various perspectives on the world drug problem, and be empowered to continue action within the field of drug use prevention and health promotion. Continuing the tradition of empowering youth to make their voice heard by World policymakers, in the next five days, throughout the Youth Forum participants will develop a Statement to be delivered during the 65th session of the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs.

Youth Forum is an annual event organised by the UNODC Youth Initiative in the broader context of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). Its main objective is to gather young people, nominated by Member States and active in the field of drugs use prevention, health promotion and youth empowerment from around the world. The aim is to allow them to exchange ideas, visions and different perspectives on how to better protect the health and wellbeing of their peers and provide them with an opportunity to convey their joint message to the global level policy makers.

UNODC is celebrating a decade since the launch of the Youth Initiative in 2012, which has seen 10 Youth Fora held with the participation of 371 young people from 97 countries. The Youth Initiative continues to encourage young people to reflect on the potential impact of substance use in their schools and communities, and to start taking effective and evidence-based action to prevent substance use.

Two representatives of our member organisations participate in the Forum this year: Sara Vukelić from Re Generation and Tedi Jaho from Aksion Plus. Both have participated in the No risk, no borders for young people in South East Europe. We are assured that they will contribute with a wealth of ideas and proposals gained from their peers.


Turning the tide

IDPC published a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing gains, challenges and insight on how the latter have been generally overcome. The “Turning the tide: Growth, visibility and impact of the civil society drug policy reform movement at the UN” briefing paper offers a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing the many gains made and challenges encountered over time – and ways in which reform-oriented civil society has met, resisted, and generally overcome, these challenges. This paper is based on desk research, discussions with advocates involved in the key events discussed in the paper, and the lived experiences of the authors, and so is naturally weighted more to the recent moments such as Beyond 2008, the 2016 UNGASS, the 2019 Ministerial Segment, and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key international drug policy moments studied in this report – including the 1998 and 2016 UN General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on drugs, the 2009 High Level Segment and its 10year review in 2019 in particular – have created the momentum for civil society to engage in, and influence, global drug policy debates.

The participation of a wide range of reform-minded civil society representatives – including affected communities of people who use drugs, people in recovery, patients using medicinal cannabis or essential medicines for pain relief, farmers of crops used for illegal drug production, formerly incarcerated people and others – has had an undeniable impact on UN drug policy events, elevating real lived experience from the ground at often dry and bureaucratic debates in Vienna.

To read the briefing paper, follow this link>>>.

Call for speakers for CND 2020 Side Events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs is co-sponsoring several side events at this years CND (12-16 April 2021) and has been asked to nominate speakers. All events will be held online.

The side events where civil society input is expected are:

  • Family a key social institution for addressing substance use, violence, mental health and promote sustainable development: Lessons learned from parenting under stress, in humanitarian settings and in the context of COVID19
  • VNGOC Ad Hoc Working Group, NGOs from Asia unite to create a consensus and a call for attention to the challenges in Asia regarding drug matters
  • No one left behind: UNODC-WHO Programme on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care
  • Insights into Treatment and Care for People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Conviction or Punishment
  • Civil Society & COVID-19 – responses during the pandemic

The length of the intervention will depend on the main organiser of the event but will likely be no longer than 5min.

Deadline for applications is 25 March, 11:45 p.m. CET.

To apply for the opportunity to present your experience, please follow this link>>>.


Protect civil society participation at the 64th CND

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 statement can be found at: https://bit.ly/3ecBGc8

VNGOC urge all UN member states to ensure that the modalities for the hybrid 64th session do not inadvertently close the space for civil society to play its important role in these deliberations.

Cannabis rescheduled!

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) today decided to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 drug Convention treaty recognizing the therapeutic value of this century-old medicinal plant and no longer considering it as “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects.” The proposal came from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which convened an independent scientific assessment undertaken by some of our world’s leading experts in 2017-2018, where evidence and testimonials from all corners of the world were reviewed. In addition to the removal from Schedule IV, beyond our expectations, WHO proposed an ambitious plan to harmonize and embed flexibility into the treaty framework for the access and availability of cannabis medicines. WHO endeavoured to create space for governments to adjust their national policies to fit their needs.

The removal from Schedule IV is a phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics.

The civil society also played an important role advocating for the decision. The joint statement has been prepared and submitted by civil society organisations to the secretariat of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. DPNSEE have signed the letter along with 55 other NGOs from 33 countries. The statement is available following this link>>>.

From the countries of the region, two are members of the CND in this current mandate. Croatia voted for the decision, while Turkey voted against. From the neighbouring countries, Austria and Italy voted for, while Hungary was against.

These changes to international law will take effect after each government receives their official notification from the UN Secretary-General. In case a country contests the vote, it would only delay the entry into force of the decision to March 2021, which would only serve to reinforce the historic character of this set of decisions.

The formal CND/UNODC statement about this decision is available following this link>>>.


Drug user representation in United Nations drug policy settings

Recent commitments to greater involvement of people who use drugs in UN drug policy processes is a positive development but little research attention has been paid to ‘drug user representation’ in this context.

Authors Annie Madden, Kari Lancaster and Carla Treloara from Centre for Social Research in Health and Alison Ritterb from Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia produced the paper Making legitimacy: Drug user representation in United Nations drug policy settings. This paper examines ‘drug user representation’ in the UNGASS on drugs and associated CND processes over three decades.

Findings show that dominant UN drug policy discourses and other practices can have delimiting effects for the political legitimacy of drug user representatives.

The importance of engaging people who use drugs in drug policy development is increasingly acknowledged including in recent UN documents. Little scholarly attention has been paid to ‘drug user representation’ in the global drug policy setting of the UN such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). This paper examines ‘drug user representation’ in key UN drug policy processes over three decades.

The mapping process was undertaken using a corpus of publicly available documents from the UNGASS on Drugs and associated CND processes to identify relevant policy processes from 1987 to 2019.

The analysis shows that despite calls for greater involvement, dominant UN drug policy discourses and other practices delimit both the political subjectivities available to people who use/have used drugs and their capacity to bring their voices to bear in this context. The analysis also highlights that human rights-based discourses, employed by ‘drug user representatives’, have emerged as an important practice of resistance against the problematic and delimiting power effects of existing UN discourses, governing practices and modes of engagement.

In addition to the practices of resistance being undertaken by ‘drug user representatives’, authors suggest there is a need to improve how ‘drug user representation’ is being made possible and done in the sites of UN drug policy deliberation and, that these sites should be opened for questioning. This will not only have a positive impact on political legitimacy for ‘drug user representation’, but on the health and human rights of people who use/have used drugs.

The document is available following this link>>>.


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.

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