Session I – The world drug problem in perspective: The evolution of drugs control
IPU Permanent Observer – Welcome to the annual parliamentary hearing at the UN that the IPU and the office of the PGA have organised. We welcome you all to NY. We will now turn to the President of the GA, a parliamentarian himself, Mr Lykketoft.
President General Assembly – Excellencies, distinguished parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to you all. It is a great pleasure to be with you today for the opening of this hearing. At the outset, I would like to thank the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Honourable Saber Chowdhury and his colleagues for their commitment and efforts in preparing this event. And I welcome UNODC Executive Director, Mr Yury Fedotov, who has also assisted with preparations. Ladies and gentlemen, this annual event brings the IPU and the United Nations together to discuss the most relevant issues on the international agenda. It is an opportunity for parliamentarians to contribute their unique perspective to the work of the UN – perspectives that start from the ground up; that bring the views of constituents from all walks of life and all regions, to the world stage. As a parliamentarian for more than 30 years now, I am particularly satisfied to see almost 200 representatives of legislative bodies with us today, covering every part of the political spectrum. Your keen interest in discussing and debating the world drug problem and the global response to this transnational threat is commendable. Relevant UN General Assembly resolutions have recognized the importance of your participation in the upcoming special session, so allow me to touch on three main contributions that I believe you are in a unique position to make. First, as I mentioned, you bring the ambitions and concerns of your constituents to these discussions. Over the coming days, you have an opportunity to make those voices heard by all. And you can do it in a way that is familiar to us parliamentarians: through constructive dialogue; by recognizing the validity of other opinions while searching for a common goal and a way to achieve it. Second, as lawmakers, you are responsible for debating and adopting the legal frameworks in your own countries relating to the world drug problem. It is you who have to fight the consequences of this problem in our societies. And it your responsibility to strive to achieve “the protection of the health and welfare” of the people you represent and to help realize all human rights. Thirdly, you are the custodians of that cornerstone of democracy – parliamentary accountability. You help to oversee the implementation of international commitments; to demand answers when outcomes are not reached; and to call for action by our governments on all matters, including on this fundamental one. This hearing is thus an example of democracy in action at the global level. It provides us with a snapshot of where the world’s peoples sit on this issue. And the presence of representatives from all regions of the world shows once more that during these discussions, we have to recognize, each in its own capacity, our shared responsibility on this matter. No society or country is unaffected. I therefore wish you all a successful hearing which I am confident will provide an invaluable input to the preparatory process of UNGASS. I commend the strong cooperation between IPU and the UN and I offer you, my fellow parliamentarians, a fruitful and rewarding discussion. Thank you.
IPU president Mr Saber Chowdhury – First of all let me thank our UN partners, particularly your office, Mr. President, for all of their support. Also, I appreciate very much the cooperation with UNODC. We are gathered here for a very interesting and, hopefully, fruitful discussion. There is no denying that drugs are a difficult issue. I know that there can be deep political divides when it comes to determining the appropriate response to this problem globally and within countries. The IPU has had two resolutions on the drug issue in 1998 and 2010, and a good debate at the fall assembly in Geneva in 2014. Already in the 1998 resolution, it was evident that the parliamentary community was contending with the way the world is dealing with this problem. Toward the end it recommends that “countries study the effectiveness of current domestic laws, enforcement practices and legal penalties in reducing drug demand.” Since then, in many quarters, the debate has grown louder about the effectiveness of the so-called “war on drugs”. It is fair to say that the ground has shifted quite a bit in the last few years in terms of how people see these issues as well as in terms of the facts on the ground. While the official purpose of UNGASS 16 is to review the implementation of official commitments under the conventions, there is a proverbial elephant in the room that one cannot avoid. In truth, it is often difficult for policy makers to discuss things that many of them – though not all – have not experienced first-hand. So let me play a little thought experiment and suggest that you think for a moment of that cup of coffee you probably had this morning to help you overcome jetlag and stay alert for this day ahead. Caffeine is a most common psychoactive drug. It helps with concentration, and it is used in many pharmaceuticals together with other compounds. More to the point, caffeine can be addictive: if you skip your morning coffee one day you can tell something isn’t quite right. Of course, caffeine is nothing compared to drugs like cocaine, heroin, or cannabis, but I hope this far-fetched comparison can help us relate a little bit more personally to how millions of drug users feel. It may help us enter this debate a little less judgmental and more compassionate toward drug users, or anyone with an addiction problem. Deep down, everyone is vulnerable to addiction, whether it’s from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or drugs. This isn’t somebody else’s problem. At least some of us know someone – family members, friends or colleagues affected by drugs. And certainly amongst our constituents, all of whom are entitled to your attention as citizens, there are concerns. Clearly, there is a wide spectrum of drugs and many reasons why people make use of them. Just like there are many reasons why some people drink too much or can’t quit smoking. On this point, I know some people wonder why the legal framework for drugs is considerably more severe than for other substances such as alcohol and tobacco, whose effects are also harmful. While most drugs are prohibited; alcohol and cigarettes are simply regulated. Worldwide, each year nearly 8 million people die from alcohol abuse and tobacco use combined. A much smaller number, under 300 thousands, die from drug use yearly. What then explains our response to drugs over the years? What is the problem with drugs? What should be our response to drugs in light of new developments? What do people really think about drug use today? The first thing to know about the world drug problem is that it’s not just one type of drug, and not just one problem. It’s important that we distinguish carefully and not lump different things together. For example, cannabis is very different from cocaine both in terms of the physical reaction and of the political economy of production and distribution. The drug problem in general is not the same in producing countries versus transit and consumption countries. And, new and dangerous chemical drugs have entered the scene. Data shows the number of drug users remains steady despite an enormous investment in law enforcement. The costs of drug control have grown so high that more and more people wonder if some of these resources would not be better spent on other things. The medical uses of marijuana were not as well documented fifty years ago, when the drug conventions were written, as they are today. Under pressure from their own publics, several governments are trying to come up with creative solutions that, some people worry, surpass the boundaries of the conventions too far. The certain knowledge that some terrorists use the lucrative drug market to fuel their activities is a particular concern. Another big change these past few decades is a growing awareness of human rights, and of the social, economic and even environmental implications of the global response to illicit drugs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted only a few months ago right down the hall put people at the center of sustainable development. What do the SDGs portend when it comes to the drug problem and the way we will deal with it going forward? To truly grasp this issue, we need to look at the facts as they are. We must be aware of the political under-currents and other interests involved, most of whom do not have the general welfare of the people in mind. In the lead up to UNGASS, I hope this meeting will provide a strong indication of what is feasible politically, what needs to change and what should remain the same at the policy level. The job of IPU as your parliamentary organization is to facilitate this debate. We are very pleased that we can partner with the UN in this endeavour. We will listen carefully and make sure your views are heard.
Yury Fedotov UNODC Director General/Executive Director – Allow me to begin by sharing with you a message from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: I am pleased to send greetings to the IPU and to congratulate you on this timely event in preparation for the UNGASS 2016 on the world drug problem. Our central concern is the health and wellbeing of people, and this should be the main basis of decision-taking. UNGASS offers a solid platform for a new debate and for nations to conduct debate on the issues that threaten peace and security whilst undermining development. Addressing the problem of illicit drugs will help the progress towards the sustainable development goals, including the targets of a peaceful and inclusive society and accountable institutions. Stronger and more effective institutions are essential to ensure that national legislation is linked to international law. We need to address HIV and other treatment and care issues in a manner that’s accountable and in line with the UN conventions. We wish you great success at this important hearing and in all your future endeavours.
On behalf of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, I have to say that we welcome the focus of this year’s Annual Parliamentary Hearing on the world drug problem, ahead of the UN General Assembly special session. The engagement of IPU in addressing global challenges like the world drug problem is very much needed and highly appreciated. Parliamentarians play an absolutely critical role in putting global commitments into practice in national legislation and ensuring that the necessary resources are devoted to make these pledges a reality. I had the privilege of addressing the 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva last October, and I am glad to be able to join you today. This meeting is another opportunity to ensure that the valuable national perspectives of parliamentarians can further enrich the UNGASS process. Addressing the world drug problem is essential to promoting health and peaceful and inclusive societies, as part of overall efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UNGASS is therefore a chance to consider responses to the world drug problem within the holistic framework of the SDGs. In the run up to the special session, there has been an open, inclusive and comprehensive preparatory process led by Member States through the Vienna-based Commission on Narcotic Drugs. I am pleased that we have with us today Ambassador Khaled Shamaa, Chair of the Board Tasked with UNGASS Preparations, who is very skilfully facilitating this process. Participation and debate have been encouraged through a dedicated UNGASS website, and through numerous events held in New York, as well as in Geneva and Vienna. Diverse stakeholders, including UN entities, international and regional organizations and civil society, have provided their substantive contributions. The UNGASS is also an important milestone on the way to 2019 and the review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem. It has helped to focus the attention of the international community on the many existing and emerging challenges posed by drugs. This includes heroin from Afghanistan, which despite decreases in opium poppy cultivation and production, continues to imperil peace, security, health and development in the region and beyond. The nexus of organized crime and terrorism has emerged as a critical threat as criminal groups and violent extremists are involved in drug trafficking in Africa and the Middle East. There is growing concern about increasing drug consumption in West and East Africa, which remain a critical transit route for traffickers. Violence continues to undermine stability and development in Central America. New psychoactive substances, or so-called legal highs, continue to proliferate outside international control, posing new risks and increasing the need for treatment. The potential for alternative development to empower poor farmers to break the vicious cycle of illicit cultivation and establish viable livelihoods has too often remained unrealized. All three drug conventions recognize the importance of controlled substances for medical purposes, but problems with availability and access remain in too many parts of the world. As a result, people suffering from grave diseases such as cancer or traumatic injury cannot get pain relief and adequate care. Prevention efforts and services for people with drug use disorders also continue to fall short, with only one out of every six drug users globally receiving treatment. Women in particular face barriers to treatment: representing one out of three drug users globally, but only one out of five drug users in treatment. The result is that far too many people continue to needlessly lose their lives, with nearly two hundred thousand drug-related deaths in 2013I very much welcome the fact that the discussions leading to the UNGASS have reiterated the importance of common and shared responsibility in addressing these challenges. They have further emphasized the need for balanced and comprehensive policies, rooted in the international drug control conventions, giving due consideration to public health, prevention, treatment and care. This includes considering alternatives to conviction or punishment, particularly for appropriate drug-related offences of a minor nature. This in turn could help to address prison congestion, as well as prevent the recruitment of vulnerable individuals by criminals and violent extremists. Balanced and comprehensive approaches also include robust criminal justice responses to disrupt organized crime networks, as well as promoting alternative livelihoods and increasing access to essential controlled medicines, while preventing their diversion, abuse and trafficking. Moreover, it means strengthening access to evidence-based and gender-responsive services for prevention and treatment of substance abuse, as well as for HIV prevention, treatment and care. UNODC is the UN Secretariat’s lead entity in assisting countries to address the challenges of drugs and crime, working with our UN partners and development actors, including the international financial institutions. As such, UNODC continues to support the CND in the preparatory process, including with the forthcoming UNGASS Special Segment taking place alongside the regular CND session in March. We are also supporting Member States to put balanced approaches to drug control into action on the ground, through our network of field offices and programmes linking global, inter-regional, regional and country-level responses. UNODC is well placed to offer such comprehensive assistance as our mandate encompasses justice, the rule of law and health, and our support is informed by the analytical expertise and operational experience needed to address all aspects of supply and demand. I am looking forward to hearing your views on how we can further enhance this work, and how the international community can improve collective responses to the challenges posed by the world drug problem. Thank you.
IPU Permanent Observer – Thank you very much. We thank our secretary, our president, Mr Lyketofft and Mr Fedotov. We will reorganise this room and invite Mr Shamaa of the UNGASS Board to speak.
Moderator Ms Julia Taylor Kennedy – Thank you, I am a senior vice-president and fellow at the Centre for Talent Innovation here in NY. I look forward to spending the next few days with you all to discuss these very important issues. We’re really seeing a divergence of approaches, from decriminalization to, in some cases, the death penalty. The upcoming UNGASS is supposed to bring some clarity. But we also have to understand where we are heading today. To remind you of the format, we will open with keynote remarks, then we will move to a discussion, and then we will want to hear from you, your brief questions, comments and remarks for the panel. We will then turn it back to our panel for conclusions. Let me turn to introducing our speakers, firstly, Ambassador Shamaa, chair of the UNGASS and from the CND. Mr Shamaa, you have the floor.
UNGASS Chair Ambassador Shamaa – Thank you. It’s an honour to be with all of you this morning. Let me first wish those celebrating the Chinese New Year a happy new year. Ladies and gentlemen, indeed your annual IPU hearing today on the world drug problem cannot be more timely, with about 70 days separating us from the special session. It would however be useful to rediscover what the global community and why an international drug control system. Why was there a need for it and what principles was it based on, what does it provide member states with. The international drug control system started taking place in the 1839 opium war which was waged for the free trade of drug, forcing China to open its borders to opium imports, which rose from 200 tons to 65 00 tons in 1880, with global production in 1906 reaching 14000 tons. That war for free trade in opium was one at the cost of the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people and resulted in a devastating impact and addiction that spanned nations. Witnessing these devastating effects on people and their health and general development, states came together for the first time in Shanghai in 1909 to create the first international legal instrument. This convention laid the foundation of the international drug control system, aiming to increase access to medication whilst protecting people from the dangers of drugs, all while recognizing the transnational nature of the drug problem and instituted the ideas of shared responsibility. When it became clear that supplier countries had to cooperate with the consumption countries, these agreed to control the production and distribution of opium, thus losing out financially for the benefit for humankind. The 1912 convention started a very dynamic control system, evolving until the 1961 convention, including targeted action aimed at prevention and treatment, and the next conventions updating the policies were in 1971 and 1988. When the UN last convened on the subject in 2009, it recognized that drug trafficking and abuse is posing a major threat to millions of people. We are determined to tackle the world drug problem and to aim for a society without drugs that is peaceful, safe and prosperous. We meet in April 2016 to review the progress in the implementation of the plan of action. Member states are mandated to agree on operations. We are preparing for out meeting in April whilst member states have expressed again and again that the approach has not been enough to tackle the drug problem and this it remains a threat to socio-economic development and security. It is obvious that major challenges still exist and new challenges are emerging. New programmes of targeting and interventions are required, especially to address children and youth. Treatment, rehabilitation and recovery still remain a great challenge. Infectious diseases are outbreaking and other health threats are prevailing and HIV/AIDS remain problematic. Other challenges are too large for states to deal with them individually; these include money laundering, arms trafficking, corruption, trafficking in human beings and the growing nexus between drugs trafficking and terrorism. Just last week, the INCB issued a study indicating that 5.5 billion people (3/4 of all of us) face no or restricted access to pain medication. Drugs are evolving as NPS, amphetamine-type stimulants, etc. Illicit cultivation of crops is being attempted to be addressed through alternative development, which needs to be addressed, enhanced and better developed. In brief, what we have is a dynamic and evolving international drug control system that requires continuous efforts through a balanced and integrated approach. We agree to invest more efforts to tackle these challenges. Member states are currently working on implementing the operational measures. Let’s not forget that the global community expressed it’s collective will for action, and that basis of the collective action stills stands and still forms the basis of our collective action today. Members of parliament have a prime responsibility at addressing these challenges in their communities. I would like to thank you.
Moderator – We will now move on to our panellists. The question I would like people to address is what you think the world would look like without the conventions of the last 50 years. Our speakers are Ms. Margarita Stolbizer, MP, Chamber of Deputies of Argentina as well as Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institute and Mr. Bernard Leroy, Rapporteur, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Ms Stolbizer – Thank you. I think this is a great opportunity to outline the failures of the conventions and control system. We require a good mechanism for evaluation of our progress, and it is clear that the results of our work are not good. There is an increase in the production, trade and consumption and drug trade and violence and crime. Why are there these failures despite the political efforts? Personally, I think the efforts and tools are good but insufficient, they must also be updated. Funding to deal with these challenges must be increased. We have insufficient information between countries. The first step is to have an improved diagnosis of the situation, but the information required for this diagnosis is still missing. Political agreements and state policies are still missing. They should be agreed on by consensus. Solutions that are easy and immediate will lead to failure. We have to think about medium-term solutions. Another problem is the functioning of the states themselves. After all, drugs are a symptom for deeper underlying problems. This requires simultaneous action. When there are situations of social vulnerability, this leads to the opening of opportunities for organised crime. States need to deal with social vulnerability. Additionally, other types of crimes are linked to drugs, including the trafficking of people and arms as well as terrorism. There needs to be a regulation of the arms trade so that terrorist and drug traffickers cannot access these. The question of money laundering is also linked to the drug problem as drug dens have been used for these purposes. Private corruption is also fertile ground for the drug world. What we need is a more integral, comprehensive system, we need to strengthen and organize the states to increase their capacity. Parliamentarians have a huge responsibility vis-à-vis the drug conventions. They are responsible for the implementation of these laws as well as the monitoring and evaluation of progress; exchange of information through cooperation also needs to take place through these channels. Transparency needs to increase to improve the efficiency.
Mr Leroy – I think the question of historical context is important. Let’s look at what took place at the beginning of the 20th century; there was a lot of opium being consumed and this was out of control, in Asia, Europe and in the US. Where would we be now without the conventions? I think the percentage of people of people using drugs today is 3.5%. In comparison, tobacco and alcohol have not been prohibited and their consumption levels are incredibly high. I believe that drugs figures would be considerably higher if we had not enforced a system against them. However, to play devil’s advocate: adolescents are going through phases of taking drugs against their parents’ will. If the governments legalized drugs, teenagers could do this without their parents’ permission; this would be offensive legally and against the families. We need to put civil society back in charge. The options given to parents of young people who take drugs that have been implemented since the 60s are maybe restricted to medical options versus prisons, which is not comprehensive enough. Why was there a rise of drug-consumption after WWII? This due to three reasons: advancements in chemistry, publicity, and a type of adolescence that did not exist previously, a finding of identity, and an increasing influence of peers. When we do not work with the situation at hand, an increase in consumerism, we are not handing the situation well. We need to know about the facts that increase drug consumption in our societies.
Dr. Felbab-Brown – The two responses we have heard so far accurately represent the fundamentally different range of attitudes present in international discussions on this subject. On one hand we have heard about the failures of the war of drugs and governments and the regime, and on the other hand we have heard we would fail if we would chose to redesign the regime. Going back to your original question of where we would be without the previous conventions: The original convention, as we heard from Ambassador Shamaa, were aimed at addiction prevention and treatment. The first reform was aimed at problematic drug use. The second reform that took place in 1988 reacted to the rise of trafficking and organised crime groups. The bulk of threat that needs to be tackled is the threat of violence and crime linked to trafficking. The UNGASS is taking place in April and the discussion needs to go beyond being a balance between supply and demand reduction. I would say that so far the policies have not been balanced, they have even been in contradiction with each other. The morbidity and mortality that is linked to abuse and addiction needs to be faced as well as the violence in illicit markets. The increase in incarceration is however an issue as well. The criminalization of users is increasingly a problem. Public health diseases such as HIV/AIDs and hepatitis are on the increase still as well. The threats and harms have been very unequally distributed around the world. Asia might have great production and increasing consumption levels in contrast to Latin America, and yet the same level of violence is not present. There has been a strong push to reform the system which is seen to have failed from Latin America, as well as from some countries of Western Europe, but this push is not present in Asia, where a strive for legalization is still viewed as a colonialist movement whilst drug prohibition is not considered as violent as it is in other parts of the world, and there have been no calls for reform. So the treaties themselves should be evaluated at the current UNGASS. There is a call for embracing the conventions but there will be a divergence of attitudes. Are the treaties flexible enough to accommodate for both these points of view.
Moderator – Thank you. The next question is how the application of the conventions has varied over time.
