Side event: After UNGASS: What happens between 2016 and 2019?

Martin Matter, Switzerland: Timely to start thinking about what will come next. One certainty. Political declaration and plan of action will reach their target date in 2019. Targets will be reviewed and updated in three years from now. Result is likely to be a new declaration and plan of action for 2020, with a target date that would nicely coincide with 2030. We have produced three high-level documents in recent years, so one may ask whether we need another one, and whether its impact is meaningful. Among member states, the UN drug conventions are the cornerstone of the international drug control system, and there is no desire to change them. The current outcome document says they have “sufficient flexibility.” So why don’t we just reaffirm and enjoy the flexibility space they leave us? The legal obligations that the conventions continue are not enough to ensure the proper functioning of the drug control regime. Need political commitment. These by their very nature need to be renewed in regular intervals or they will fade away because governments change and so do their priorities. To adjust and adapt to new realities, technologies, and ideas is the very essence of policymaking. We face different realities in different places. No global agreement anymore that we should wage a war on drugs, or that a drug free society can be achieved. To sustain the spirit of common and shared responsibility, we will need a new common vision for the next decade. The way things stand, UNGASS may not deliver that. The size of the UNGASS outcome document will be inversely proportional to its strength. UNGASS is a milestone to 2019. Outcome document likely won’t include any preparation for 2019 in terms of process. Will need a resolution for that. Can draw lessons from UNGASS and other multilateral processes. Involvement of experts. Received valuable contributions from UN agencies. UNGASS negotiations could have made better use of that input. Negotiation process will remain owned and driven by member states, but cooperation could be improved.

Summer Walker, UNU: As preparations for UNGASS have developed, it is clear there is a link between relevance of the outcome of UNGASS and review of 2009 plan of action in 2019. UNGASS has generated movement in drug policy discussion. Core substantive discussion towards public health, links to priority UN areas, more inclusion of civil society, and input from UN agencies. Maintain what has begun to be built in this process. Efforts to arrive at consensus have shown considerable divisions. Open and frank discussion will assist the hard task of updating the action plan in 2019. Panelists today will offer remarks on how this could transpire.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC: Take an unconventional approach to the answers we are looking for. As a field operator, we have quite some common ground that we need to operationalize. Be rooted on the ground. Passions are flaring high, not necessarily bad, in fact positive, but sometimes it sounds like there is only one way, and it is my way. That’s why the UN can give the comparative advantage by bringing all of us together to find a compromised way. What is the best reality and framework we can expect? Indicate experts in this debate. Inclusiveness. Strong statement from civil society on the fact that the process is non-inclusive and non-transparent. Asia and Eurasia groups have welcomed the process and the PGA said he appreciated the inclusive manner. If we cannot agree on whether the process has been inclusive, what can we agree on? Need to make more effort to find common ground. On the point of view of inclusiveness, this process is more inclusive than others. Death penalty and harm reduction not included in the past documents. Take distance from the issues and see them with sobriety. We do have quite interesting common ground together at the moment. If we cannot operationalize it, then we are to fail. Thinking of proportionality in the criminal justice system. An issue, not exclusively, but relevant to Latin American countries. What about principle of international shared responsibility? Notable heath challenges facing very limited resources in many countries. Will we help them to invest more in public health? How will we operationalize the new development agenda? Be inclusive, and build partnerships. UNODC works every year with between 300 and 400 NGOs. That is inclusive. Be pragmatic and a mover while respecting the local context. Use the new 2030 paradigm to the upmost. Continue progress and evolution. Drug policies should not stagnate. Continue to evolve with on the ground realities. Setbacks are part of the process. Importance of indicators. At the global level, we have the statistical commission setting them for the 2030 agenda. Need to support countries to collect data. How will we build the partnerships at the program level to define those indicators?

Javier Sagredo, UNDP: Reference to the SDGs is a strong element, with a global consensus, that could orient drug policy, and most public policy, to obtain those goals in the next 15 years. Enlarge the framework of this area. Not just looking for common ground, but adopting a four-pronged approach. Need to identify what is not working, and stop doing it. Avoid wasting resources and time. Doing all the things we haven’t done to close the circles, such as reintegration of people blocked by criminal justice systems. Space for innovation. Context specific policies. Want to see actors that allow the development community to start thinking about drug policy as intersecting with the wellbeing of communities. What are the harms of those policies on our social fabric? Put more emphasis on research and data. Not just about changing indicators. Changing the main reference and objectives of policy. Have to be focused on the wellbeing of people. SDGs a wonderful framework to start the discussion, but have to take it to the micro level. Involve UN agencies. UNDP working internally, inter-agency, and with government and other states to help them. Trying to push global process for that. Generate innovative approaches. How to reduce harms to SDGs and accelerate positive results for development?

