The United Nations has concluded its 57th session on Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and was also able to conduct a high-level review of Member States’ implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem at its 57th session in March 2014.
The Commission wished to review the progress made by Member States in implementing the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action. A brief joint ministerial statement was issued at the conclusion of the high-level review, identifying achievements, challenges and priorities for further action.
Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) observed in his opening message that “Illicit drugs and drug trafficking pose a serious threat to health, development and the rule of law, and no country is unaffected by this menace. The High-Level Review of Member States’ implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the World Drug Problem is an Opportunity to have a forward- looking debate on how to further strengthen International cooperation. No country can deal with such transnational challenges in isolation. Working together, we can harness the potential of international drug conventions to protect the health and welfare of humankind”.
The Vienna NGO Committee (VNGOC) was also able during the CND and High level review to provide a hearing on March 12 in conjunction with UNODC and WHO. It was co-chaired by H.E. Ambassador Khaled Shamaa, Chair of the 57th Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Michel Perron, Chair of the VNGOC and was addressed by Mr. Fedotov.
The hearing was structured around two panels respectively addressing the following themes:
- How do International Drug Control Conventions accommodate a health-based approach?
- Using 2014 momentum to get 2016 right: what specific areas of policy or practice should be further explored leading up to UNGASS 2016?
I had the privilege and pleasure of attending much of the CND, and associated events. It gave me the opportunity to co-chair in the high level segment and also in Side Events. My general impression from this year’s CND was that the debates this time were a little bit more relaxed and many NGO representatives and drug policy experts were actually willing to listen and engage in dialogue.
Importantly, in the high level review many participants agreed that actually the UN Conventions were flexible in terms of interpretation and application of the Conventions by Member States. It was observed that this flexibility can and in some cited instances already has managed to generate and promote innovative practices in prevention, care, treatment and social reintegration. Further the flexibility explicitly permits the use of alternatives to prison sentences or punishment.
During the discussion some general points of convergence emerged:
- There was widespread support to build a commonly agreed, broad understanding of what a health-based approach should be in the context of drug control.
- There was general agreement on the need to build more effective system-wide coherence in implementing a health-based approach to drug control.
- A health-based approach needs to be comprehensive and balanced.
- The UN Conventions provide flexibility for the development and expansion of health-oriented initiatives.
- Member States can exercise choices on how they enact responses to drug-related issues.
- We still lack robust data, drawing on the evidence of a wide range of stakeholders, which can inform effective policies and interventions.
One of the crucial lessons that emerged here is: some of the allegations by the harm reduction and legalisation side that the UN Conventions had failed are not based on sound evidence and are not rooted in practical experience. In fact there is general understanding that the UN Conventions are working well.
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Taken together the UN Conventions are forming the present legal system to prevent and reduce harm caused by drugs.
The present system of worldwide drug control is based on three international conventions:
– 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol (pdf);
By 14 March 2008, 183 states were Parties to these three Conventions.
The drug control conventions sit within a broader framework of UN treaties and declarations including, inter alia,
– the Charter of the United Nations (pdf),
– the Constitution of World Health Organisation (pdf),
– the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),
– the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (pdf) and
– the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (pdf) and that there should be complementarities between these international instruments and the respective UN bodies responsible for them.
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