Mr Leroy – I am part of the INCB and it us who look at the implementation of the conventions. But I would like to remind you that the conventions are those with the highest level of ratification across the world. An almost total consensus from the international community adopted the conventions. It is no problem for us for states to make changes, we are only here to oversee the implementation. However, the difficulty lies in the consensus. The major difficulty is how to come up with conventions that take into account the current situation. No one had focused on usage and consumption until the 1960s or only focused on group consumption, not individual consumption. The 1961 convention was designed to group together all the previous conventions. There is a problem when you recall that the President of UNGASS said there were 5.5 billion people with no access to appropriate pain medication. However, with regards to the illicit drug circulation – combating this was one of the main objectives and to help treat and rehabilitee drug users and reduce the negative effects of consumption. In my view, these will remain the basis of consensus. The problem we should focus on is drug users in prison – the conventions do not oblige states to incarcerate for drug consumption. States can replace criminal sanctions by measures of care and treatment. We need to come up with an agreement based on international consensus. There also needs to be a limit for the use for medical and scientific purposes. Is this international community ready to back to the topic? The ball is now in the hands of the states to decide what they would like to see agreed on in the future.
Ms Stulbitzer – The motivation which has inspired the universal war on the drug problem has changed over time, just as our world has changed. This shows in the case of opium as it has changed in the past century. Greater globalisation and other factors have impacted the face of opium. We are faced with transnational crime today. We cannot have a strategy which will leave some regions behind as everyone is affected by this problem. We are living in a global world, which requires sensitivity. We are faced with a problem which has a terrible human cost. We need to understand globalisation. Our borders are vulnerable. Our countries can no longer combat this alone. And here I would like to emphasize what changes need to take place in our debate. We need to have a perspective which will give greater balance between the supply and demand of drugs. The social vulnerability in many countries, particularly in Latin America, is caused by deterioration in educational systems. There is a demand for drugs amongst young people. When a young person drops out of school at the age of 14 or 15 years, they can easily enter the world of drugs and crime. We cannot deal with this later, we need to deal with it now and act to prevent this. We need to keep young people enthusiastic about their education. We need to put the questions of demand and supply together. It’s not a question of weakening the current struggle but bringing these different struggles together. It is also necessary to implement programmes of care for the most vulnerable. We have experience how investments in the social system can prevent these issues we will otherwise have to deal with at a later point in time. Furthermore, we have a problem with selectivity. Sometimes it is necessary to look at the prison population – they tend to be the young and poor people. Who wins in the drug system? The powerful and wealthy that are higher up in the hierarchy. We attack and prosecute the smallest individuals in the chain. Such as the mules, mainly women, who carry the drugs. How many of them have died from swallowing capsules to smuggle these across the border? States need to deal with these issues and work to prevent them.
Dr. Felbab-Brown – We are talking about a balance between prevention and treatment. In practice, since the 1970s there has been a very strong shift towards criminalization, including in countries such as the United States. Even casual users, not addicts, which actually make up the majority of users, have been persecuted since. There have been devastating social consequences, including harm done to families, no available treatment for those actually addicted in prisons, and very negative repercussions for public health. There have been calls for reform since then not just in countries in America but even in the United States. There has been a major drive to move away from criminalization of use and low-level dealings. To some extent there has even been a resonance in Asian countries where people are also increasingly dissatisfied with imprisonment and forced treatment which very often look like presence. Harm reduction measures are very important. How does one treat addicts? Many of these were pioneered in the Europe in the 1980s and 1990s such as the Netherlands and the UK by providing needles etc. These measures were often contentious. What is the purpose of law enforcement measures? For a long time, supply reduction measures was the main focus, aiming at drug free world. Among many countries there is sense that these objectives cannot be achieve and that this aim should at least be coupled with efforts to reduce the crime. Finally, SDGs fascinatingly intersect with development that is linked to the drug problem. More humane and hopefully more effective policies will hopefully deal with for example alternative development. Will alternative development inevitably fail, or is it failing due to our approach to it? Rural, human development and job creation should all be linked to the issue of alternative development. Finally, about the notion of balance between demand and supply. Who’s responsible for the problems it is, who should do what? Much of the original conversation might still be there, but the reality has changed. Many of the supply countries have become major demand countries. Cocaine is reducing in the US, in Asia there has been a rise in use. This traditional division in arguments is fizzling out, for the first time, the drug trade is truly global.
Moderator – For the remainder of the session I would like to hear from you whether we are moving from a drug free world to a world free of drug-related violence. We will start by listening to Colombia.
Colombia – Good morning to everyone present. I am Luis Fernando Duque and a senator from Colombia and President of the Andean parliament. I am accompanied by other delegates, one whom will later share with you about an important law he has passed on medicinal marijuana. The world drug problem and the world response concerns all of us, which leads us to comply with international responsibility. In recent years a debate on the policy to deal with the problem has gone against the prohibition which has dominated the 20th century. Not only academics but also former-presidents and politicians have called attention to the need to review the policies. Kofi Annan has also examined the situation and called for attention. We would like to outline the problems of the prohibition policy and alternatives which can be implemented around the world. What we are trying to do is to intervene between the two models of prohibition and that of harm reduction which has a focus on human rights and public health. Some important points on that matter are that harm reduction to consumers and non-consumers minimizes damage and gains to criminal organizations whilst maximising the fight against drugs.
Moderator – Thank you, you have raised interesting questions such as the point of universality in the approach. Why should each country not interpret the conventions on their own? I would now like to give the floor to a member of civil society. Interpol, you now have the floor.
Interpol – Thank you very much to the IPU and the UN for organizing this event. We wish to confirm the view that there are many facets to think about, in particular the link with organized crime, with terrorism and corruption. I’d also like to emphasise the importance of cyberspace which is becoming increasingly important in drug trafficking. I’d also like to talk about synthetic drugs which are made with very few risks except for the health of users. The production is very easy. Interpol has important role to play with regards to transnational and organized crime. This morning we heard how important it is to share the information about the best norms of policing. Interpol is paid for by the member countries and the more you use it the cheaper it gets.
Belgium – At the UNGASS in April 2016 the world is at crossroads. More production sites have been discovered and eliminated and more insight has been gained. The UNGASS will be an important milestone to discuss the goals set in 2009. 200 million people around the world are using drugs. Even our country Belgium has a certain reputation when it comes to drugs. Belgium has been reported by Europol to be a paradise for drugs with the highest consumption, production and the lowest prices. In September 2013 we have increased our efforts, e.g. in Antwerp, a harbour city, we tripled the search capacity. In 2015 we started seeing the effects with a drop in 30% drop in drug related crime. My question to the panellists is, what do you think of a harsh approach of enforcement.
UK – Thank you, it’s great to have this opportunity to discuss this issue which affects so many of us. The UK is a demand country with very little production occurring on the grounds, and yet over 3000 people died from drug use last year. My point is that we talk about the war on drugs, but we can only speculate whether this situation would be worse if we didn’t have our control system in place. For many people, the situation couldn’t possibly be worse anyway. Whatever the policy is, it doesn’t seem to be effective, there is hardly any cohesion, even in the US, where about 10 states were cannabis is legal either for recreational or medicinal use. On the subject of prison, more drugs are available in prisons than outside prisons at times, I went to visit a prisoner a few years ago a few years ago who needed anadin as a painkiller for his toothache, and he told me he could get any drug in the prison except for a simple legal painkiller. We need more effective responses policy-wise in our prisons – how many prisoners have criminal records because of their addictions and yet they can’t get treatment for these addictions. I’m a member of the council of Europe and I don’t believe that anybody should be executed and yet it is happening. I do believe that we need more effective collaboration and as much investment into the drug problem as the people who benefit from trug trafficking do. The drug problem comes out of the misery and poverty in this world and yet it increases just that.
Mr Leroy – Cohesion is important indeed. I have spoken to country leaders before who are very genuine in their quest to help the drug problem and yet the head of the police in the very same countries would tell me that they are arresting marijuana users just to drive up the statistics and creates more files. So I think there is a need for real cohesion from the people who are in charge in these areas. We need to work in a broader manner on the capacity of states. Many country leaders have a lot of elegant words but no actual strategy. I do think this is a war we are losing. But in reality, drug abuse in prisons needs to be confronted to allow prisoners to deal with their usage. From a consistency point of view, it is up to the international community to decide what content they are giving the conventions as tools for countries to implement. The INCB has brought out its annual report, some of the most worrisome points are the following: between 2013 and 2014, 600 new synthetic drugs appeared on the market, which can become very dangerous in the years to come. Synthetic marijuana for example is getting closer to LSD, in that it causes a genuine breakdown in the relationship to reality. The addiction to prescription drugs is also in full bloom on the North-American market, which also has the highest death rate related to drug use. Africa is also becoming more and more the transit point for drugs on their way to Europe. Heroin use is once again on the rise in North America. So, when people say there is a need for change, the basic question is what kind of solution could really solve these problems
Dr Felbab-Brown – Foolish cohesion would be as ineffective as limitless diversification. Much of the past decades can be argued to have been of foolish cohesion on matters of criminalization at the cost of incarceration and public health. With respect to reducing violence and limiting the role of organized crime, there is a wide diversity of views. Some believe that decriminalization of e.g. cannabis would reduce the rate of organized crime. I think that’s an optimistic scenario that’s unlikely to manifest itself in some countries. Markets and drug-markets should not be associated with high levels of crime and corruption. Breaking the notion that there is only one shoe fits all dimension and that cohesion is necessary might not be the best possible answer. We must accept the different realities on the grounds. However, not any policy should be allowed either; that would not be consistent with the spirit of the treaties, for why have treaties at all in that case. The objectives are after all to focus on human rights and to include objectives strengthening states. What will be the debated at this UNGASS and the one in 2019 will realize that experimentation is useful. We often talk about evidence-based policies, but there has predominantly been one approach which has sometimes worked in one part of the world but often not worked in many other parts. We have to learn from what has been systematic failure, but we also have to recognise that we need to experiment around. The large issue in the background is legalization of cannabis which is a debate taking place in many countries. Can the treaties accommodate this, are they flexible enough?
Ms Stolbitzer – With regard to harm reduction in Colombia- I’d be interested in finding out what Belgium thinks about that, should there be are hard or soft approach? We should not idealize any approach, we should just view whether the measures are effective or not. That is why we need a balance between supply and demand. You obviously have to be harsh to those people who are gaining from the trafficking, but we have to be careful how we treat those that are poor. With regards to the UK, we have to recognize that the high rates of imprisonment have achieved the best results. Interpol has said something important- this is linked to the subject of corruption. We speak about the police, but drug trafficking has infiltrated the police, the prison system, the financial system, the judicial, and policy-makers. We cannot achieve long-lasting results if we do not fight corruption. In fact, I would like to use this opportunity to make a comment – with regards to the illegal funding and the electoral campaigns, the progress of drug trafficking has had to do with the corruption of political structures, therefore the most important intervention has to be within politics.
Pakistan – Thank you. I would just like to mention the 1971 convention on the newly emerging threat of psychotropic substances. The protocol was intended to combat the harmful effects of psychotropic substances whilst maintaining the value as scientific substances. Whilst given the task of placing these substances under international control, we should view the results. We do not require a change to these conventions. We should build on the existing achievements whilst facing the new challenges. Pakistan was a member of the UN conference which lead to the adoption of these conventions. Pakistan has made the utmost efforts to implement these conventions. Our experience indicates that the three conventions remain very much relevant today and constitute a solid basis in combating the menace of drugs in all its forms. What is required is more effective implementation by member states. Thank you.
Jordan – Thank you. Firstly, I would like to reaffirm that this issue is definitely and recently of particular importance and Jordan, as was stated by one of the speakers, has gone from being a transit country to being a consumer country. Recently, Jordan has transformed into a country with a very high demand, especially from young people. Such use has affected school and universities. We have heard important interventions from all parties present, but one aspect which has maybe been overlooked is the political aspect. Can you imagine that a country like Jordan, which has 7 million citizens, more than 2 million of them are refugees. We have attempted to have the great powers intervene to help solve the conflict in the neighbouring countries where these refugees come from, for example Iraq. Iraq used to be one of the most important countries where people could be well off but now it is an abyss of people killing and dying. Syria is also a country where millions of people are fleeing from it. The refugees, when they come to another country that encounters economic difficulties. Some of these refugees have become drug traffickers and others have become users. Therefore I am trying to outline that the lack of social justice and the lack help for situations. For example, the Palestinian cause creates conditions where violence and drug use and trafficking are on the rise. Therefore we need to consider this aspect of the problem here today and pay more attention to it. In Jordan we have attached great attention to the issue. We have ratified all of the conventions and have also implemented measures aimed at first time users. We need to devote specific attention to the issue of social justice.
Bangladesh – Thank you and good morning. I am honoured to be invited to his hearing. Bangladesh has been trying hard to solve this issue under the leadership of our Prime Minister, the daughter of the father of our nation. We are committed to the programmes. But in South Asia, the problem in Bangladesh is different. We are not a drug-producing country. Rather we are victims of this problem like many other countries, of drugs being trafficked across our borders. I do not want to point fingers or name names, but we have neighbouring countries that are making this difficult for us. I appeal to you all that we need arrange a local meeting to bring some more specific results. The same counts for other areas in the world where countries that do not produce suffer from the imports. If we sit together we can find out a solution.
Dr Felbab-Brown – People who have to flee from conflict and feel ostracised in the regions they live in today are vulnerable to become involved with drugs. This is indeed an issue we need to discuss. That said, we need to become more knowledgeable in terms of what works and what doesn’t. A lot of those policies implemented in Europe and in North America might have been more cost-effective than imprisonment but not necessarily more effective at all. We know that drug treatment is especially effective if tailored for a specific group. There is a very important need to refocus international aid which has overwhelmingly gone to destruction of crops and eradication of supply than treatment measures. The role of refugees is another example for the need to change this allocation of resources. Pakistan and other countries think that we need to implement the conventions more strictly. However, further implementing things that have not been effective in the past would be foolish. Imprisoning people for non-violent drug crime has not been effective in deterring drug crime. We also know that premature eradication measures, such as eradicating illegal production in Afghanistan before giving legal production a chance to generate income, has caused harm and destabilized the country. We need to experience with policing. The violence in Latin America is intolerable. Yes we need more effective policies but that does not mean doing more of the same.
Ms Stolbitzer – The common thread is that we want a common policy that is adjusted to the situation in the individual countries. When we talk about international instruments we are talking about using tools for international cooperation. We need to aim at the social injustice causes. This includes refugees but also other vulnerable groups. So our strategies need to take into account all these different aspects as well as the possibilities of regional agreements.
Mr Leroy – Regarding the three stages at discussion and measures to be taken to target specific vulnerability, I would like to say that the 58 convention mentions that all the transit and developing countries must be targeted in a specific way and that articles 7 and 9 of the convention. Pakistan wanted to know how to strengthen the convention. They can invoke assistance by the international community. Regional provisions are allowed within the conventions.
Colombia – Thank you. I should like to make a few general points, also but not just about Colombia specifically, which has probably paid the highest cost of all countries in the past few decades. We have lost presidents, prosecutors, farmers, most of the court of justice, presidential candidates in the 1990s including my father, and we have experienced this tragic history often alone, in particular in the 1980s. We need to open a window to reform the system. We are faced with an enormous dilemma. What we make sure is that regulation of the use of NPS with a human rights approach. In Colombia we have waged a battle these consumption. For example, addiction is considered a disease and there are treatments available. States in the US have started allowing marijuana for medicinal use and others have even gone beyond that and allowed marijuana for recreational purposes such as Colorado and California. Colombia is also starting to allow marijuana for medicinal purposes, as President Obama has said, it is less harmful than alcohol. We need to start overcoming myths and focus on facts. In Colombia we always saw ourselves as a producer country but we now see ourselves also as a consumer country. We need to punish not the farmer, the cultivator, nor the consumer; both should not be persecuted. We need to address the latter with a public health approach. Drugs have played a role in human history since the beginning of our species. But we need to address the issue of why so many people seek drugs today and what the underlying causes and thus solutions are.
Civil Society Task Force – Thank you. This morning we have already heard about the importance of the civil society working in the drug field. And as a representative of the Civil Society Task Force, which consists of regional representatives, but also representatives of the affected populations, farmers, users, youth, women and so on, I would like to give you a bullet point list of what we have done and what has happened in the past year. More than 800 organisations have responded to the question how they would like to see the outcome of the UNGAS. The consensus bullet point is about drugs and health, being inclusive towards all affected populations; revaluating the indicators of drug policy success; use of a greater evidence-based drug policy data; improving access to controlled medicines; improving evidence-based drug prevention; universal evidence-based and culturally appropriate drug treatment; the widespread adoption of harm reduction; the need to address the stigma, exclusion and reintegration of drug users; a reinforced commitment to helping people with HIV/AIDS; the SDGs which cannot be achieved without significant progress in the world drug problem including and prevention and treatment; the need to understand the reasons for drug convention and the understanding that users need to be treated with respect; the need to address social and economic harms when designing drug policies; the need to address families, their human rights and the need for support; the impact of drug policies on women and marginalized populations; the sustainable development opportunities for those currently involved in crop cultivation without focusing on crop destruction; proportionality of sentencing for drug related offences including the abolition of the death penalty.
Argentina – Good morning. Thank you. This is a subject which is difficult to tackle because we are looking at completely different perspectives and there is a lot of confusion in the discussion. I believe that the groups involved in drug crimes must be happy about this confusion. I’d like to focus on two relevant points of view. One is the policy which has been mentioned by several speakers. They have highlighted tat drug trafficking has moved from the outskirts of society to the centre of power, which allows for more drug trafficking. We cannot be lax or encourage policies which make it easier to have access oneself. Not everything should be allowed.
UK – Hello, I’m a Labour party member of parliament from the UK. It is very interesting to hear from the speaker form Argentina because the conflict between those who take a strict line with drugs and those that prefer a health-based approach. I think what Dr Felbab-Brown said is hugely important about how we need to look at evidence-based policies to shape our decisions. The issue is going down the political agenda and needs to be addressed more because the impact in developed countries such as the UK are just as much as they always have been if not greater. And yet it seems that politicians aren’t addressing the issue as much as they were 10 years ago. Equally, I have learnt about the impact in countries such as Afghanistan where drug-related problems are destroying lives. We need to look at the problems everywhere. We need to look at the political agenda once more and the UN needs to step forward and to provide us with the best information on what policies have worked where so that we can decide which policies to implement in the future. That it is why it is important for us to get together and share such information.
Republic of Korea – Happy New Year first of all. Korea, compared with other countries, experiences lower rates of drug abuse and drug related crime. Many people here talk about the war on drugs and said that they have lost. But I don’t think the war has even begun yet and we have not lost yet. Just like we need the UN peacekeeping processes we also need an organisation which controls drugs, such as Interpol, which play a very important role. I think the UN’s role is very important as an international government. Supporting legal frameworks as well as investments should be made. In this morning’s session we talked about how supply of drugs should be controlled. This I think has limitation and I think we should focus on controlling the demand. As long as there is demand, there will be supply. The best way to deal with demand is to deal with the mind. The education institutions, religious bodies have a greater role to play and should help people think that they can’t get happiness just form drugs. In particular regarding poor people and young people we need to provide them with more opportunities. The panellists this morning had hopeful words and I would like to thank you once again.
Uruguay – Thank you. We should like to make some comments with regard to what has been said today in particular by the panellists and the civil society representatives. What we are dealing with is a global problem. We are aiming to recognize that we all have a different experience but these have certain characteristics in common. We need a policy that includes a concept which relates to human rights, public health policy and addresses matters concerning drug trafficking and security. Our country has innovated in terms of health and made progress in fighting against addiction. For example, we are introducing a tobacco law which is still pending. Along these lines, recently our parliament has adopted a law in favour of 0 alcohol for driving. By the end of the year it will be prohibited to drive with any alcohol in the system. We are taking serious steps and following the conventions which we have subscribed to and taking steps to solve this issue which is a global problem. In that respect, we are committed to these processes. Moving from legalization to regulation, linked to public health and human rights.