Summer Walker, UNU: Calls for scientific evidence-based research. Identifying what isn’t working and having space for innovation to determine what could work better.

Martin Jelsma, Transnational Institute: System-wide coherence. Look back on experience of two previous UNGASS meetings, in 1998 and 1990. Both used ad-hoc advisory groups to review the system and make suggestions for improving system-wide coherence. After 1990 assassination in Colombia, President went to New York and requested the special session. Needed a more efficient approach for the international community as a whole. Issues he listed: too much focus on supply reduction at expense of demand side, attention to precursors, money laundering, and shared responsibility and balanced approach. Convened an expert advisory group. Came up with establishment of a program, which is now UNODC. Recommended to elaborate system wide action plan (SWAP), which became a complete failure. Acknowledged that it didn’t go anywhere. In 1998, already had the second UNGASS. First one convened by General Assembly in New York. Second one delegated to Vienna, similar to what is happening now. Kofi Annan convened an expert group to advise him in 1998. Group came up with a number of clear conclusions and recommendations, including self-criticism in how CND was functioning. Said critical and emerging issues not being adequately dealt with, as politicization was undermining the role of CND. Complete lack of system-wide coherence. SWAP has failed. Need to increase cooperation between UNDCP (now UNODC) and UNDP. After the second UNGASS, instead of working with these recommendations, went in the opposite direction. CND got even more monopoly on the issue. Today, CND has quite complete control of the process. Feasible for everybody that critical and emerging issues are not being dealt with. There is inclusivity and possibility for input that is useful. All UN agencies produced documents. There has been scientific consultation. Civil society input. Yet all those don’t seem to have any influence on the outcome document itself. Informals conducted as if it is a CND resolution. Not in the spirit of system-wide coherence. Some progress gained but everyone can foresee that the outcome document itself will be disappointing on several key issues. In the first UNGASS, the most logical thing to do was convene an expert group. At the second one, tried again, but became very politicized. Now, the proposal to have a similar group has not even made it to discussions and is still in the parking lot of paragraphs, which has become a burial ground. Need a mechanism to prevent this from falling again to business as usual in Vienna and forgetting important contributions from scientific experts, UN agencies, and civil society.

Summer Walker, UNU: How do we include experts in the next phase? Prioritizing and thinking about how to depoliticize that.

Diederik Lohman, Human Rights Watch: Process in another part of the UN as an example of what can be done in order to move forward. If we look for specific objectives and targets in the 2009 political declaration, we see it is limited. Eliminating or significantly reducing drug production, use, etc. is the only target. If we only use that to measure our progress, it is hard to escape the conclusion that we have failed. Drug use is higher that ever. Drugs are cheaper and more accessible. Problem in terms of how you measure that. Limited nature of that objective. We have a broad set of health, human security, and human wellbeing objectives, such as reducing drug related crime, overdose, HIV, increasing access to controlled substances, etc. Those are legitimate objectives of global drug policy but they are not included in political declaration of 2009. Would like the next few years to be used to think about how we can diversify the set of indicators that we use to help us evaluate whether we are meeting the objectives we set out. High-level meeting on non-communicable diseases at the General Assembly provides some insights. Like drugs, this is a significant public health problem. Many deaths are premature. Huge economic and human costs. It is truly a complex global challenge. Reasons for non-communicable diseases linked to public health systems, what we eat, tobacco, etc. Making progress thus requires a whole set of government responses, similar to the drug issue. What has happened in terms of responding to non-communicable diseases is what could happen on drugs. In 2011, adopted a political declaration that includes a mandate to the WHO, member states, and UN agencies to develop a monitoring process to measure progress towards addressing non-communicable diseases. Following the high level meeting, WHO led a consultation process that involved UN agencies, member states, and civil society to come up with a global action plan. Contains very specific goals, such as 30% reduction in tobacco use, 10% reduction in alcohol use, increasing physical activity, etc. Took a number of the key issues and decided on the goals. Contains a number of very specific indicators to measure progress on the goals. Action plan covers 2013 to 2020. Member states are asked to report to the WHO on the progress they have been making towards the goals and indicators. Helps the WHO evaluate how much progress has been made. What are the challenges and how do we overcome them? Good model for dealing with the public health issue. We do not have a comprehensive framework for all the different goals that exist, even though most of us agree on the key objectives. As a result, we are unable to evaluate how much progress we are making or to make adjustments to our strategies. Hope that in the next few years, there is work to figure out what objectives we agree on and how to measure them. If that is not done in the next two years, then in 2019, it will be too late to better set objectives. Hopefully the outcome from the UNGASS will set in progress a monitoring framework.

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