Turkey – I wanted to speak after the Jordanian speaker and thank him for his words, and thank the government of Jordan for hosting about 2 million refugees. As you know Turkey is now hosting nearing three million refugees, 2.7 million in the last count. This of course causes many problems and thank you to the speaker of Jordan for bringing this up. Turkey is highly affected by drug trafficking, its geographical position forces it to put attention on trafficking and the problems that stem from it and we need to have a comprehensive and integrated approach. Turkey has been trying to implement demand reduction policies with a public health focus. The prevention and social reintegration activities are the key components of our approach. We should emphasize shared responsibility principles and international. We need to also discuss the issue of terrorism and criminal organizations involved in trafficking and producing drugs and the threat these cause to international peace. This is a serious concern which has been recognized by the United Nations Security Council. We call for countries and the UN to separate the ties between terrorist organizations and drug trafficking to reduce the financing of such crimes. International drug smuggling networks have widespread connections in Turkey and European countries. States have old challenges to face as well as new ones that have emerged after the political declaration and plan of action in 2009. We have a shared responsibility. Turkey’s governments will continue its efforts in implementing the UN drug conventions.
Philippines – Thank you. Let me thank the previous speakers for the very informative and valuable contributions. The Philippines’ Office of the President Dangerous Drugs Board created a plan of action with a vision to eradicate supply and demand for dangerous drugs, to stop trafficking to and from the country and to enhance cooperation. We are in close coordination with different countries and many of them are here today and I thank them on behalf of my government today, in particular for the intelligence-merging which has helped in the dismantling and busting of drug traffickers. We are also going down hard on our own men including police and politicians that are involved in illegal activities. All state bodies should work together and our anti-drug agencies are partnering up with other institutions such as the department of education and the anti-money-laundering department, as well as those linked to transportation, technology and science. We remain committed to comprehensive integrated efforts. The UN, IPU, civil society and law-makers should continue to renew their partnership.
Morocco – Thank you. I am from the Moroccan parliament. Allow me to stress that Morocco is convinced of the importance of the three conventions. Morocco never failed to undertake measures to control drugs and to try and fight cultivation and trading as well as providing alternative crops in the area. We try to establish security and fight all crimes related to crops and trading, including corruption and money-laundering. We notice that the area that was dedicated to cultivating crops has decreased and we have stopped a sizeable amount from being exported. We are determined to fight this scourge in all means and to prevent drugs from transiting our country, especially towards our Northern partners in Europe. Thank you.
Portugal – Thank you for all the great interventions today. I just want to portray the Portuguese experience. Portugal has taken steps to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. We stopped looking at consumers as criminals and began to look at them as people who need help. About the human rights dimension- we mostly just stopped looking at them as criminals, although drugs are still illegal as such. We have specific institutions that look at every individual case and advise for treatment or social work, or even to pay a fine. Sixteen years ago, some people were asking why were doing this. I think it is key is to make the evaluation of what has happened in the past 16 years, especially with regards to the upcoming UNGASS. We are not saying we have the one right way, but we have an experience that should be looked at, at the panellists here today could mention this. Thank you.
Mexico – I agree with Ms Stolbitzer who said that we need to block those that are profiting from the drug trade. In Mexico we have a serious problem with drugs and it is the poor people who are in prison. We have a problem with security and the legislative process in the parliament. However, we have implemented a law which seizes the possessions of traffickers. Drug traffickers have assets and we follow the money trail until the point of destination. We have a law against money-laundering. Of course there was opposition to these laws. This is a way forward towards blocking the drug trafficking which is costly for public health and harms children and women. People are living on this illicit drugs trade and we need to combat this issue.
Nigeria – Thank you. I am Chairman of the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics. In Nigeria in the 1980s we started hearing about drugs like heroin and cocaine. At that time the government decided to impose the death penalty but due to public outcry the law was repealed. But the awareness of drugs began to grow and people began to consume and traffic drugs. Cannabis is now being produced in Nigeria. So the issue we are now facing is the issue of decriminalization of cannabis. We have to be careful because experience has shown it is not the solution to the problem. If it is decriminalized, it will be more widely available and people will not think that it is dangerous and thus it could create more problems. The issue of decriminalization should be left for countries to make a decision on individually. There should be no universal declaration forcing countries to do this. Thank you.
Mr Leroy – In many of the interventions what underlay them was the question of decriminalization of marijuana. Is it up to the states to decide on the content and the application of the conventions. They have an obligation to be sure that there is consideration of a serious criminal offense of the production of the drugs themselves; there is no flexibility in the conventions regarding that point. The three conventions all agree that the production and distribution is a severe offense. Usage however is not necessarily seen as a criminal offence; it does not necessarily have to be punished with a prison sentence, there can be alternatives to punishment. The constitutional principles of every country can be taken into account though; Ecuador for example. The experiment conducted in Portugal was also welcomed. We believe there has to be a certain development and flexibility. There is an obligation to limit the licit use. But some states are considering allowing the growing of marijuana for personal use for example for medical purposes, I find that dubious but I would like to recall the 1989 convention allowed for medical marijuana, so from that angle, this question has already been dealt with. I would also like to remind you that the conventions state that specific experimentations can be conducted, but they do have a time limit and limits on the quantity of the product in question. I would like to recall that there are two frameworks – that of the content of the conventions – and then there are the tables that have been amended and drawn up by the ODC. At the end of the day, the rule of law has to dominate any policy.
Dr Felbab-Brown – I would like to address four topics; firstly, decriminalization of use, the issues of development and cultivation and narco-terrorism. There is no evidence that death penalties have reduced drug trafficking. But in terms of human rights and social disruptions, there has been a lot of harm. Law enforcement should always prevent and not increase violence. The example of Portugal has been successful and did not lead to greater prevalence of drugs. Of course, the treatment of laws from countries such as the Netherlands will not be applicable in countries of West Africa. Although there is no specific order of sequence stating that illicit crops must first be destroyed and then alternative development must be offered, this has often become the norm that is embraced. By and large, that policy has not been very effective. Sometimes countries managed to eradicate drug production through crop eradication but at enormous costs to society and the human rights. If a more human approach is taken which allows producers to find a way out of criminality, all driving forces must be addressed. First and foremost, insecurity and violence. In addition to providing security, the state or civil societies must address issues of poverty and income security; there must be social mobility and job availability as well as infrastructure. A failure to implement these factors will likely result in a failure of the alternative development efforts. Efforts must become far more comprehensive and must be sustained over many years, often decade. About narco-terrorism – often governments have used eradication of crops of depriving terrorist groups of their finances, but overwhelmingly whether this is Thailand, Peru, Colombia or Afghanistan, these efforts have failure and weakened the connection between the farmers and the state instead. There is a difference between labour-intensive drug production such as poppy and coca, and non-labour intensive such as trafficking or amphetamine production which we increasingly hear that ISIS is involved in. The cost of disrupting the less labour-intensive processes are smaller than eradicating the growing of illicit crops and yet less difficult. The states will also have to intervene against militancy in the first place. My last point will be on the role of the United States. Increasingly the US is playing an active role and is pushing to allow for greater flexibility as well as harm reduction measures. The US is a new player in this regard, it was long the architect of the policing system. But it is now a leader in allowing for greater flexibility in its own system as well as internationally. Thank you.
Ms Stolbizer – Thank you very much for all the contributions we have heard. I would like to make a few brief comments. First, with regards to Colombia, they have made tremendous efforts and as the delegate of Colombia has said, it’s the country that has been the most affected by the drug problem. The international community supports these efforts. We need to recognize the steps that have been taken in different. We need to embrace a comprehensive, multi-lateral approach. As Colombia has said, we also need to stop believing the myth that we are all only producer or transit countries and we must realize what is really taking place in our countries or else we cannot face the human problems in our countries. My comments are in line with contributions of Portugal, Uruguay and Mexico which are that experiences can open up windows of opportunity. The political decision of the state should be emphasized. Regulation means the state should be involved. If the state does not get involved, the organised crime enters in these gaps. To deal with the trade, you have to regulate it, as these countries has said. Mexico said that money-laundering is an important aspect we need to address and I support this. There are many illegal and legal sources of income that enter the money-laundering and criminal economy. There need to be laws covering this and parliamentarians need to face these issues. We also need to push for more transparency. A state doing its fiscal work in secrecy is not able to function properly. We need to also prevent tax havens and Mexico gave some good examples of this. We need to discuss how we can replace the criminal economy with a functioning legal economy. The human person should always be the main focus of drug policy.
Session II – The global response to drugs: Can it work more effectively?
Moderator – Good afternoon and welcome back. We are going to pick up right where we left off this morning. We are still discussing the option of interpreting the existing conventions and of implementing new policies. A recent report by UN University laid out 5 unintended consequences of the war on drugs. Some of these were mentioned already in our session this morning, but these are the five: a black market flourishing especially online; policy and funding displacement from public health to law enforcement; geographical displacement in response to crackdowns; substance displacement to replace drugs that have more stringent controls, and finally criminalization and marginalisation of users with lifelong consequences of minor drug offenses. How can we deal with these problems at the UNGASS. Let me start by throwing out a general question to the panellists – how can the global response to the world drug problem work more effectively?
Mr. Raymond Pryce, MP, House of Representatives of Jamaica – Good afternoon, let me express my sincere gratitude for the invitation. Without repeating what was said this morning I think it is fair to say that even the most conservative person with a view of why some people use substances has to admit that our efforts from the past have failed miserably. In countries like Jamaica it has failed in an extreme way that can probably not even be measured. Jamaica has a native religion of Rastafarian which is probably only known abroad due to popular culture elements such as Bob Marley, but people often don’t know beyond this that it is an actual religion with a culture, traditions, norms and other practices including food preparation and medicine. Cannabis happens to be a substance which is part of this culture and has been part of the local for over two centuries. By UN conventions this means it should be included as a part of the culture of native people. Yet due to the war on drugs, people like Rastafarians and Jamaicans are doing something which they do not see as a crime and are being punished for this. A set of systems comes into play which sets intergeneration poverty into cement that is hard to break out of. The conventions truly were forced into the country as they were signed when Jamaica was still a colony. Over the years we have attempted to practice what is expected in terms of these conventions but often the attempt to enforce comes with the promise of developmental aid. The war on drugs has come with additional expenses for countries like Jamaica. How can the conventions work more effectively? There has to be more willingness to understand better the diversities across societies. One of the speakers this morning said that a unilateral approach is as ineffective as limitless diversification. As a parliamentarian in Jamaica who was pushing for a decriminalization approach and who was accused of wanting to destabilize the system. If we are going to pursue global development from a rights based approach then we must be able to look beyond the conventions to identify those systems that we can develop to be successful which will protect people from hard drugs, enable access to medication, cut-down on transnational crime, and most important, protect people from suffering from prohibition and allowing people access to certain quantities of certain substances instead. I believe this is cheaper in terms of human rights cost. In Jamaica, since we first decriminalized the possession of small quantities of Cannabis there has been 1000 less arrests each month for the past 14 months. This is mostly helping young rural people and rural women who often resort to farming to not get arrested. This protects people and prevents them from being taken out of schools, families and communities, being exposed to criminality, gangs and harder drugs in prisons. If UNGASS should be successful, I believe it should be a willingness to review the conventions and the channels we have been using to enforce the war on drugs. I close by saying that any war has casualties, and unfortunately, in this case, the casualties have not been the rich and powerful who make a profit but the vulnerable communities. The result is that indigenous access to cannabis and other plants has been criminalized, and thus they have been criminalized.
Ms. Reem Abu Dalbouth, MP, House of Representatives of Jordan – Thank you. I am happy for this event today which allows us to discuss this question. We have seen a resumption of these crimes and as a result the international community bears a specific responsibility now. I can sum up the situation in two questions. The first concerns the responsibility of the international community, namely consideration of progress made in the political declaration which the GA is adopting as well as the commitment of countries to respect international conventions. Ratification by states of a convention must be done theoretically and practically, namely there is a need to reflect it in national legislation. The international community must also follow all of the efforts now being made to implement this legislation and these laws to limit the drug problem. My country, Jordan, has amended a number of laws to combat this issue. The international community must also shoulder its responsibility in the face of specific regional problems. Jordan is merely an example but I’m sure this applies to other countries. It is a vivid example which can send a message, especially because Jordan recently started encountering the problem of refugees and drugs. Responsibility means we need to highlight all of the problems experienced by countries. And that is the responsibility of the international community. Today for example, my colleague spoke about his country and its problems whilst I am speaking about mine. We have achieved some success in implementing these conventions. Whilst we have noted gaps, but we have also amended laws. If that is not enough, we can amend laws again. For example, we have a law on drugs and psychoactive substances and the individual who is using it for the first time who is not considered a perpetrator of a crime. However young people made use of this law as a pretext for using drugs. Therefore we are amending this law again. We are here today at a parliamentary meeting and we should take advantage to find out about all of the problems existing internationally and the responses to it. The international responsibility also involved the follow-up of all conventions and support and assistance to countries in a specific situation. There is also the question regarding crimes including violence and money-laundering, arms trade. All of these crimes are part of the framework of drug use and require a framework within national legislation. It is the responsibility of the state to follow and control drug-trafficking, money-laundering etc. and to establish a system to put an end to these crime. We have to be realistic, it is human nature. But if there is a legal basis for resolving the problem this could help a great deal. Of course we have to be careful if we deal for example with young adolescents or children, but the punishment should fit the crime. We are speaking of armed groups, terrorist groups that make use of drugs to enrich themselves. Therefore we must make use of all the relevant UN bodies to implement change in this area and to find a solution to the problem of drugs. I shall conclude by raising a question we are all aware of: we live in an era of globalisation and we face new methods of drug trafficking and drugs. In the last amendment to our law on drugs for example, the punishment has become more severe if an adolescent is involved. Of course the punishment is not imposed on the adolescent but on the person who committed the crime. I’m talking about the practical side of this issue. How do we respond to the new challenges we are faced with.
Mr. Alberto Otarola, Executive President of the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), Peru – I thank the IPU for this opportunity to share with you my position on a complex problem which requires a well-balanced and responsible and broad democratic response, which as we have been able to observe in Peru is that we have experience of talking about the drug problem. The response can be shaped to fit the situation in the individual countries. The response should be balanced at the UNGASS. A well-balanced position can be seen in different ways. I don’t think there was a failure in the system, what we had was a reshaping of the problem through the introduction of synthetic drugs. We need measures that deal with these new challenges. In the UN conventions need to be balanced, because the priority is to provide alternatives for sustainable development for thousands of families and decrease the supply in our countries. Thousands of families who are directly linked to the growing of the coca leave need a system of alternatives which helps them to emerge from poverty and helps Peru no longer be a major producer of coca. It is necessary to help solve the drug problem but we have to continue with efforts to dismantle criminal organizations and share intelligence to monitor crops. It is fundamental to combat drug trafficking, expand social coverage by the state and generate alternative crops. We also believe that this meeting is conducive to ratify these commitments through shared responsibility. The problem of illicit crops goes beyond national borders. It is a practical issue which obliges us to intensify the shared responsibility. Peru like other countries is fully committed to the human rights conventions. We are also concerned because the illicit drug production harms the environment and the communities. Well-balanced monitoring in Peru in the last 5 years has been tri-dimensional – we deal with interdiction and punishment. Because this is a complex problem we are a country that produces a substance which reaches international markets as cocaine. We don’t struggle with consumption but we understand we need to take part in protecting the health system and consumers and young people. Strategies are directly related to cooperation between countries and cutting off the chain of drug trafficking. We reiterate that the UNGASS will allow us to talk about strategies, the implementation of programmes and objective results. I will now tell you four hopeful figures: over the last 5 years we have reduced by more than 35% the coca grain in our country. We have helped millions of families emerge from poverty. Cocoa has overtaken coca as our main export crop. We have invested and developed both from the state and private enterprises. Therefore there will be a lot to talk about at the UNGASS. It is indispensable that we base our hopes on a system based on consensus as based on the founding charter of the UN. Peru has always headed these efforts and our efforts is to help our population and to cooperate internationally. Thank you.
Ms. Andrea Huber, Policy Director, Penal Reform International – Thank you for the invitation and this opportunity to discuss such a crucial issue. You ask how the system could be made more effective and I think the question should be whether the system has been effective so far. Penal Reform International looks at what the system has resulted in. To just start with a few statistics, we have seen that the rate of imprisonment for drug related offenses is globally on the rise but 83% are incarcerated for possession and not trafficking, and those that are imprisoned for trafficking tend to be small scale traffickers. So has the system had any impact on the issue we are trying to solve? A recent study by the OHCHR shows that the drug laws are one of the main causes for over-incarceration and prison over population. The problem of over-incarceration has further implications, security and health issues, higher levels of violence. Somebody this morning mentioned that people with dependence are incarcerated without having access to treatment in prison. So what do we expect when these people are released? This is a policy issue, we need to provide treatment and care. Prisons are also incubator for infectious disease and overcrowding hinders the health care in prisons. I’ve mentioned that we need to provide solutions for the root causes otherwise there will be high rates of recidivism and overdose after release. Punishment for drug-related are disproportionate and often do not differentiate between types of drugs and many other factors related to the offense. This is unacceptable as any other punishment would also take into account factors such as seriousness of violence, type of violence, etc. The death penalty used to be imposed in about 10 countries at the end of the 1970s, now it is imposed in about 33 countries with thousands of executions in the name of the war on drugs. To close with another important group, women are incarcerated disproportionately incarcerated for drug offenses. Research is lacking but the available studies show that because women play only a small role in drug trafficking they are an easy target and end up in prisons more often. This is a conglomeration of problems but I hope that we can come discuss some good solutions in the interventions during this session. Thank you.
H.E. Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations – Thank you very much for this opportunity to address such a distinguished room. Being a very diverse society, my country Kazakhstan strongly believe in multi-lateralism and international cooperation. The UN and events like this one help cross-border cooperation and efforts. Kazakhstan serves a sort of breach between East and West, Europe and Asia, and we are dependent on our neighbours. When we gained independence our success dependent on the successful policies by our neighbouring countries. We are pursuing the same policies through international cooperation. I will give you some example of how organizations are operating in the vast area of Eurasia. Collective security organizations, the Shanghai cooperation organization, both of which we are pursuing the same objectives with. I would also like to highlight the UNODC’s largest project in the region that operates successfully. At the same time, our brotherly nation of Afghanistan is close to use and is today a producer country of narcotics. We are uniting our efforts with neighbours and some EU states and with the UNODC to provide support to Afghanistan. My country provided 70 million US dollars to that nation. There are many other initiatives in Eurasia and coming back to the balanced approach I would like to mention that each and every society has its individual problems which some societies inherited from their past and in this case the region has its own big history. But through international cooperation we can reach a universal common approach. The role of NGOs is very valuable and we value our interaction with human rights watch organizations and civil society which brings best practices to society. So thank you very much.
Moderator – My question to the panel now is what does a balanced approach mean. Can everybody please bring a brief definition before we open the floor.
Ms Dalbouth – One must not be rigid in terms of laws in case you need to amend them to solve a problem. I cannot treat a first time user adolescent the same way as an addict. In Jordan we have a law which is very important that tries to establish a balance between these two cases. The issue cannot be treated purely in terms of security but there must be means to ensure treatment, medication and rehabilitation to achieve this a balance for all categories of users. In addition there is a need for severe sanction for those who engage in recidivism and continue to engage with drugs and we need to find a balance between those categories of users.
Mr Pryce – We need to accept that there are positive characteristics to almost any of the illicit substances. Forgive me for focusing on cannabis again, but Jamaica developed a cannabinoid therapy for the treatment against glaucoma and another against asthma. As a child I never used conventional medication because my grandparents knew best what herbs to help me with and I am not addicted to anything but coffee and sugar, which is a globally common addiction. If you accept that there are positive advantage to some of the listed substances, then we can better identify how we can manage supply of coca, cannabis, etc. to benefit humans. There are millions of humans who don’t have access to appropriate pain medication during surgery. We need to rebalance our financial resources and how the pharma industry has been hindered in the efforts to prevent drugs. We also need to strike a balance within the conventions themselves because modern science and chemistry have changed and new substances have not been assessed properly on their effect on the population and those are escaping whilst less harmful substances like cannabis are still being treated as if they were extremely damaging to people. And finally, we have to emphasize attention to harm reduction. You cannot incarcerate as a reflex before you even educate or try to help. We have accepted that it’s not successful, but we are not rebalancing our attention on the education aspect of things. The two most acceptable addictive substances are sugar and caffeine and yet these are widely available and not monitored. We have to rebalance our understanding of what is a dangerous substance.
H.E. Abdrakhmanov – For me, a balanced approach means firstly to avoid politicization of the problems related to drugs. Secondly to respect national interests of the country and society. Another aspect is to develop international cooperation and finally the adoption of the SDGs which is of vital importance.
Mr Otarola – Thank you. We believe that a well-balanced approach has to deal with all of the pillars of the drug problem, reducing demand, reducing supply, alternative development, money-laundering, judicial aspects, organized crime and corruption, human trafficking and environmental crimes. I’d like to conclude with a comment and appeal for you to think about: in the past we have dealt with security to the detriment of people and health. Now we cannot start to do the opposite and only deal with one side of the problem without facing the issue of security. Thank you.
Ms Huber – A balanced approach should consist of three efforts. Our law enforcement efforts should go more towards higher level traffickers. And secondly we should rebalance our resources and more should go into social programmes and education as opposed to imprisonment. Thirdly, proportionality of responses and acceptance that drug use is more a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. We need to redefine the measurement of policy success. Our alleged goal is the protection of health and welfare but seizures distracts from that.
Belgium – I am a Belgian senator and a doctor. Therefore I would approach the problem from that angle, that an addict is a patient and therefore a priority. It’s not the consumption, it is the addiction that is making him ill. On the other hand, the risks linked to consumption, especially overdose, hepatitis etc. There may be therapy that does not necessarily include medication. For 15 years treatment in Belgium was focused on medication and the most recent experience was that of needle exchange. This is more localized but aimed at risk-reduction. A balanced approach is aimed at drug trafficking but my question is that it generates a great deal of money, this money is somewhere, so what is the situation regarding money-laundering etc. allowing this to attack the roots of this trafficking which is the profit sector. Lastly, in terms of sustainable development, I am interested in what has taken place in Peru which is supply reduction. In Afghanistan, opium production reduction has not changed which represents about 75% of production so the question is how can we finance this alternative development which would replace illicit crop cultivation.
Hungary – Thank you for the floor and to the panellists for this debate. I am the vice-President of the National Hungarian IPU group. I believe that your cooperation is based on discussion. I think Hungary is also a good example of this. I would also like to thank the colleagues from the UNODC for their help and for focusing on Hungary. Hungary is very glad to be elected Vice-chair of the Eastern European UNGASS group. One of the key point s is social action as we must make sure to be inclusive of everyone in the fight against drugs. Another point is monitoring the effectiveness of solutions. International cooperation needs to be further strengthened and developed. In Hungary, the spread of new so-called designer drugs is growing popularity due to the low prices and easy access online. In Hungary, 40 new substances have been identified annually and the degree of toxicity has increased the number of fatalities. I believe chemical research and criminal justice need to keep up with this problem. I also think it is crucial we find solutions promptly and would like to ask my colleagues and the panellists on their opinions on the subject.
Argentina – Thank you, I am a member of the national congress. A balanced approach is a complex approach which can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. It can be difficult to take into account all factors and it can slow the process down through paralysis. As an economist I imagine the problem as a triangle with three dimensions, the first being supply which is related to violence and imprisonment, the second is social tolerance; I think an excessively permissive approach is damaging from the point of view of governments and families due to the difficulty in explaining the dangers of drugs. The last is the individual dimension, we must take into account the varying consumptions. Finally, a message for the UN system – it is necessary that greater resources need to be invested into communications, not all countries have the same capacities and some need more help. The message we are trying to send globally is very important.
Pakistan – Thank you very much, let me start by expressing my gratitude to speak here today. I would like to share some of our concerns. We are concerned with the rise of poppy cultivation in our region with a 7% increase in the year 2014. This presents a direct challenge in the transit countries including Pakistan. We think there is a lack of economic opportunities and comes with the challenge of armed groups. It is important to promote development and gain back this land. Coming to the question of balance, this kind of approach is to deal with the supply and demand side, and the consensus should be reflected in the drug control strategies internationally. We believe that legalization of illicit drugs is counter-productive. Drug problems are intertwined with other organized criminal activities like terrorism. Let me point out that drugs effect develop countries even when there are committed to fighting this problem like Pakistan due to limitations such as lack of equipment and financing, which requires a response from the UN and international community.
Mr Otarola – Thank you. The representative of Belgium was asking where does the money come from. And I can say I don’t know of any Peruvian farmer cultivating coca who was rich, as the money was in the hands of the mafia groups. It is important to target these groups through international cooperation. We cannot be faced with large communities directly dependent on the growing of illicit crops. So what we did was talk to these communities, make commitments and reduce the coca – a. political decision supported by an investment from the state, b. working with the farmers by changing the crops and helping with the sowing, harvesting and marketing to send the crops abroad, in peru we have more than 50 000 land titles which consolidated this process. Therefore we can all follow a procedure like this to solve the problems in our region, e.g. this could be done in Afghanistan.
Ms Huber – There are actually a couple of good examples out there of how resources could be freed to focus law enforcement on high level traffickers, but for this we need to decriminalize or change the investment in incarceration. To flag an example, Portugal decriminalized use and established administrative sanctions and alternatives and reinvested these resources into for example treatment. Another random example is Seattle in the US which stopped jailing low-level drug offenders and invested in treatment instead. Recidivism dropped by 50% and this shows that resources could be taken away from jailing and directed towards social and health interventions. When law enforcement is not congested with these huge numbers of low-level offenders this frees a lot of money.
Uganda – Thank you, I represent the parliament of Uganda. This discussion is interesting; in Uganda we have the local dimensions, the inter-regional and the international dimensions. Nationally, we have legal frameworks to deter people and control of abuse. I’d like to add that when we talk of abuse, we really mean abusive consumption and not health-related consumption. The legal framework in Uganda has both soft and hard ends. We have community service and custodial sentences for long-term offenders. I think deterrents can come a long way. Finally, it is important to look at organized crime. We have groups like terrorists in the region who use the drug trade to generate income for their own organizations. We need clear inter-regional and international protocols to deal with this. But I agree that education is very critical to reduce this problem.
South Korea – Thank you for this opportunity. I am from the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. Drug issues have no boundaries therefore cooperation is critical to crack down. I would like to talk about some experiences and practices we have had in Korea. In 1995 the National Assembly passed an act to prevent illicit substance trafficking. At the same time, we have provided a framework for dialogue for international cooperation and have an Asia-Pacific coordination centre to share information. We have projects to support efforts in East and in Central Asia. We have systems like drug identification systems all customized for the local situation so each country can enhance their competency to control these issues. I believe this enhances cooperation. I think the internet is becoming more important for drug crimes, therefore there should increasing international efforts to deal with this. Each country has their own specific local situation and the standards might defer, but we have to understand how to practically ensure cooperation. Thank you.
Mexico – Thank you and good afternoon to everyone. To judge whether the global response could be more effective, we first have to view the new challenges and how the international procedures should cope with this. We have to achieve a balance, as has already been said. Priority should be given to not only punitive approaches. Mexico hopes the result of the UNGASS leads to a decision to set the priorities in a balanced way including a focus on health, human rights, justice and education. The urgency for an international strategy will hopefully lead to the realization that drug problems are not limited to a single region but a problem for all. In a differentiated way, affects everyone. Whilst this issue is one of the most importance challenges to the security in Latin America, the same problem can have other manifestations in other regions. In the US and Europe, these are the first and second most important markets of drug consumption. The Asian continent also deals with supply of synthetic drugs. The challenge as a global one is reflected by the 2015 global report on drugs. 200 000 deaths annually throughout the world. We invite any other delegates to endorse our resolution document, which we are leaving in the room for everyone to look at and endorse it. Thank you.
Ms Dalbouth – International cooperation is something we have already spoken about as well as the work of the UN and WHO in implementing the convention, but I must add that there is a need for a regional cooperation as well as conventions dealing with extradition of criminals. There is a need for conferences between countries of certain regions to discuss these issues. We should not limit ourselves to specialized meetings like that today. States have their own responsibility to organize meetings and bureaus. In the Middle East, we have two bodies that hold regular meeting to discuss the regional situations. In my country, a transit country, we have a bilateral agreement with Saudi-Arabia and this has led to many meeting which show that we need to leave meetings with practical solutions for the regional level. It is important to emphasize modern information sharing as new ways to respond to modern criminal processes. We need to share information and hope that these meetings will lead to more meetings at the regional level. It is our hope that we manage to carry out effective control within regions in this way.
Mr Pryce – In a modern globalized way you have to give in as much as your hope to get out. The colleague of Belgium asked where all the money goes. Like the delegate from Peru said, the average coca farmer is living in poor conditions on the fringes of society and what they earn from the crop production is mere subsistence. We need to have a more global approach to see that when the wealth is collected in the consumer countries, some of that money is brought back to invest in the producer countries. The conventions criminalize plant species which alone is unusual. The dangerous drugs act in Jamaica also mentions Opium and Coca but not in the same way as Cannabis. There was a period of positive use for cannabis. We hope for international cooperation to rebalance not just the conventions but also within regions. You have to be willing to push for change, and this is also the job of parliamentarians. UNGASS can define modern ways of dealing with not just classical drugs but also modern synthetic drugs. About what the delegate from Argentina said about his triangular view, this is a model we can accept and we suggest talking about both the individual and the global level. We have paid a huge price because of the international war on drugs, e.g. environment, climate change. Are we willing to change how we think and how we cooperate and deal with this issue?
Kenya – Thank you very much. I am from the Kenyan National Assembly. The government of Kenya has done a lot by forming laws on drug issues. We have a problem of being a transit country and there are huge hard drugs cartels. These have corrupted the systems. A whole ship full of narcotic drugs had to be destroyed. In Kenya, the rich mostly take hard drugs whilst the poor often drink dangerous amounts. Whilst the government tries to intervene, it is more difficult to control this industry. I heard Mr Pryce speak earlier of the benefits of cannabis; this is not relevant for African countries. It will be abused. If there are alternatives of how to get the benefits of cannabis without the risk, then we will support that. The reason why societies all over the world are suffering from this, we think we should continue with the route we have started. We should also come up with aims of how to achieve a drug-free society. Our approach is to destroy the sources that supply these drugs. We must look for a way to make sure to prevent more drugs that get more and more dangerous from entering the system.
Uruguay – I would like to mention some doubts I have about what has been said in that there is a single global solution and approach. There are different problems in different countries and different ways of tackling these. Uruguay went from being a transit to a consumption country. This situation has become so bad that labs sprung up all over the place and this lead to violence and crime as well as high levels of addiction. The situation is so dangerous right now that it is difficult to resolve from a point of view of security and health. For the moment we fortunately don’t have large-scale heroin addiction but we have so many other drugs that I would say we and the rest of the world are losing this battle. In Uruguay, we should probably work towards regulation, although not legalisation. We have to find a solution and I suggest this through three ways: we have to know who consumes drugs, who produces it, and we have to register everything. We have to make sure cannabis tourism doesn’t appear. I don’t think that incarceration is the solution, and currently the consumers are being imprisoned. We don’t agree with all the solutions that are being proposed in our country but we want to find a solution for our country. Whether the question is of demand or supply, it is a war we are losing. I think the global solution has to deal with specific experiences. I am reassured that our government will find a solution. We are not in favour of the global solution but we have to find different alternatives.
Nigeria – Thank you very much. I represent the National Assembly of Nigeria. On the issue of having a balanced approach, I would like to say that every country should use their unique experience to find a solution. In Nigeria, imprisonment has worked very well. It has reduced the amount of drug trafficking in our country. When people come out of prisons, they become useful for the community again. Nigeria has been involved in solving this issue for a long time and we destroyed drugs worth millions of dollars. They are not manufactured in Nigeria apart from cannabis. I can see that the experience of Jamaica might be unique because in Nigeria, it has led to violence, terrorism, etc. The benefits of cannabis are not enough to justify accepting the drugs in relation to the cost that comes from this drug. To have a balanced approach, the countries that are important players in the drug market should do more with their power and finances to uncover these illegal groups. Developed nations should also be held responsible because they develop these drugs and therefore they should find the technology to deal with these issues and with the cultivation and manufacturing. Countries like the US must do more to destroy the cultivation etc. Like I said, every country has a unique experience and should make use of that.
Canada – I a member of parliament in Canada and also a chair of the Canadian IPU groups. One comment I would like to make is that it is unhelpful to group a variety of substances under the title of drugs. Firstly because there are variations of effects and harmfulness of those drugs, and secondly because it excludes alcohol and cannabis from this conversation and doing so we lose out on useful evidence and experiences. I think we failed to discuss education as much as we should. Canada has managed to remarkably reduce the consumption of cigarettes without a blanket ban or prohibition. Education could be where we can find a global consensus. Furthermore, on the topic of alcohol prohibition in the US in the 1920s, it lead to a mass increase of organized crime. The former secretary general of the UN recently wrote that the war on drugs is causing more harm today than the drug consumption itself. They might as well have said this about alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. I would very much like the panel and us to discuss not just drugs and crime but also prohibition and organized crime.
Morocco – The Kingdom of Morocco was a small-scale cannabis production country and it became a transit country for hard drugs. We are currently undergoing a very unique experience. A comprehensive and balanced approach developed because it depended on developing the legislation to accommodate all international conventions that we ratified, 1961, 1971 and 1988. Now a discussion is underway in the parliament on the possibility of codifying cannabis by mandating a public institution to produce cannabis that the farmer will produce and the public institution will harvest the crop and separate the narcotic product to destroy it and direct the rest to be used for pharmaceutical and medical purposes. However, at the economic development level of the production, there is a Marshall plan of sorts valued at 7 million dollars to promote development in the region to provide sufficient economic and social infrastructure. With regards to hard drugs entering Morocco, security controls have been strengthened and every now and again amounts are seized from different regions. Our main concern is that this movement happens through the hands of people who serve the interests of terrorists groups and separatist groups. Therefore we need international and regional cooperation to address this problem. In conclusion I would like to pose a question: to what extent can international convention help us in our efforts to codify cannabis without us breaking them.
Bolivia – Thank you very much. It is an honour to be present here today and I see that the drug problem is a problem we are all facing. It is a concern that there are no solid proposals which will lead to the eradication and prevention of drugs overall. My country is a coca leaf production country. It is part of our country, culture and tradition and part of our health. I am the daughter of a coca farmer. We defended the coca and have been able to reduce without interventions from the US. To date we are industrializing the coca leaf and are producing mate tea, coca cream, juice and liquors and are monitoring the consumption. For the indigenous people, the coca leaf represents a tradition. The coca leaf for us is not cocaine. Humanity is misusing it for the wrong purposes. Therefore the countries here must implement policies aimed at eradicating the consumption of drugs. This is not a recent problem. We have to commit ourselves to be able to have a clean world with strict monitoring of drug trafficking. I wish to conclude by saying that if all of us commit ourselves to public policy, this will create a better world for future generations.
Colombia – Thank you very much. Our president spoke at the UN on the war against the Medellin cartel. He said the only law that drug traffickers respect is the war of supply and demand. From what I’ve heard today on prevention, I would say we need a new approach to tackle this subject. We have to see greater consensus on effective policies. From a comprehensive point of view, we need to analyse demand. In our country we have had lots of prevention campaigns and we can use workshops, posters and education in schools and involving families and teachers to discuss how harmful drugs are. We have to study more thoroughly on what is effective prevention. My proposal to the IPU is that we can have a network of members of parliament on drug policies to inform and exchange information. Chile has done this to fight corruption and we must equally set up a network of parliamentarians to exchange information.
Non-violent Radical Party – Thank you. I’m a former member of parliament. Too bad the Italian delegation is not here as they would have told you that in our drug war 10 000 out of 60 000 people have been released in two weeks. There are now discussions regarding the legalization of cannabis. If I were in parliament again I would sit close to our Jamaican colleague. There are different opinions about how to improve something that hasn’t worked for half a century. Shouldn’t we sit down and assess what we have not tried to do over the past 60 years instead of continuing into the same direction? Thank you.
Civil Society Task Force – I represent the CSTF and the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care. According to the new INCB report, there is insufficient access to appropriate palliative care and pain treatment medication in 80% of the world, which is one of the most troubling systematic side effects of drug policy. It is disappointing that none of the IPU member states mentioned this in their interventions seen as many of their countries are affected by what is called the global pandemic of untreated pain. Many people are dying of AIDS, cancer and other illnesses without appropriate care which is a tragic public failure. Another failure is that refugees are also unable to treat their pain as most countries remove the relevant medication from the kits provided by the WHO and other organizations. Controlled medicines such as morphine are unavailable in most of the world as policies aiming to prevent their abuse are hindering their distribution. That said there is there is no evidence that these medicines are being diverted and abused in those regions that do need them. Policies are based on fear and not real facts. We need to establish an evidence-based medical policy to solve this issue. Thank you.
Ms Dalbouth – Thank you. This topic is important, we believe that international conventions should be consistent with the problems and policies in countries. We know that there are economic and social factors are a threat to security and therefore solutions are usually in the context that is relevant to that state. However, we do support that this should be carried out within international controls. Canada spoke earlier of adjusting the list of controlled substances and this is true, we need to know exactly what the controlled substances are and which should be listed. Synthetic hashish or marijuana should be banned and we will vote for this. We believe that a given country knows more about its own circumstances and can chose how to impose punitive approaches whilst following the human rights. We think there needs to be a hard line towards major traffickers. The judge should be given the discretion to opt for alternative punishment, we support this in Jordanian law by making it possible for first time users to go to clinics instead. However, repeat offences should be considered a serious problem. There is a new law about people who force others to take controlled substances and who should be prosecuted more seriously. It is important for international conventions to be comparative with national legislation. We focus on the need for compatibility between conventions and human rights. I would like to stress the importance of connection between parliamentarians to exchange experience.
Mr Pryce– This has been a very enriching experience. I would like to come back to the point made by the speaker of CSTF. One of the hopefully unintended consequences of the war on drugs is that it has denied humanity from access to medication and research of some substances. If someone were to die tomorrow from a substance present in mangoes, will we then put mangoes on a list of substances that are illegal? Eradication is not a sensible way of dealing with the human behaviour of addiction. This can only be unsuccessful. Another point I would like to make is that education and technology can teach us that even in the listed drugs and plants, there are derivatives that, when used properly, will be of use. The war on drugs we have fought over the last 50 years has been unsuccessful. Thank you.
- E. Abdrakhmanov – Thank you also to Miss Julia Taylor Kennedy for moderating this event. I want to be more pragmatic. Things we are planning require more financing, e.g. the process towards the SDGs or the climate change act. From that perspective, we need to raise more funds, you parliamentarians will be approached soon to develop budgets. I would like to remind you of what our President does which is encourage the allocation of 1% of the budget on the sustainable development fund, and this could also be allocated to solving many issues related to the drugs problem. Mr Otarola – Thank you very much. First, I am pleased that the discussion at hand was balanced and responsible. Another concept which was mentioned was that each country has their own problems and solutions. We have to reach consensus on a human rights approach and looking at what unites us as well as understanding the diversity of the world drug problem. We need to focus on the important things despite some countries’ continues efforts to cause harm to health and social coexistence, to security and integrity of democratic institutions. The human rights approach should allow for social inclusion and health and put the human being at the centre of the public policies. Thank you.
Ms Huber – In terms of unintended consequences, the most damaging is that it has become a bit of a political dogma and that it has become hard to discuss it and review it openly. Thankfully the IPU has been one of the first bodies encouraging an open discussion. I remember an MP at a previous IPU meeting who stressed that the war on drugs is actually a sort of war on poor people. The war on drugs costs billions of dollars and resources on imprisonment should be spent on sustainable development and giving people the change to change their lives for the better. Thank you.
Session III – Drug prevention and treatment from the standpoint of sustainable development and human rights: What is required?
Moderator Ms Julia Taylor Kennedy – Today, we will discuss drug policies with regards to sustainable development and human rights. We will talk about what is effective prevention and treatment, and how states can learn from one another. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda was set in 2014 and is the standpoint from which we can now discuss drug policy. This year’s UNGASS is an opportunity to reform global drug policies and is therefore a great place to start, and an opportunity to see how a new drug policy or the existing conventions can fit into the framework of the SDGs. Ms. Aasiya Nasir of the National Assembly of Pakistan, you now have the floor.
Panellist Ms. Aasiya Nasir, MP, National Assembly of Pakistan – Thank you and Salam Aleikum to all. I feel honoured to speak here today on this important subject. Last year the new global development agenda was adopted. The link between development and crime was recognized and a specific point on the relation between SDGs and drug crime was made in the agenda. The UNGASS is supposed to bring a new perspective on the subject, and some of issues at hand that relate to development are human rights, justice, equality, discrimination, rule of law, and others. The issue of drug abuse including narcotics and alcohol can be seen as problem for the individual and on a societal level. Some of the dangers that stem from consumption are poverty, road accidents, violence and specifically violence against women and children. There is also a well-known relationship between drug and HIV rates. All of these issues need to be dealt with in a sustainable development progress and are related to drug consumption. I look forward to the debate today. Thank you.
Panellist Mr. Javier Sagredo, Advisor, Democratic Governance and Citizen Security, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP – We have a mandate to push forward human development. We have heard before from many countries on the negative impacts of drugs and the drug policies, especially on human development. This is overall a very complex and multi-dimensional issue. Some policies have had particularly strong impact on human development. We see this for example in the crime rates both in rural or urban communities. Limited access to treatment or prisons with no access to treatment or help for users is another factor of problematic development due to drug policies. Criminal law, enforcement and abstinence-focused policies have rarely taken human development into account. Alternative developments have mostly been ineffective, due to lacking political will, budgeting and other factors. Even in territories or countries where crop cultivation has a major social and cultural effect, law enforcement bodies are in charge and not bodies focusing on development. The budget of the global drug law enforcement is five times that of the global aid budget. Joining illicit economies is often a choice made out of a need for survival and due to dangerous living situations. Removing blind spots will help development and help the drug problem. Repressive law enforcement has been harmful for poor people such as farmers and socially and economically deprived people. Eradication campaigns have damaged environment and food security. Drug injection and dependence is a public health and development issue. There are effective ways to address this – substantial body of evidence shows there are ways to reverse effects of overdose, prevent HIV etc., but many policies prevent people from accessing these services, which can result in death. Talking about 2030 agenda, both these debates have been happening at the same time. It is interesting to take a look at coherence of system in these two areas. There are many contradiction between the drug policies and progress towards the SGDs. If we take into account impact of drug policies – at least 13 of 17 SDG objectives are directly impacted by the drug policies, including those relating to health, social divisions and economic inequalities. Consequences have been tough on the weak and weak on the tough. The vulnerable are the ones most affected, where the drug war is being fought. Most people do not profit significantly from their criminal activities – people resort to such activities due to their vulnerability e.g. communities in conflict zones, victims of land grabs, loss of livelihood, etc. This is why the drugs offer an alternative livelihood. Mass incarceration for low-level drug crime is one of the problems resulting from the policies. Most of groups in need of development are those most affected by drugs and drug policies e.g. the indigenous, women, and children. Developed countries mainly have problems with drug use – decriminalization, harm reduction and social inclusion have been suggested to help these problems. However, drug production and transit countries have been most affected overall. Furthermore, harm reduction policies have not been given a proper chance. Weak public structures and so on means there has been no significant effect on drug production and crime. Weak governance, poverty, vulnerability, low accountability for the powerful, lack of justice for the vulnerable, lack of jobs, high levels of insecurity, discriminatory cultures and regressive tax systems all lead to increased social problems. The drug problem has to be contextualized both for developed and developing countries. We need to make a profound exercise – to start taking a look at this impact of development and the necessity of transparency. Our potential is compromised by these policies.
Panellist Mr. Pedro Jose Arenas Garcia, Observatory Colombian Coca Growers, former Member of Congress of Colombia – In Colombia, different strategies were implement to destroy coca crops. I used to work 25 years ago collecting coca leaves which is very normal in many regions of the country. Young people make an income and help their families that way. Luckily I became a parliamentary representative and mayor and when I had that opportunity it was in the context of the armed conflict in Colombia. I was attacked and my life was in danger, and this was carried out people who benefit from the prohibition of drugs. These illegal networks make a large amount of money. The money made from the drug trade does not reach the small people and communities, the indigenous, the farmers or the young. Today, we are coordinating with growers in Colombia and in other parts of the world where this problem exists. It is vital to discuss this issue from the point of view of the crop growers. This kind of crop cultivation is an essential part of rural economies in various countries around the world. We would like the rural world to be more included in this global economy, as farmers are particularly affected by structural rules as explained earlier by Mr Sagredo. There is a lack of funds for elementary services in many affected regions. Recently we held a global forum of producers, delegation from 16 countries attended, and we recognized that some progress can be made from within the flexibility allowed for by the conventions. However, we think it is still necessary to remove the mention of plants from the conventions. Plants in their natural state are not drugs. This is a historic confusion, but we know today that plants can be used in various ways. We believe that the international conventions are secondary to the human rights. Today, we are discussing here the relationship between development and drug policy. Originally the debate was security focused. We have invested huge amounts of resources on police, law enforcement, strategies and technologies, military, but we haven’t discussed much the development approach. We consider the UNDP to play a very important role. Another point that hasn’t sufficiently been considered is gender. We have thought of policies without considering ethnic and rural approach, trans-border aspects, and those relating to family structure. This note is how I would like to conclude – the SDGs are making progress from a conceptual point of view and give us all an opportunity to talk about these issues. It is not possible for us to have a debate on rural or sustainable development by applying a drug policy that is the wrong one, that is supressing population, which has been done by most states. States have obligations to citizens; crops and production can reduced after taking care of the people growing them. Human rights should come first. And today I am talking in particular about crops because it is so relevant where I’m from.
Ms Nasir– Drug abuse has always exists and the efforts to prevent it have had minimal results. Pakistan is badly hit by poverty and is a frontline terrorist state, and we have experienced that a lot of this drug money has been finance for terrorist groups, which is dangerous for the whole country. This is why Pakistan supports the narcotic policy 3-pillar model focused on supply, demand, and international cooperation. Pakistan has signed various documents with dozens of countries. These are our realities, therefore we feel strongly that we need a strong anti-narcotics country, and poppy-free, drug-free state. We have implemented a number of measures within the 3-pillar model. We are focusing on the supply, trade, and production of poppies. The government has reduced poppy cultivation and gave alternatives; the growth of other products has been encouraged. The domestic supply activities have reduced. Today no nation can claim to progress without the progress of other countries therefore we need broader cooperation; we need to make the world free of drugs through cooperation between nations and regions. We focus on intelligence-led operations and information sharing, and we know from the past that it has not been at the level at which we require it. We have taken a number of measures to decrease demand by increasing the subject awareness, and to improve the treatment and prevention of diseases. We try to ensure that the human rights of drug users are upheld and that they treated as victims and not criminals. We try to promote activities and support, and are running studies on substance abuse at university. We strongly support the network of the CND and the UN, the international police, drug enforcement agencies, and intelligence sharing systems to improve inter-regional and international cooperation and trust. We are a signatory of all the UN conventions and therefore we are pushing towards a realization of our ultimate goal. We are urging to make this world free of drugs.
Moderator– Mr Sagredo, I would like to ask you about your professional experience and to give us some concrete examples that led you to arrive at your conclusions.
Mr Sagredo – Thank you. The increasing involvement of development agencies has made a difference. We have more and more examples of countries putting development first. I will give you some examples of places where the policy debate has started to change in the recent years. Bolivia is an example I like. In Bolivia, the drug problem resulted in substantial reduction in GNP, conflict, repression, and the falling of two governments. When the new government came to power, they took measures which were seen as concessions to the drug production, but were actually an implementation of the minimum wage through coca leaf production. There is a social control system. Bolivia has of course continued to fight against organized crime in the meantime. Therefore we can see a reduction in violence rtes. We have cases of policy change in Europe as well, Portugal and Spain being such examples which decriminalized in a way which allowed for a reduction of the drug problem. In Spain in the 80s drugs was the second biggest public concern after terrorism according to studies. Today the drug consumption rate is higher due to socio-cultural developments, but the problems that come from consumption have diminished. I have worked in Uruguay before and I can say that the government didn’t just develop its policies with the drug ministers but through an integrated approach with education ministers etc. involved. Repressive policies affect people directly, and this is an agenda which leads to social exclusion and needs to be changed. In a system focused on incarceration, no one cares about those people really affected by traffic and use.
Moderator– With this statement I would like to open the floor.
Switzerland – Thank you. I associate myself with the comments made by Mr Sagredo. In Switzerland we have model of 4 pillars – prevention, therapy focused on reintegration, risk reduction involving assistance for survival, and control. I’d like to know what the experts think of this 4-pillar model which entered into force 2 years ago after popular referendum. In Switzerland there is democratic support for light decriminalization. Our policies are strongly based on health care and substitution products. The effects we are seeing include a strong decrease in mortality rates, and a drop in HIV rates due to needle distribution. I speak as lawyer who defended minors in court for consumption 20 years ago; this is all in the past. Now we try to help minors by convincing them to get treatment. We think that the UNGASS in April should be focused on a 4-pillar model which we believe is widely effective for the population and extremely beneficial for human rights. Thank you.
Belgium– Thank you, I would like to add to what Pakistan and Switzerland said. Everyone involved in treatment and services will tell you that access is crucial. This target group is difficult to work with and many social workers feel they are not adequately equipped to deal with this. But clients must feel that they have a choice and can take responsibility for themselves. The living conditions of this target group is also a matter of concern- a multi-faceted approach can help solve this problem. In conclusion you cannot win the fight against drugs in isolation. We hope the UNGASS will be used as an opportunity to a broad approach.
Hungary– We focused on people in this session but there is a controversy in the subject of drug related crime- the principle victim is the drug users. Drug related crimes are usually victimless and there no one to press charges. This makes users more vulnerable. This is why the person-centred approach should be emphasized. The foundation of the Hungarian anti-drugs policy is prevention – focused on mobilizing human and social resources, increasing risk-awareness. The young generation is especially in danger, some people are starting using drugs as young as 10 years old. Designer drugs and NPS mean new challenges for us, we try to spread information in schools and police has a key role. The inclusion of different social groups, of experts and families helps strengthen our society. The Hungarian regulation in 2012 is one of the strictest in the EU, but we make a distinction between consumption, trafficking and production. However, the user must be a willing participant in treatment.
Cameroon– The delegation of Cameron welcomes all of you and is aware more than ever before of the harmful effects of drugs. Our country is a transit country and has become increasingly a destination country for production and consumption. The conventions have been ratified, everything is being ratified and followed. And Cameron has been working on legislative text to combat drugs with inter-ministerial committee. We are looking at the creation of centres for care and improved prevention and addiction expert involvement. The statistics show that more than 15 000 young people are involved in daily or regular consumption of NPS and drugs. This is linked to crime rates. These are primarily thefts, car thefts, and break ins. We suggest that UNGASS 2016 should call for states to take additional measures for human rights, especially the right to health. In national policy, this should be reflected specifically in the treatment for vulnerable groups, such as young people and women. Any treaties should be implemented with the goal of implementing the right to health. We believe this is a global problem and should be responded to on a global scale.
Mr Sagredo – The question is, what kind of society do we want? One that is compassionate and inclusive? Or one that doesn’t care about those left out? Regarding policies linked to development we invite countries to do an interesting exercise and to reflect on their policies. What is the impact of the policies on the development in their country? What doesn’t work? What causes harm? Look for new solutions. The development agenda is very complex, for all countries, it has to be contextualized and localized. It needs to respond to the needs of many different citizens. Look at prevention and many universal prevention strategies, such as talking to kids about drugs in schools – but consider those kids who already have problems? Drug problems? They’re expelled. We need to close the two circles – repression and health- into one. What about those people that are in prisons? They must be reintegrated when they come out. We must help people in vulnerable situations, who deal with violence and unemployment, because most people will deal with this at some point.
Mr Garcia– Switzerland has made an interesting point- democratic participation is useful to help make better decision. It is much better if the initiatives come from the parliaments and not the executives. We know of countries where the executive rules over the legislative, and we think that democracy, if not through referendums then through the parliament, is a better way of moving forward. If we have to wait for conventions to be reformed, it will be difficult to implement in some countries. Harm reduction such as that implemented by the 4-pillar approach mentioned by Switzerland is very interesting. Penal reforms to take those that are victims of the drug wars out of society do not help anyone in the long term. Parliaments can take an active code there by reviewing their penal codes and improve access to treatment. This is already happening in some places; for example, in Mexico there is a debate over compulsive treatment. In this debate too we have to consider the human being, and their autonomy. We can’t reduce a penalty and then force someone to undergo treatment, it makes no difference. Cameron has also made an important point – no country can claim to be purely a victim, transit countries become destination and production countries quickly.
Ms Nasir – Regarding what Switzerland has said, public opinion is very important to shape drug policy, I agree with that. Secondly, on what Hungary has commented, I would endorse that younger generations are endangered and threatened by this problem which needs to be tackled. Rehabilitation is a very challenging issue, which is why there is an urgent need to build further capacities and rehabilitation programs; we need to help cover medical expenses and then later provide people with decent jobs. Pakistan’s government is fully committed to this, but we lack budgetary allocations and expertise. One of our concerns is something we have observed in our region: between 2001-2014 we have found an increase in poppy crops in our region. Pakistan believes that the UN has lost its focus on supply reduction. We believe that several goals and targets of the SDGs are very much relevant to drug policy and supply reduction, for example goal 16 on peaceful societies, reducing violence and abuse and combatting crime and illicit substances. I think the world drug problem is the biggest hindrance in achieving SDGs. This issue is a big crisis.
Jordan – I thank you and all the members of our panel today. Allow me to state that regarding the conventions that have been ratified by most states, even if we don’t sense their immediate effects, they have made this issue a priority subject. I believe that there are specific power centres that benefit from this phenomena. This is why we speak of a specific war. These are power centres that are tampering our efforts, and we need to discuss what we can specifically do. Internationally, there are groups that try to ban production and others that promote reform. We do not have this dichotomy in our country. This is because we have legislation and a culture that condemns drug use. We treat users are individuals that need help. We need assistance to deal with all the phenomena that come from these problems. We try to give access to treatment but lack technical assistance, as do other countries. I think we should support institutions of civil society in order to apply a variety of programs of eradication and emphasize the family support during treatment and in general. If families are good then societies are on the right path. The war on drugs is interlinked with the fight against terrorism, and can be helped by improving development and opportunities for young people. My questions are whether the people in this room believe that a unified strategy should be set up internationally, and secondly, will we continue with criminalization of users?
Bangladesh – Thank you and Salaam Alaikum. It is good to see people united in a joint effort to combat the drug problem. I would like to draw the attention to a sentence that was spoken earlier– the death penalty for drug related offense is contrary to human right framework. Delegates that spoke yesterday brought this subject up, including the UK and Jamaica. However, the billionaires working behind the scenes of the drug trade are still out of reach. But we can see that addicted people become a burden for their families and inactive. My question is, some people are willing to accept so much loss due to drugs including the loss of, so why can’t we accept death penalty for drug crime but we have sympathy for something that kills our children. We have observed in countries such as Singapore that the death penalty has achieved a positive response. This is my contribution, thank you.
Morocco– I am grateful to speak here today. I attribute credit to everyone fighting this problem in their country. Measures have been added to combat the drug problem and lessen supply and demand, to enhance development and to cope with problems encountered. We think an important part of the solution is the participation of women and increased gender equality; women can play an important role in development both inside families and in society. The most important element in our war on drugs efforts is attaching particular importance on use, which is a critical element in our struggle. We have made efforts to eliminate the differences in access between the city and countryside through initiatives, and have made progress, also because of development funds. We have attached particular attention to education. However, we are still wondering how we can balance development whilst having effective control of use and how can we control the agricultural production.
South Korea– Many countries have focused on prosecution and control. However, there are clearly limitations what is possible through control. Punishment alone is not effective. We need to balance treatment and punishment. Treatment must accompany any type of punishment to help people become healthy members of society again and to save everyone from the problem of drugs. Policies should be introduced through legislation. In the case of Korea, there is a growing concern that addiction must be seen as an illness and that the government must help treat this illness. We try to set up programmes for education and prevention, to train experts on relapse etc., but there must also be an increased sharing of information between nations. I also said this yesterday but I will say it again: people are tempted to do drugs, and they must have the right mind-set to overcome this temptation. Another problem regarding this specific hearing is that the representatives that come here every year change –there is a lack of consistency which makes tackling this problem difficult. If I don’t get re-elected I will not be able to come to this meeting here in April or continue this work here at the UN.
Mr Garcia– Currently we have an international group of civil society organizations and this movement has a consensus in that it feels that the death penalty should no longer be used anywhere in the world with regards to drug crime. There was insistence in countries but also internationally to make progress towards decriminalization and the most vulnerable countries and people are the ones asking for this. Decriminalisation is not aimed at those who are enriched and profit from the drug trade, causing lack of security for countries; for these people, criminal norms have to apply. But what about the users, the indigenous growers or farmers, who are at the other extreme? Civil society is trying to push for parliaments to decriminalize these populations completely. Another aspect that has been mentioned is that we now have more countries with hallucinogenic and new synthetic substance consumption, which is a failure of international drug control. The meeting in April cannot have the same strategy for marijuana and coca leaves as for the more dangerous chemical substances. It is of extreme importance that we need to eliminate the roots of inequality. This is connected with the SDGs, the government of Morocco has spoken of a comprehensive plan for the area and this type of work should occur across the world.
Mr Sagredo– I think this is linked to the relationship between democracy participation and the fact that in many countries, drug policy is still rooted in the fear of crime, disease, users, etc., and the responses that traditionally have been used to deal with this issue respond to this social imaginary. Switzerland has made the point to connect policy with citizen’s points of view. However, in most places most people will still think that criminals are people they don’t want to deal with and will have this social imaginary based on fear. We need to open a wide, comprehensive debate based on information and research, and more voices included. For example on this day, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this event, as we have someone here representing growers, and we need more people representing the vulnerable groups. We need to speak as adults, without the natural response to fear; we need to think and respond with our brains. We need to take into account all the information. There will be dilemmas and trade-offs; there will be many different economic, social and cultural contexts of the drug problem, and we need to respond to the different needs. But we need to put forward a development perspective. We need a wider perspective, that includes a focus on reducing harms, and innovating drug policy in a more human way. We are still hooked in our old ways. We need to have a more mature response.
Ms Nasir – I would like to bring examples from our country’s anti-narcotic force: the ratio of those convicted is as high as 80% for traffickers. Pakistan has been a major contributor for heroin etc. seizures to address drug trafficking. Giving access to treatment is a must to reduce this problem. There is no second opinion that a harsh stance must be taken against people responsible for distributing or producing drugs. I would like to give another specific example from our country; the anti-narcotic efforts have been taken in accordance to all legislation, governmental policies and international conventions, etc. The arrest of drug trafficker leads to a fair trial in competent courts. What I need to add is that alternate economic activities need to be offered, and we also need to work towards rehabilitation. The problem varies from region to region and country to country.
Sudan– I am grateful to everyone for speaking here today. In Sudan I am in the National Assembly and the President of the Committee of Security and Defence. In Sudan we respect the international conventions but we have bilateral conventions and treaties with neighbouring African countries on top of UN conventions. We used to be a transit country but today we have a major drug problem. Today, we have synthetic trafficking going though us. We have conducted major seizures of heroin and other drugs in cooperation with neighbouring countries. We have borders with 9 countries. The zones for growing these drugs are far from our centre. We are making considerable efforts to find alternative crops, but we struggle with lack of financing. The UN has research on the subject of alternative crops our area with the approval of those affected in these areas. However, financing or rather lack of financing has hampered the implementation of these policies. The crops are in the south of Darfur where there are armed levels who endanger all efforts. This is why we need logistical assistance. We also need the creation of capacity to enable us to assist the forces for order and to confiscate the great quantities of drugs, and to begin investigations. We are not ready to deal with these enormous quantities which are crossing our territory. Studies have been conducted but they have cost us 300 000 dollars a year. We have the political will to find solutions, particularly for.young people, even those that have received sentences, we try to give them an education and we try to help them find opportunities. Thank you.
Kenya– I would like to add my voice on this subject from the standpoint of human rights and development in Kenya. In our country, we have established a national authority to campaign against drug and alcohol abuse. We also have the tobacco control act which controls manufacture, distribution and advertisement to protect individuals form disease and death from tobacco. We also try to protect people from alcohol with a separate act. Our narcotic drugs act ensures that we have centres for care and treatment for addiction. We try the grassroots ways to reach to people. Our constitution has provided for the right to health and access to treatment. With regards to harm reduction, we also have a programme to provide free needle exchange for addicts. Kenya has a system of exchange between bodies and agencies. I would also like to add my voice to say we need to integrate the drug user into society. In Kenya we have the youth and women enterprise funds, we want to empower especially those that have been rehabilitated. This has also reduced demand. In Kenya, much of the drugs come from Tanzania, which causes challenges for us, and thus we are aware that we need better coordination to protect our borders.
Colombia– I would like to make a few comments on what we have heard so far. One of the main things goals we can achieve at the next UNGASS is that we need to provide for greater flexibility. Maybe we cannot reform conventions but have greater flexibility. Maybe we cannot reform the conventions now but push for greater flexibility. The other point is that we need to create new measure indicators of success. In the past the UN, the US and Colombia measured success by the number of hectares fumigated etc. but we need to change the measure of success to focus on safety. Our country offers treatment to make things safer but a lot of the addicts are still being mistreated and this is human rights problem. We need to focus on problematic consumption; consumption is not always problematic. Many people have a normal lifestyle and we should focus on problematic consumption only, e.g. any at a young age.
Indonesia – Thank you. We welcome the newly adopted SDGs. The SDGs address all the development issues including drug-related aspects, such as health and well-being. Demand reduction should be focused on as well as rehabilitation and prevention. Poverty reduction is an important goal as illegal markets have their own economic dimensions. There is a need for strong and just institutions. A comprehensive policy cutting across these issues needs to be implemented. In Indonesia, after-care and rehabilitation programs are aimed at helping addicts re-enter the community. There are at least 9 houses that have so far empowered 572 users and helped them back into the community. To link the SDGs with drug prevention and treatment, parliamentarians should be equipped with awareness of SDGs for example by establishing a subcommittee focused on SDGs. Indonesia has started a committee focused on implementing the SDGs on a national level. It provides recommendations on what should be done with regards to SDG related issues. We also promote efforts towards drug prevention and treatment awareness.
UK– I actually voted for the return of the death penalty in the UK in 1992, but I have since changed my mind. We talk about the SDGs but one of these issues is the right to life, and that is not consistent with executions by the government. We need to track down those who profit from the supply, we need to reduce supply, but long custodial sentencing I believe is the solution for this. We need to give those that are addicted and therefore victims as much support as we possibly can. They shouldn’t be in prisons but in hospitals. We need to do far more with regards to education as well. People with an addiction to food for example shouldn’t be put into prison but they need help, and this is the same for those addicted to drugs. We need a more enlightened approach. We might need some fundamental changes in the approach that we currently have as we can see that our current approach is not as effective as it could be. Thank you.
Penal Reform International– I will try to make two quick points. On the subject of the death penalty: executions for drug crimes is a violation of international laws and this has been confirmed by UN rapporteurs. A fact frequently overlooked is the disproportionate impact that drug policies have had on women. The number of women in prison has risen by 50 % since 200 whilst 18% in males. Drug-related minor offenses has been identified as a major factor in this increase. This has a bearing on the SDGs related to gender. These women are an easy target for law enforcement and furthermore, prisons are more likely to offer treatment in male prisons and often ineffective if offered to women. My question today is how women’s issues can be included in a more comprehensive way in these debates.
Bolivia– Brothers and sister, a good day to you. As Bolivia we would like to emphasize the origin problem of drugs. The fundamental problem is not the producers, they continue to be poor and are just trying to get along financially. The main problem is the major drug trafficking network that transform these crops into drugs that damage society, they become multi-millionaires and can finance terrorist activities or political developments that affect governments. The core focus should be what we can do against these networks. In many cases these networks act against governments. In Bolivia, they have taken part in marches and we have had to respond to this fact. Morales, our leader, has requested that the coca leaf should be removed from the list of illicit substances. The coca leaf is considered sacred and medicinal in Bolivia. We do not however agree with the legalization of drugs.
Interpol– I just wanted to briefly respond to Ms Nasir, and the delegates of Kenya and Sudan. Regardless of the national narcotics policy direction, we think intelligence-sharing is absolutely crucial and we encourage all our 193 member states to avail themselves of the tools that we are offer and that are already existing within their national central bureaus and to use these resources and capacity-building for communication. Thank you.
Ukraine– Thank you for organizing such a productive discussion. The Ukraine is going through a difficult time and 10% of our territory is occupied. The humanitarian situation in Ukraine has detoriated. We have internally displaced people and a difficult social situation is related to a heroin problem. We try to harmonize out legislation and try to adopt reforms. We adopted a human oriented strategy to tackle drugs and alcohol problems; we also created drugs and alcohol monitoring centres for treatment and prevention. Legislatively we have had success but in practice it is difficult to tackle this global issue, so we need to tackle it with a common and cooperative approach. Thank you for supporting Ukraine during our vulnerable times and for looking for a global solution to this important issue.
Portugal– As we said Antonio Guiterrez head of the government that implemented a new drugs policy, confronted the problem of drugs in Portugal. We have beneficial effects since 2001. We have gone from a punitive approach to one focused on treatment and human rights, which is human-centred. Development linked to the population conditions is of high importance. Youth employment and general employment need to be solved in many countries. Sustainable development has to be followed by a clear political will and measures aimed at education. We try to support individuals who have problems and aim to integrate them; we have treatment centres and try to increase opportunities and jobs, which will change their way of living. The focus on health rather than a criminal approach has been necessary in order to achieve the positive effects that we have achieved. This should be studied and replicated, integrated approach.
Pakistan– I would like to make a point of clarification on what the moderator said on the panellist Ms Nasir. Poppy cultivation has increased in the region not in the country; which was about 7% in 2014. We face challenges as a transit country. Additionally, we believe that drugs should not be legalized and this would be dangerous. Criminal aspects must be addressed. Drugs cause harm and drug offenders should not be protected. Thank you.
Argentina– Thank you very much. With regards to the session in April, we have to see what the ultimate aim of the conventions is. The aim is not to have more people in prisons but more people that are healthy and cared for. The aim of the conventions has always been to improve conditions for humanity. Development cannot be seen individually, we have to consider the social context. Public health should be our focused and is crucial for development. Development will depends on political will and capacity of decision-making in countries and the allocation resources should be taken into account. We need to tackle poverty, access and health and equality. It is fundamental to take into account the goal of the conventions to improve the wellbeing of humanity.
Norway – We try to promote a drug policy that shows that we care for the weakest. Our policy reflects the human rights acts. However, I can find things that do not work and that wrong within Norwegian drug policy. Unfortunately the debate in Norway, just like here, is polarized- you are either for legalization or a prohibitionist. However, the answers are probably somewhere in-between. When users are not given treatment and discriminated against, no new UN convention will be able to change this. Every time an addict has his human rights infringement, there is always an excuse from the country as to why that happens. Therefore I have to ask, why everyone always says yes, policies must be changed, but not in my country, things have to stay that way for some reason. I also appreciate Mr Sagredo’s examples of best practices.
Madagascar– Thank you Madam Chair. Madagascar has for 15 years had a national guideline plan to combat trafficking and drugs. It is an island with more than 5000 km of coastline which makes it vulnerable for transit for hard drugs, and therefore we have two statements to make. The problem of drugs truly hampers development efforts such as social issues and poverty. Also, like Cameroon said, these are global problems. We are dealing with a disparity in power in those countries dealing with this. The most vulnerable states are totally powerless. Thank you.
Tanzania– Narcotic drugs is a universal problem. Tanzania’s drug problem is also affected by those in its neighbouring countries. Tanzania is not the source of problems in other countries as has been claimed here today. This problem has to be solved bilaterally.
Ms Nasir– Thank you very much. I am grateful to the delegate of PRI for raising the issue of women. The issue of women is important and I am glad it has been raised, especially the vulnerability of women in prisons. Women should be given equal treatment and access and justice. I am sure that every nation in the world is trying its best and calling for wider cooperation and further collaboration. Regarding best practices since the beginning, I have been sharing with you Pakistan’s best practices of anti-narcotics which lead to make the country poppy-free. The government has to be committed to this fight, in our region there is however a reservation to be committed to the problem solution; if there are problems in the region these will hit us direction. I will mention some more specific recommendations – how to improve development and balanced drug policy. There can be no one size fits all approach, the culture and values of nations should be respected. A human rights approach requires caution and a graduated approach, and should not be used to protect offenders. We need to provide healthy prison environments. The delegate of UK was right to mention that we need to treat addicts as sick people. We need to adopt a balanced approach with regards to demand and supply, and management of borders. I would like to thank Interpol for the help that they are suggesting to provide. More scientific and statistical evidence is required, especially with regards to harm reduction measures. Like the honourable delegate of Pakistan has said, criminal infringements should be addressed as well, any approach should protect the sovereignty and integrity of states. We must learn from each other’s’ experiences and best practices. Yet we still see that there countries where legislation is not in coordination with the conventions. It is high time that the policy makers address the issues of corruption, money-laundering, etc. When we leave today we will hopefully have been given some food for thought and hopefully we will see that we can all make a difference.
Mr Segredo– One of our main objectives of the UNDP is that of gender equality. In the reflections of UNDP, there is a document which you all have access to at this event, and it discusses women and the impact of drug policies on women. We have many different issues and make suggestions on how policies can be changed to help women who are vulnerable and likely to enter the drug trade more, e.g. single mothers who need to feed the family. The consequences of criminal punishment are felt differently by women and the community response is different. There is a lack of services and help and access for treatment. Women are more likely to be financially vulnerable and therefore to have to traffic out of financial needs. Children, adolescents, women etc. should be given special focus on. Our message of best practice is simple. Instead of voicing for caution, we would like to encourage you, as members of parliament, to be brave and to look for good and new solutions that include everyone. When you talk about the tension between these two orientations in international policies, we also appeal to solidarity. Many countries have been able to solve some problems within the context of the conventions. But this is not the case for all countries. This is crucial in the discussion leading up to UNGASS. Some countries have fewer capacities and more problems. We need to ask for the world to allow for more flexibility especially in the development of new responses to improve the health and wellbeing of humanity. For us, an important message to send to the international community today is to take this impact into account and strive for better policies to reduce the harms.
Mr Garcia– Thank you. I think that Norway was making comments on what we should do. We don’t have to wait for everybody to agree to implement change, anyone can go ahead. The Union of South American countries is proposing that a group of experts be set up based on scientific evidence analysing case by case and filing a report before 2019 when the 10 years of the of the goals end. Colombia said, there has generally been an indicator table to measure success and this table was set up in the CND and is there to monitor the measurements. However we should get other UN organizations involved such as the WHO and the UNDP and countries to monitor the SDGs, as well as other organizations relating to women, children, indigenous groups, etc. These have to be involved in evaluating the progress. I would also like to emphasize the importance of civil society engagement and involvement. This is also important to find out about the opinion of the users and producers. There are many reasons why alternative crops plans have failed but I think this is because people have not listened directly to the growers. They thought that the technicians in the towns have the answers but this is not so. We have to consider that drug cultivation doesn’t exist technically, except for production in a laboratory. Synthetic drugs are increasing and have been mentioned today a lot but we need to take into account the concept of damage to health and reducing harm shouldn’t just be about giving needles, it has to be much broader and must include the harm from a penal point of view. I agree that women have been most affected the most, at least in South America. In February in Washington, the International Drug Policy Consortium co-published a report on the issue of the rate of imprisonment and how it affects women in Latin America. Real figures and results should be put on the table. The majority of landowners are men, women do not have equal land ownership, so women are often not included, but women should be given consideration and economic advantages in these development projects. Certain principles have been implemented in Thailand and Peru that have been found to be successful. There was a meeting in Bangkok last year and the producers believe there should be democratization on this issue especially including the rural communities, especially with regards to sustainable development.
Session IV – Parliamentary motions
Moderator – We are all excited for this session. The format is based on Doha debates and Oxford debates. The motion at hand is “Implementing the international legal framework will address the world drug problem.”
In favour – Mr. Anti Avsan, MP, Parliament of Sweden – First of all, it clear that repressive drug policies can be combined with damage reduction efforts. Nothing stated in the conventions prevents states from applying measures of helping people with their abuse. I would also like to underline that there is no conflict between a ban on possession and helping people with treatment, as is done in Sweden. It is therefore not a matter of one or the other as complex issues can rarely be solved by a unilateral solution. Narcotics are damaging both on the individual and the societal level. The drug availability leads to criminality and pressure on social support systems. The reduction of the volume of available drugs is clearly a reduction of damages. It is crucial to reduce the total amount in any way possible. This must be a main purpose of the global efforts. I would like to stress that the conventions are not a hindrance to countries trying to hinder addiction. The drug conventions should be seen as the basic framework with the aim to increase public health and human rights. The experience from Sweden is that there are less cases of abuse when the knowledge of harm is higher and there are more restrictions. This standpoint is not contradictory to damage reduction efforts.
Not in favour – H.E. Ambassador Luis Alfonso De Alba, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the International Organizations in Vienna – Thank you. I’d like to start by pointing gout that if it’s a question of continuing with the same policies, then how can we expect different results. We have debated this for the last two days; efforts to approach this problem, economic resources and human resources are disproportionate with regards to the result. I don’t think we can continue these efforts and expect new results. Neither is it right that the legal framework is limited to the three conventions. We need innovative instruments taking into account human rights when developing a policy at the UNGASS. Even before the special session, the debate has already changed. We have already achieved some of the aims of reviewing the strategies. The secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki Moon said that there should be a different balance. It’s about doing things in a new way. I participate actively in the negotiations in Vienna and we all discuss and realize the importance of shared responsibility. Human rights always have to be taken into account. Victims of violence must be helped and the general development agenda must be followed.
In favour – Mr Kevin Sabet, Director, Drug Policy Institute and Assistant Professor, University of Florida – Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here today. I think there is a lot of common ground on this motion but we have to think about what our objectives are. Fewer drugs is our aim. The international drug regime is not perfect, but the drug conventions have been the stabilizing forces in the past 40 years and have brought drugs under international control. 5% of the world’s population used a drug recently; compare that with alcohol and with tobacco, which are more lethal and are also legal. I would say we have failed miserably to regulate these substances in the face of mass advertisement, normalization and profit. On the illegal side, fewer than 5% of us use drugs. That said, we can do much better than that. But the international conventions allow for flexibility. They allow both the policies of countries like Singapore and of Portugal. And they do allow what is necessary according to local traditions. However, it does not allow for these drugs to be treated like the legal ones of alcohol and tobacco. The conventions to not mandate for drug users to be decriminalized. I personally don’t think that users should be criminalized. On the other hand, there is flexibility, and the idea that we need to change the drug control regime to accommodate for a health focused policy is not true. Can we really say we had a balance in terms of the health care sector being allocated the resources and trained to deal with this problem? This is not the case in the US and it is probably not in other countries. There is no easy answer. But treating drugs like alcohol and tobacco would be a public health disaster. Thank you.
Not in favour – Dr. Kasia Malinowska, Director, Global Drug Policy Programme, Open Society Foundation – Thank you. It is great to be here today and to address you as parliamentarians, because who knows better what is behind the laws that you make. At the end of the day, the intentions are what are driving the laws that we make. When we talk about the drug conventions we should keep in mind what are the intentions of these conventions are, namely criminalizing drugs and this is the framework that has been set whilst your form your laws. Contradictions between the current drug regime and harm reduction approaches is not the question we are addressing. What we are really looking at the intentions, and these are punitive. The cost of that is easy to measure. If you look at HIV rates in drug users, if you look at users who have no access to treatment, these are all direct results of the international drug laws we have put in place, and they even allow for the death penalty. We have to be honest about the intentions of the conventions. Kevin and others spoke about practices of decriminalizing, we’ve heard from the Swiss, from Jamaica, but all of this are example of testing flexibilities, using a lot of international lawyers for these countries to assert whether they have the right to protect their citizens in these ways. The conventions are in direct conflict with human rights, with public health. Pretending that flexibility is enough is in my view dangerous for human rights. In my view we are very clear that we need to do more and bring public health and human rights into the debate openly.
Moderator – My question for the panellists: is the international legal framework currently focused on incarceration and does it require more guidance on the inclusion of human rights and public health?
Mr Sabet – I think the more pertinent question is how the conventions are implemented on the national level. The conventions allow for varying interpretations and for a national implementation focusing on public health. The discussion of HIV, human rights and by the way, not just the human rights of the drug user but also their children, their neighbour, the business person in Colorado where marijuana is targeting young people for business purposes, and the rights of the user to get treatment as well. The goal is for recovery, for people to be productive members of society. The international regime may have gone overboard in the past in terms of criminalization, and I do think that’s wrong, and we have to make corrections. But we shouldn’t live in a world where we think it’s one or the other. I worry about the countries who want to attract tourists based on commercialisation, and that is not a public health approach.
Mr Avsan – I have to start by saying, it is not a human right to take drugs. In this discussion people often say it might be a human right but the UN conventions of the rights of the child declare children have the right to grow up in a drug-free environment, and that is the only direct connection to drugs in the conventions of human rights. All societies attempt to protect the right to health and from unforeseen risks. Society has a duty to protect citizens from risks, with regards to anything from chemicals in food to seatbelts in cars. The majority of users start using drugs at a young age when they cannot correctly assess the long-term risks. This is why people need to be protected from drugs. Thank you.
Moderator – How would you respond to the assertion that outlawing drugs is effective in reducing consumption and should be implemented also with regards to alcohol and tobacco.
Dr Malinowska – Let me bring up an example of a country where drugs have been decriminalized, namely Portugal. We have 14 years of data from that country now. Decriminalization did not mean that people started taking more drugs, it means that people who wanted to access treatment now have better relations with the state and began using services more freely. People are now no longer afraid of the police. We all know about in Cannabis in Holland; Cannabis consumption in the Netherlands is lower than in any of the neighbouring countries, despite it being legal there. There is not a relationship between criminalization and use the way it has been said by some of the speakers. With regards to tobacco usage in Europe, it is decreasing dramatically despite no one being put into prison for smoking. It’s about good, thoughtful public health. The paradigms that we keep using which are based on criminalization against use are not evidence-based so we have to learn from successful examples around the world.
H.E. De Alba – Thank you. First of all, I don’t think that the prohibitive approach is the only one allowed for in the convention and I don’t think it has reduced use or availability. It is even worse in developing countries where the increase in consumption is very dangerous. If we have a punitive approach exclusively, I don’t think we will have any different results. The discussion has to begin with the question whether consuming drugs is a human right or not. In my country, the supreme court of justice has just issued a decision in this context recognizing that full citizens do have the right to consume cannabis. We need to continue this debate across the board including in parliaments and the executive and we cannot close off any of the options. In the special session of the assembly in 1988 there was a focus on the balance between consumption, production and trafficking. An imbalance today means the consumer is the victim again. I wonder how many women, children and marginalized have been victims of this and imprisoned disproportionally for minor crimes.
Moderator – We will now open the floor for questions.
Nigeria – I would like to ask a question. If you were to legalize a drug and everybody would then be consuming it, how can you control the disastrous effects of the drug use.
H.E. De Alba – In the case of Mexico, we did not decriminalize use, but it’s an on-going debate. What I can say is that the correct term is regulated markets and we have to bear in mind the negative effects of the drug policy and not just of the drugs. We have to think of how to protect the rights of the consumers. If we don’t regulate to some extent, for example with regards to NPS, then they will be continued to be made in labs and this includes several hundred substances which are classified and of which we have no control. I think it is more important for our future to be well informed and to have certain control mechanisms. The question isn’t whether we should help or not, but what policies are good for the majority of society, for most individuals.
Dr Malinowska – I would add that I think it is a little bit of magical thinking to believe that if we criminalize a drug, people will not use it. If you look at cocaine, heroin, all sorts of drugs – people are using them. We need to face that reality. We need to find mechanisms with the least harmful outcomes and that we have good prevention methods and that we address the needs of young people so that they do not feel a need to resort to drugs. We need to put in place those interventions that are effective, and criminalization is just not one of them.
Mr Sabet – I think there is a difference between jailing users and forgetting about treatment, and simply keeping a substance illegal. Some people think that people should rot away in prison for taking drugs and I know this does happen across the world, but that is not what is required under a prohibition model. The tobacco example of how usage is finally going down is not an ideal. Let me be clear, in my country it took us a hundred years and hundreds of thousands of families torn apart for us to realize that tobacco companies were lying to us about the harms of tobacco. And when I travel to Asian and African countries today and I see the same advertisements that we had 30 years ago in our country because the tobacco industry is very strong. The reason why tobacco use has gone down in the West and not in other places is because we are becoming more punitive. Tell me where here in New York you are allowed to smoke still. We more or less made smoking illegal and a taboo here. People shouldn’t necessarily be put into jail but if we start regulating markets we begin to have companies and advertisements and all of the things we have seen from corporation that are trying to addict people. We have learnt from tobacco that the more restrictive we get, the lower to consumer rates. That doesn’t mean we want to criminalize users but we shouldn’t make drugs like heroin more easily accessible through a legal market.
Mr Avsan – Thank you. Once again I have to say there is not a conflict between repressive policies and healthy people. I think we have evidence that repressive policies decrease drug use. In Sweden we don’t differentiate between different drugs because we know that every drug is harmful. Most users of heavy drugs began with using soft drugs. We have to use any opportunity prevent the opportunities to access drugs and that’s very important for every society in my opinion.
Uruguay – I would like to make a quick point. I agree with many of the analysis of Mr De Alba, especially from our Uruguayan perspective. I don’t really agree with the analyses for greater prohibition and criminalization. There are two issues related to what has been said. One of the panellists spoke of drug tourisms. It is important to bring examples of this and it is unfortunate that we do not have a representative of the Netherlands here today. It is important that the Dutch authorities can tell us what their experiences are. My question to the panellists today is what the similarities in the problems between the different countries are so that we can share and learn from our experiences, whether these countries are mostly transit, production or consumer countries. We don’t have the problem of drug production in Uruguay but we have become consumer countries due to being a transit route which means we can learn from several different countries and their issues. Thank you.
Mr Sabet – Although every country has a different situation, I think these labels of consumer, producer and transit countries are a little out-dated. I think they give in to this blame game. In the US for example we used to say, if only we didn’t get drugs from Central America we wouldn’t consume them, and so on. The bottom line is there was an increase in use in the Netherlands from the 80s to the 90s, whether it was because of this new decriminalization policy started in the 1970s, I don’t know. But it shows we do have to be careful when we use statistics in this matter.
Mr Avsan – As a member of the committee on justice in Sweden, I actually visited the Netherlands in the autumn. As in many other cases there is an official version saying there is no drug tourism. But we spoke to people such as police representatives and they admitted that there is natural drug tourism. Another thing is that in the Netherlands they are preparing a special legislation aiming to restrict cannabis, which is indicating a new direction.
Dr Malinowska – The Netherlands are actually an excellent example of how to regulate. Making sure that the THC levels are under control is one of the issues at hand and we can all learn from the Netherlands as an on-going living example of regulation. This is important for example for Uruguay but also for many other places in the world. We often assume that if we don’t criminalize, people will be using it more, and that is not true. We can see this in the Netherlands and can learn this without hesitation.
H.E. De Alba – I don’t want to talk about the subject of tourism as I don’t have experience with that subject in my country. What I would like to say is that we need to take into account the national and regional factors that play a role in consumption. There are unfortunately a lot of new drugs every day and this is a problem that will not stop any time soon. The patterns of consumption and types of drugs differ between regions. We have to undertake a regional or sub-regional approach to see how the matters should be debated in different regions. We might be ignoring the elephant in the room with our current approach. The direction that governments are taking impacts lots of factors. Even if they have different policies, countries affect each other trans-nationally. We have to be aware of the global impact different policies. Another point is that we have to continue to speak about the consumers which make about 2% of the population, but also about the other 98% of the population which are affected by violence and crime. Thank you.
Jamaica – Good afternoon. The last 50 years of these talks and the last 30 years of the so-called war on drugs have been characterized by militarization, paramilitary activities, loss of lives, investment in prohibition rather than in health, education and development. If that still has not work and new drugs keep emerging, are you suggesting to become even more prohibitive? Why not use the information at hands to improve the interventions, including the one you mentioned relating to tobacco namely education, to decrease the scale of this problem. The last 50 years have obviously not been working.
Mr Avsan – What we are talking about is how to deal with the problem and I am not saying that the war on drugs is the solution as it has been done in certain areas. In South America for example the war on drugs has affected many people, traffickers but also other, innocent people. I see this problem from the Swedish point of view. I used to be a police officer and I know that drug users are not afraid of the police in Sweden and can ask for help, an the police can facilitate access. We do not tolerate drug use, it is prohibited. The legal framework is there to take action against this issue and prevents young people from using drugs.
Mr Sabet – I don’t think my colleague and I certainly don’t advocate for a punitive approach. A war on drugs is a horrible analogy; it is like fighting a war on your own people. However, if you would like to talk about a public health disaster you can talk about tobacco and alcohol, they have caused more harm than all illicit drugs combined. But in the last couple of decades we have made progress on tobacco not because of its legality, but because we have had strong educational campaigns which are compatible with keeping it legal but help decrease the usage. Also, it is important to note that not all attempts are supply have been unsuccessful. In Colombia, today, because of international assistance and a focus on crime and violence reduction and without any steps made to decriminalize drugs, Colombia is in a much better place now and has become one of the major tourist hotspots for Americans to go to. You couldn’t say that in the 1990s. This is because of global assistance and cooperation, and of course not all attempts were perfect and we need to keep an eye on upholding human rights records, but the choice is not between becoming more prohibitive and a regime that mimics the disasters of alcohol and tobacco.
Dr Malinowska – When president Santos of Colombia spoke of the efforts at reduction, he said “the best we have ever done is to become only the 2nd largest cocaine producer in the world”. So when we talk about the billions of dollars that both the US and Colombia have invested into reducing the cocaine production, we can say these have not been successful. Of course there have been other effects such as an improved infrastructure. I think we need to keep this in mind. As I’m listening to this conversation, I realize that no one here is arguing that drugs should follow the alcohol and tobacco approach so I am a little surprised at the constant return to this subject no one is proposing. What we are proposing instead is smarter drug policy with good intentions; of course this will have difficult parts including a focus on prevention and crime reduction. This is the debate we are trying to have today. We need to include reason and human rights in this public drug policy. It is not about whether there is room to negotiate. We need to prioritize these goals for the citizens of our countries.
H.E. De Alba – I agree and would like to add that whilst we have greatly reduced consumption in our country, but preventive measures with huge amounts of resources should not just be aimed at addiction but also at violence and the link between traffickers and organized crime where corruption and force are common. Preventions shouldn’t just be about alternative crops and such but about changing the social fabric so that all societies feel a greater responsibility. And then we need to focus on education, which is something we all agree on. It’s a set of actions that are more ambitious than our current frameworks. But this is not a purely UNODC struggle and should instead involve all of society to find solutions to these problems.
Moderator – You each have 90 seconds to make your concluding remarks now.
Dr Malinowska – I would like to return to our audience as all of you are parliamantarians and are helping shape laws in your own country. I would like to ask you how comfortable you would be with laws that were developed in 1961, ’62, where many of the current aspects were not present, including HIV and much of the data that is available to us now. So what we are thinking here about UNGASS is what you would think about at your national level. Conventions are not holy books, they are documents and we have learnt a lot since they were drafted. It is time we learn from our experience, apply this and find a consensus of how we will move forward. You are the people that make laws and our discussions are about international laws, so think how you would like laws for your own people to be drafted.
Mr Sabet – It is true that even the last convention of 1988 was written over 25 years ago, but many countries around the world have adopted national policy around this framework. It doesn’t mean we should stop learning, we have in fact learnt a lot since 1961. The beauty of the current conventions is that they allow us the flexibility to address these challenges with science and understanding. The idea of tobacco and alcohol were brought up several times first of all because they were addressed by at least one or two of the debaters and at least one or two of the questioners; but also, alcohol is an example of a legal framework. I would hope we could do better, but we know that companies would want to make a profit by increasing use. These are example of legal frameworks that are related. I think we can do a lot with the current conventions as they are, and it is up to you to implement within your national frameworks however the laws work best.
H.E. De Alba – I think it is clear that there is international consensus that we all wish to develop in such a way that we can continue to tackle this global problem. We cannot do this in isolation. We need to pay tribute to the IPU and its importance in fighting this issue. We need to continue to debate the alternatives and approaches that are balanced. We have to find ways to allow those 80% of the population which do not to have access to medicine to have this access, we need to make sure people aren’t jailed unnecessarily for non-violent crimes, and we not to stop fuelling fear and crime which we have been doing at a very high cost. We need to have greater success not only for the citizens individually but for entire communities.
Mr Avsan – In Sweden we have agreements on how we view narcotic policies. Our stance is that less young people are trying out drugs than in other European countries. When we look at cannabis we can see that half as many young people age 16-24 in Sweden have used it in the past year when compared with the European average. During the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden we experimented with legal prescriptions of narcotics but the results were depressing; it didn’t work. I am convinced that by combining different approaches in a powerful way, including law enforcement, harm reduction, information and education and prevention, great results can be achieve in any country in the world. Implementing the international framework will address the issues but should be combined with different national and regional responses to address the whole spectrum of issues.
Moderator – We will now vote in favour and against the motion, this is nonbinding. Only MPs may vote. The motion is “Implementing the international legal framework will address the world drug problem“. I can see that we have more people voting in favour of this motion, so we are upholding this motion. Thank you to our great panellists.
Moderator – We will now begin our second panel. We will have closing remarks after this panel. Our second motion is “States should seek alternatives to incarceration when addressing possession of drugs for personal use.“ Once again, there are two people for and two people against the motion. This is simply to gain clarity over the issues we have been discussing over the past few days. Let’s begin with our first speaker.
In favour – Ms. Laura Rojas, Senator, Senate of Mexico – Good afternoon everybody. Why should there be alternatives to incarceration? I will try to speak from three points of view: the legal point of view, the human rights perspective, and from the point of view of public policy efficiency. The legal point of view is simple; international conventions never say that punishment of the consumer through deprivation of freedom is necessary. The 1961 convention specifically states that people who have abused drugs can be treated, educated, rehabilitated and reintegrated. The conventions allow for this and many states have already opted for non-incarceration. The second perspective is that punishing consumers and addicts in this way violates the right to health as they do not receive the help that they require and will not be rehabilitated into society in the long term. The third argument is that many examples from different countries show that criminalization increases the crime issue. In my country for example the increase of the prison population for drug related crimes is mostly due to minor crimes and this decreases the deficiency of the state in combating organised crime. Resources are wasted on criminalizing consumers and addicts rather than focusing on combating those crimes that truly harm society.
Not in favour – Mr. Joshua Lidani, Senator, Chairman Senate Committee on Drugs & Narcotics, Senate of Nigeria – Thank you for this motion. The question we need to ask ourselves is this. What is the role of the user? Is he a culprit or a victim? If you look at the rules of supply and consumption you can find that without the consumer there would be no supply. If there is no one using it we wouldn’t have traffickers or drug barons. This is why we have to focus on the consumer and see how we can help him. Apart from being a danger to himself, the user is also a danger for society and to other people. Drugs make him lose his sense of reality. That’s why we have a thinking that anybody who engages in criminal activity should be treated in a certain way. In Nigeria we have a problem with Boko Haram which are attacking and killing people, including women and children. What kind of person would engage in this kind of activity? It is because they are engaging in drug usage. Most people engaged in terrorist activities are involved in drug use and abuse. So what shall we do with this problem? We should have a situation where people like this are imprisoned and do not harm others. Even in prisons, people can be rehabilitated, treated and receive counselling. Therefore I think we should have a look at the user as the culprit rather than the victim. The fact that they are put in prison means the authorities can look after them. Decriminalization would mean there would be a lack of control of the use, and secondly there would be a problem of abuse. In Nigeria the cannabis we use has higher narcotic content than for example that in Jamaica. This means decriminalization would be a problem for our country.
In favour – Mr. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP, House of Commons of Canada – Thank you and good afternoon. In Canada we are planning on decriminalizing marijuana under our president Justin Trudeau. I would like to discuss the merits of such policy and of decriminalization. But first we need to understand the rational for criminalization. We don’t criminalize all drugs, many are used and legal. We focus on harmful drugs. This is because our main concern is human welfare. Most of the drug-related problems are health-related and this is true and based on facts. Deaths, addiction related issues, mental health, public disorder offenses, an impact on productivity, perhaps in the workplace, an effect on kids, driving intoxicated; these are some of the problems related to drug use. We want to reduce these problems and intuitively want to prohibit these substances and attack demand. This however must be justified and infringes on the human rights. It would have to be justified on the grounds of effectiveness and in short, this is not an effective policy. Most drug use is stable and between 3.5 and 6% all across the world. The experience of states such as Portugal shows that the removal of criminal sanctions for use does not lead to a rise in consumption. Worse, prohibition causes substantial harms, including the stigmatization of the addict and the marginalization of individuals who are already marginalized and who need help. The empowerment of organized crime and terrorist organizations through the creation of a black-market is another connection. The Taliban alone makes over 25% of its financing through the lucrative illegal drugs market because of prohibition. And finally, the displacement of resources towards policing rather than life-saving health measures such as safe injection rooms is an issue. Even in Canada we spend more money on policing than on specific life-saving health-care. Given these unintended consequences of prohibition I have to say that the letter from 1998 to Kofi Annan with hundreds of signatories from across the world was right in stating that the war on drugs is causing more harm than drug use itself. Thank you.
Not in favour – Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed Omer, Speaker of the National Assembly of Sudan – Thank you. I would like to begin by saying that our position does not exclude multiple means of approaching the subject. We do not say that incarceration is the only way forward, however, we say that incarceration is one of many means that can be used to attain the desired results. Our position is not rejecting all alternatives as long as these can be used with incarceration. This meeting started by talking about the three conventions, the three legal frameworks. We need to assess these conventions; are they a law or recommendations? We would like to suggest looking at the issue at hand from a different perspective. Instead of saying that our concern is welfare and health, our objective should be to preserve the mind and not only health and prosperity. This changes the whole picture. Is it acceptable for a person to be absent-minded, even for a minute? How does this impact others if he is high. This by itself poses a danger to others. Therefore the question we should be asking is how to best preserve the minds of people. We would like to look at the matter from a new perspective and this shows that drugs are a great danger and incarceration is the solution to help someone who’s mind is not present.
Moderator – I will now ask a question and it is directed at those in favour of the motion. How do you respond to the statement that those who take drugs are often a danger to others.
Mr Erskine-Smith – First, I would go back to this notion that drugs can cause harm – yes, but the criminalization of drugs does not remove these harms. How do we curb drug use and the problems associated with it? The last panel brought up the usefulness of education in lowering tobacco consumption rates. We all know of the usefulness of education and of the harms associated with drugs. We have implemented mechanisms to prevent drunk driving, which is a specific danger from alcohol. What we should aim to do is reduce the risks of drugs, but the simple possession of drugs itself is not necessarily dangerous. Criminalization itself has no specific effect on drug consumption.
Ms Rojas – I think that to generalize is never a good thing. The world isn’t simple, we’re not all equal. And we should not assume that all consumers are violent or related to organized crime and this approach will not help us tackle the problem efficiently. The UN published a report in 2010 saying that alternatives to sanctions are an opportunity not just for consumers but for systems to focus more on health. Many other analyses have said that in countries with the most severe sanctions for consumption there are more problems. Evidence shows that incarceration of the consumer does not reduce the problem but rather increases it significantly and violates human rights. New York is a clear example of this. This city had the harshest sanctions in the US and after reform which allowed for alternatives to incarceration, the crime rates have gone down dramatically. This is shown by research by the University of New York.
Moderator – I would now like to ask a question for those not in favour of this motion. Can appropriate health interventions towards rehabilitation take place for those addicted to drugs from within a prison setting.
Mr Lidani – As I said earlier, these interventions are permissible from within a prison setting, firstly because this does not violate anybody’s human rights, and secondly because the consumer is still punished for the crime he has committed. It is good for both society and the individual to counsel and allow for treatment. But where can this rehabilitation take place? The prison setting is the best place to allow for this treatment without harming other members of society.
Mr Omer – This question requires that we look at what institutions can offer treatment. Treatment can be offered by specific treatment centres. This is why we should look at the terminology we are using. Prisons are different to treatment centres. We need to phrase this question clearly. There is a group of measures which includes prison but prison is a general term. What we need is to provide treatment services to drug addicts in a rehabilitation centre and not in a prison. Regarding human rights, we should not be supporting harmful things such as the right to commit suicide or the right to lose one’s mind.
Moderator – We will now open the floor for questions.
Jordan – Thank you. Very quickly, I am in full agreement with the opinion that there needs to be consequences. However, prisons can actually intensify the problem; my proposal would be to replace jailing with treatment or rehabilitation centres in which people are detained and held for a specific period of time for treatment. We need to have specialized centres to treat these people since we do not want the use of drugs to result in more problems. My question is therefore, when we’re not talking about imprisonment, will we create treatment centre or are we talking about a total decriminalization of the problem.
Mr Erskine-Smith – I spoke earlier about why treatment matters, and I will go back to this subject with the example of Canada. We have a safe injection room in Vancouver where people can safely inject drugs under the supervision of medical staff and this reduces the rate of overdose and transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV. There is also a clinic above this injection centres which provides access to hose users who need help. This type of access is important with regards to drugs like heroin. When it comes to marijuana however, the importance is to ensure respect for people’s freedom to make adult decisions, but we also want to keep the problems linked to these drugs low. The centre for addiction and mental health in Canada published a report stating that legalization is the answer but it needs to be carried out with a public health perspective. We need to keep a government monopoly on distribution to prevent the interests of profit corporations. So in the case of heroin, we absolutely need to focus on treatment and health, and we need to limit this drug prevalence through other means, not punitive ones.
Ms Rojas – Some alternatives to incarceration were adopted in 1990 by the UN. There can be one option or a combination of options, and we can see this with regards to other issues than just drugs. Personally I think that the best option is that people go to receive treatment rather than to prison. This is a challenge to many health systems around the world. However, sending drug users to prison worsens the problem and is therefore not the solution we should be striving for.
Mr Lidani – Thank you. Prison sentencing is the best way to reform people. First, this is because imprisonment is a way of telling to the criminal that what they did was wrong and against the law. If you offer treatment to criminals outside of prisons you are not telling prisoners that what they are doing is wrong and they will not learn. Counselling in prisons means that people come back reformed.
Mr Omer – I must go back to the concept of prison. The idea that we are referring to now is that the individual will be treated and then freed. This treatment must take place within a certain framework, you can call this centre whatever you wish. But the individual must be given treatment but cannot then be freed straightaway. This could be against his own good. He must remain under supervision. This does not have to be a prison but any supervisory or medical institution. Incarceration does not only mean prison. So if it is in his interest, we should keep him for a certain period of time before we release him into society where he could otherwise do harm to himself and to others. We view imprisonment as a situation designed to assist users.
IPU MP – Thank you. My name is Ahmad Tibi and I am an MP from Israel. The question raised here is an important one. This new proposal raised regarding imprisonment is relevant. In Israel 27% of offenses which are drug related are committed by the Arab population. We have a list in the Knesset with which we are trying to deal with this issue and those related such as crime. We have always insisted on a need to solve this issue through both treatment and prohibition. The president of the IPU who invited us is working as fast as possible to come up with solution, but we are faced with a ferocious campaign by the Israeli PM which has resulted in the elimination of three members of this list due to their efforts to help families who have members who are incarcerated in Israeli prisons. I therefore use this opportunity to ask members of the IPU to support those deputies of a parliament of a country which calls itself democratic and yet its own Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to stop the work of those people on the list. This is a serious problem and this is why I am taking advantage of this opportunity to bring up this issue with other parliamentarians here today. Thank you.
France – Thank you Madam. We have heard a lot of things being discussed here in the past few days. The French concept in my view is a balance and integrated approach based on the implementation of the legal conventions between that of legal consequences and that of public health. We are obliged, according to the conventions to stop production, trade and possession. The conventions open quite a few possibilities to get decrease these issues. We are opposed to incarceration for consumption but we are also again decriminalization. Therefore we are advocating is light sentences and I would like to hear your opinion on this. A question that raises itself for example is, who will pass these sentences? For us it would be the judge but there should be a whole range of lighter penalties and maybe other options of passing these. We do believe that states should look for alternatives to imprisonment.
Ms Rojas – I think that the crux of the problem have not been dealt with. The idea is that drug consumption is not a reason to send someone to prison, which would mean absolute decriminalization of drug consumption. The court of justice in Mexico has recognized the right of four people to consume marijuana. What the court has said that only in the case of marijuana it is a right, but in the case of other drugs that have not been studied sufficiently, there could be substantial harm to society. This is a debate which has not been concluded but in the case of marijuana, consumption should never be a reason to send someone to prison. The basis of the debate is on-going, and we have just begun it. Should it be a personal decision to consume drugs like marijuana or should it be considered a crime almost equivalent to murder and kidnapping? I think not.
Mr Lidani – Thank you. I agree that lighter sentences could be given as alternatives to incarceration but this should be left at the discretion of the judge. The important thing is that it is an offense and should be treated as such, but the judge should decide how to punish this offense. If the user does not show any sign of remorse, he should not be released back into society. The law should continue to include penalties for this crime.
Mr Omer – I thank you and the representative of France who shed light on this situation. He said that in France efforts were being made to stop production and sales. We need to think of the economic side and but we should not forget the spiritual side which is essential. A young person should not be allowed to lose his mind and therefore we need to think of the effects on the mind and spirit of a person during this age of reason and technology. We should be vigilant of this and we need to consider this here at the United Nations. If a person loses their cognitive abilities then perhaps he is dangerous to society and the question is not limited to quantity.
Mr Erskine-Smith – The possession of small quantities for example can be punished with a ticket or a small fine and this is absolutely better than incarceration from the perspective of the drug user and victim. We will all have to answer this question whether the consumer is a culprit or a victim, which I think most health-evidence suggests. I would advise for caution though. If consumption remains an offense we still have this lucrative black market and the billions of dollars that have been spent to fight the war on drugs have not solved this issue of drug supply. When you look at the global seizures of drugs they have actually declined between 2011-2013. There is also the issue of displacement because this is a global problem. If one country has particular success at fighting drug trafficking and the rates go down, this supply will rise in other regions close by instead. With respect to ticketing offenses, drug treatment courts are one alternative to incarceration, decriminalization with ticketing offenses are also, but fundamentally regulating drugs makes more sense for the user as he will be more likely to seek out help than even under a ticketing offense system.
Canada – Thank you Madam Chair. I agree with the positions of my Canadian colleague but would also like to respond to my French colleague and say that in an ideal world we would have no alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other drugs. But in the real world, such as here in the US as well as in other countries present today, it is much easier for a young person to find marijuana than alcohol or cigarettes. That is not normal. Making a distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs is something we need to do; not all drugs are equal. Some are victimless, some are very dangerous. People die from trafficking marijuana but not from smoking it. I want to make the distinction between drugs, the terminology is important. If somebody has marijuana at home for personal use that is victimless, so we need to draw a different line of where the crime begins.
Uruguay – Once again, a specific question to the delegations of Nigeria and Sudan. I agree with the representatives of Mexico and Canada, so I would like to ask those in favour of criminalization a question. I assume the legislation in your country is for the possession of drugs, which means we are dealing with people who are not addicts such as social consumers. But in your legislation he would be criminalized and receive treatment which is not necessary as he is neither an addict not a danger to society. It is a problem for society if somebody is an addict but you do not know this if he merely possesses a drug. We should be punishing crimes that maybe result from the consumption such as in the case of alcohol where we penalize those who drink and drive but not those who simply consume alcohol. And how do you distinguish someone who is a social user from someone who is an addict.
Mr Lidani – I think the distinction should be in terms of the punishment. If somebody is a social user and can prove that he does not do it out of addiction then the punishment should be less, but I disagree that there should then not be a punishment at all. Because people become addicts by starting to consume drugs socially at a certain point in time. Both the social and the habit user should be punishment but the punishment should differ.
Mr Omer – Thank you. I think this question is not right at the outset. I did not say that there is a need for people to be imprisoned in all cases, but incarceration should not be out ruled. There should be categories of punishment, including imprisonment which should definitely be one of these categories. Therefore, those social users such as people using in their own houses are not going to be imprisoned, but if they leave their houses and then go out to harm to society then they should feel the consequences and face stricter penalties.
Mr Erskine-Smith – The speakers on the other side of the table have admitted that there are many circumstances when people should not be imprisoned for using drugs including marijuana possession. They suggest that drug users might do something else that is criminal, in which case we should punish that crime and not the drug possession. They also suggest leaving the decision of how to punish up to judges. The problem with doing that is that incarceration leaves the door open even for small possession, and we have seen this in the past. This further leads to problems such as marginalization of groups and racial bias, as takes place in countries such as the United States. These are the people who don’t have a voice in society and are the imprisoned disproportionately; in Canada this is the indigenous people. Again, criminalization does not lead to reduction. And thank you to my colleague for raising the issue of social use, it is true that there is recreational use of marijuana and other drugs the same way there is recreational use of scotch.
Ms Rojas – I think imprisonment does not help anybody. The other side of the table has said that drug users should be treated as culprits. Users will not repent and change if they are not treated for their addiction. I will go back to the inefficiencies and effects of incarceration, I will not repeat them but many studies show that prison generates more problems than solving them. What do we want? Do we want to fill the prisons with social and repeated users or there to be less users and less crime and violence in the streets from the drug cartels? Our countries are weakened by the corruption of drug trafficking. I think we all agree we need to put an end to the problems by the drug trade. Imprisonment is not the solution and we need to think of alternatives. My colleagues on the other side of the table said that imprisonment should not be rejected as an form of punishment and that consumers should repent. I insist that I do not think that this is the case and that imprisonment will not solve any issues.
Switzerland – Thank you. I morning I have had the opportunity to speak of the four-pillar model in Switzerland where in some cases judges can suspend the penal consequences if the accused person voluntarily submits to medical treatment. My question is to Mr Lidani and Mr Omer. Within the framework of our conference in Quito in Ecuador in the spring of 2013, the Swiss delegation was able to visit the prosecutor for minors of the district of Quito, and we were very impressed by the approach of the state of Ecuador which is simply trying to be sure that no child or adolescent winds up in a prison or penal establishment. The entire approach is that of keeping the young people in their neighbourhood and if possible in their families and schools which is good for them. I would like to ask Mr Lidani and Mr Omer if they have ever really dealt with the analysis of a model such as that in Ecuador which has received international acclaim, where people remain socially integrated and the state spares costs from penal establishments.
Monaco – Thank you. I am from Monaco and in our country drug users can get between 6 months and 3 years of prison. Very often families do not ask for help or treatment because of the fear of these consequences. I would like to hear if you think that decriminalization would lead to more treatment demand or whether it would just make treatment an alternative to punishment.
Mr Omer – Regarding Switzerland’s question, yes; in Sudan we have the possibility to treat children, adolescents and their families. We call these localities rehabilitation centres, which are for detention but not prisons. It is an education institution for rehabilitation and reform. We would never send children or adolescents to prison. Regarding Monaco’s question, yes, it is a hypothesis which can be implemented in some limited cases. But are these the majority of users? Isn’t it an exception that they would ask for treatment? We would rather speak of detention in a framework of reasonable treatment that produces results. There is not a need for a total elimination of all prison sentences. There might be some users who do not ask for treatment out of fear from prison but this is not the majority. We need different measures to deal with the issue, and imprisonment is one of them.
Mr Erskine-Smith – With regards to access to drugs in youths, and my Canadian colleague mentioned this earlier, there is a high rate of consumption of drugs and for example access to marijuana in Canada despite the legal sanctions. We can better control access in a variety of different ways, such as strict distribution rules. In Ontario there is a state monopoly on cannabis and therefore there is only one source through which children can access marijuana and this has proven to be more effective to keep marijuana out of the hands of the youths. In a regulatory context we can properly educated people about drugs and its effectives. In a prohibitionist context there is difficulty in raising this awareness and there is a tendency to ignore the health consequences of certain drugs. My colleague from Monaco spoke of the fear of repercussions and the evidence from Canada is clear. Safe injection rooms reduce the risks of drugs and people are more likely to take advantage of health services without legal repercussions. Punishment gets in the way of our health model. There is a major cost of prison for the youths, both for the individual and for the state. There are sometimes more users in prisons than outside of prisons. People are hardened in prisons. In Canada it can cost over a 100,000 dollars per inmate per year, and this money should be directed at health resources.
Ms Royas – I would like to recall the four goals which the Organisation of American States have raised with regards to alternatives to incarceration and supplement what my Canadian colleague has said. Firstly, alternatives to incarceration seek to solve the problems of public health more efficiently and to find a more human and effective solution to minor drug problems; and to reduce the impact of incarceration and improve the human rights situation. Penal sanctions should be the last resort for minor drug crime.Furthermore, we are aiming to fight against organized crime and maintain public security. One point with regards to these alternatives are the drug courts in the United States which have existed for some years now. This model seeks to ensure follow-up for addicts and the judges at the courts should follow the development to prevent recidivism and punishment can come later on if no improvement takes place, but this is punishment outside of prison. These models should be studied in greater detail. Mexico is trying to implement these types of models in their drug law reforms. Finally, I’d like to comment on the last goal of the OAS which is to guarantee public health and safety; in our region in Latin America the prison population has doubled from 2008 to 2012 and this was mostly due to minor drug crimes. I want to insist that using alternatives to incarceration helps solve problems rather than generating more.
Mr Lidani – With regards to what the colleague from Switzerland has said – in Nigeria we have a children’s and youn person’ law which is a system to prevent young persons from being incarcerated. These people are usually kept in institutions or under guardianship who can monitor their behaviour. This applies to a range of offenses, not just those that are drug-related. With regards to the issue of decriminalization, I think if prisons are not esteemed to meet the standards for rehabilitation, then you need to reform your prison system. Solid prisons can bring people out as better individuals on the other side.
Moderator – We will now hear the panellists’ closing remarks.
Mr Omer – Incarceration should be one of a cluster of means to deal with the drug question. My advice is that we look into the three UN conventions in order to find ways to address the issue of how to protect the minds and faculties of the people. Thank you.
Mr Erskine-Smith – In June 2011 the Global Commission on Drug Policy has said that the war on drugs has failed and had devastating consequences globally, so yes, we should seek alternatives. There are unintended consequences to the war on drugs. There have been 187,000 drug related deaths from 2006-2013, however, there are 12,000 people that are murdered or go missing in relation to the drug trade per year in Mexico alone. Monaco raised the point that we spend resources on incarceration rather than health but this redirects people away from health access. In Canada we are experimenting with policy and I hope we will become a model of how to regulate marijuana based on facts of success. My friend has raised the issue of whether the user is a culprit or a victim and it is very simple; if you believe that individual with addiction are victims, you should vote in favour.
Mr Lidani – Indeed I did say that drug users are culprits. They are a danger to themselves and to society. Governments are required to spend a lot of money to treat them but prisons will additionally prevent them from preventing crime. I brought up the example of Boko Haram in Nigeria and I think incarceration will prevent such crimes from taking place. Secondly with regards to the issue of human rights, drug users are the one violating the human rights of a large part of the population. They cause many problems and are a nuisance and prevent peaceful living. If what you are doing violates the rights of others you are not entitles to the protection of your human rights anymore. Decriminalization would lead to a lot of problems including abuse and lack of control. Thank you very much.
Ms Rojas – Thank you. In the diagnosis which was shared by many countries today, strategies against drugs have not achieved expected results. Violence, production, crimes, trafficking and health issues are still present. We need a more balanced implementation of the conventions. If we really want a reduction of the negative effects we have to seek alternatives to incarceration and this should be a priority. The response to the global problem has to be comprehensives and taking into account health and human rights of the individuals. We need to tackle social exclusion and find alternatives to incarceration and provide better treatment, rehabilitation, education and reintegration. We need to approach this issue in a much better way.
Moderator – We will now vote on this motion. Thank you everybody for this debate. This is a non-binding vote. The motion is “States should seek alternatives to incarceration when addressing possession of drugs for personal use“. This is a very tight, let’s call this a draw. Thank you everybody for participating. We will now have presenter making closing remarks to this IPU session.
IPU President – A very good afternoon. We have had two days of intense discussions that has been open, passionate and robust. On behalf of the IPU I would like to thank you all. We have with us the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft would have enjoyed taking part if it wasn’t for his busy schedule. Let me share some of my thoughts. Whenever we have an event such as this, it is not the objective to have consensus. The idea is to hear what other stakeholders have to say. I judge events not by the outcome but by the wisdom of the questions that have been asked, and this is what makes this event a successful one. We are looking towards and beyond the special session in April and it is you parliamentarians who will carry on this legacy. We have with us Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, who will try to summarize with us the debate today.
Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union – It gives me great pleasure to try to wrap up this discussion that has been taking place here. My colleagues and I have been fortunate to put up this programme for you. We try to soak everything in and I will try to reflect on this now but I will not be able to mention every intervention, for which I apologize in advance. I hope you have all found this event helpful and stimulating. As the President of the IPU has said, although there was no consensus on many of the issues on the table, the Hearing did address many misunderstandings and set the stage for further political debate both in Parliaments and at the United Nations. It also revealed some areas of common ground. There was agreement that progress has been made internationally in fighting the drug problem. The conventions provide a common baseline and a framework to guide policy in all countries. In this sense, they protect us from the risk of policy “fragmentation” while establishing the base for international cooperation. We have noticed that there is a clear problem with the narrow way many countries interpret the conventions, without considering the flexibility that is afforded within them. This is the case particularly when it comes to pursuing drug use as a crime. This was also reflected in the results of the vote on the motions here today. Drug use should be regarded as a health issue first. Several parliaments are moving in this direction with legislation to decriminalize and regulate use and possession, offering various models for others to consider. On the other hand, during the debate, there were voices of concern that the conventions may not provide sufficient policy space to countries to come up with innovative policy solutions. It is also clear that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to the drug problem across countries. Each country’s policy must address its own specific circumstances. We have heard in this room representatives of the coca farmers. It is a paradox that the conventions go into detail on the issues of coca and marijuana farming but not on the hundreds of new chemical substances. What is common to all countries is the need to tackle the root causes of drug use, and not just the effects. It was pointed out that there are many factors that cause social alienation, such as poverty, discrimination, and even the culture of consumerism and immediate gratification of consumer societies. In many countries, the social fabric needs to be strengthened so that all feel included and we must be brought together. The Hearing also clearly illustrated the need for a “balanced” approach to drug control policy and clarified various possible understandings of this, of which the main ones are: rebalancing law enforcement efforts with treatment, and prevention and education efforts. The evidence shows that most resources continue to go toward punishment and prosecution and not enough toward treatment. This trend should be reversed. Rebalancing action against producers and users to focus more on trafficking by the cartels and organized criminal organizations. The middlemen are really those who reap most of the profits and do most of the damage in terms of criminal activity and violence. To get to the drug lords and those most responsible for the damage to society governments need to “follow the money,” in the time-honored phrase. When punishment is used as deterrent against drug use or production, it needs to be more commensurate with the actual crime. Some of you have been saying we should not be implementing a uniform blanket way of dealing with all offenders. Overall, the hearing brought to light serious concerns from some as to the effectiveness of the current drug control regime while also highlighting its continued relevance and importance to others. In many cases, the cure has been worse than the disease. As someone has said, the war on drugs is really a war on the poor. The “war on drugs” has done little actually to discourage harmful drug use or advance the “welfare of the people,” which is the stated purpose of the conventions. As highlighted during the discussion about the new Sustainable Development Goals, greater emphasis needs to be placed on development measures to tackle the drug problem. If governments help people out of poverty, provide health care and education, make institutions more transparent and representative, and indeed pro-actively implement the SDGs, then they will undercut the drivers of the drug problem. In that regard, some alternative development programmes have demonstrated that success is possible, essentially through political support, mobilization of public resources and close cooperation with farmers and communities. Conversely, going after small drug producers like coca and poppy farmers, or persecuting drug users as criminals, is actually more likely to lead to negative development outcomes such as the loss of livelihoods, environmental destruction, and indeed the disappearance of traditional ways of life. One of these outcomes that received considerable attention during the meeting has to do with the human, social and economic costs of imprisonment. Women are particularly affected by this because they are often at the bottom of the production and distribution ladder and so more likely to be prosecuted. Any jail term is likely to cause stigma and make life impossible after returning to society, and to employment, especially if there are no resources to facilitate re-entry. It is clear that even within the framework set by the conventions many countries can do more to align their policy response so as to get better results. Key to this is that countries look at the evidence – i.e., clearly identify the affected populations, the drivers of drug use, the specific circumstances of drug production and more. Too many countries have yet to develop a proper strategy on drugs, and their drug agencies and government departments tend to work in silos. Their response has evolved over time and in a piecemeal way. They need to put their legal framework in order and Parliaments of course will be key to this. The Hearing has sent a clear message about the need for each country to perform a comprehensive review of its own drug problem and from there to design an integrated and balanced strategy. The point of departure in this effort can only be the people: they need to be given the information and education to engage in the policy arena and question the social imagery that colours too much of this debate. A comprehensive debate is needed in each country which would engage all citizens and constituencies (users, producers, law enforcement, social sector, and so on) on these issues. In my view this is perhaps the most important takeaway of this meeting. I hope that I have summarized, although briefly, what has been said at this meeting in the past few days. We will submit an official summary and I hope on behalf of the participants present here that the UNGA will take these conclusions into consideration at the special session. Thank you very much.
President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft – Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you here today with a few remarks at the end of this impressively long session. I hink it has been a fruitful discussion that took place. I must thank President Chowdhury for his powerful opening remarks and Secretary-General Chungong for his remarks just now. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have the engagement from you parliamentarians in our UN processes and I look forward to receiving your document. While it is mostly governments that drive UN agenda points, it is parliaments that implement legislation and hold governments accountable. The global context in which the drug problem exists and the global agenda for development informed much of your discussion. Overall it is clear that there are many different perspectives among you on how ot address this problem, but I have also seen considerable common ground on a range of topics, including the important role of education and the availability of alternative livelihoods and the fight against poverty. It was also stressed we need to prioritize the fight against terrorism. A large number of you have made clear that increasing the availability of controlled substances for medical purposes is an urgent priority. Not all of you agree with the current approach and some of you have expressed suggestions of how it could change. For example we have understandable heard calls to give priority to harm reduction measures, as well as calls to not treat all drugs the same judicially and demands to give alternatives to incarceration. In turn others express the need to maintain existing strategies such as strict criminal responses. These points of view form the framework of the discussion on whether the UN needs to adapt its approach or whether it should continue the same strategy. There have been a couple of red flags throughout the debate. The first being that there is a need for increased international cooperation on tackling the drug related problems. The second is that strategies can and should differ from country to country. The existing degree of flexibility in implementing the existing conventions is therefore very important. This topic should be high on the list of priorities in your national agenda and you should share the views you are taking home today with your governments. Whatever the national agenda, we all have to engage with the questions of the success of our efforts for the individuals and for societies and how we can work more closely together to find effective responses. Let me thank once more the committee of the IPU for their efforts in successfully organizing this event as well as all panellists and all parliamentarian participants here today. I wish you all success with your efforts in the coming months and a safe journey home.
End of meeting.