In preparing for the 61st session of the CND, the first intersessional meeting in 2018 was held on February 21st. The new Chair of CND, Alicia Buenrostro Massieu of Mexico, opened the meeting with a quick recap of the last meetings and confirmed the dates for CND (12-16 March), informal consultations (9 March), and for the reconvened 61st session (6-7 December). The Chair then reminded member states of the new rules regarding the list of speakers at this year’s conference, stressing two procedural points: the date for opening the applications for interventions and that the only distinction between speakers will be made based on their affiliations to respective cabinets. The Chair then confirmed that there are over 50 speakers subscribed at the moment, reminded member states of the first-come, first-serve policy and of the practical guidelines, including speaking time and manner, for interventions at CND. Upon request from a few member states, the Secretary then repeated and clarified these rules and procedures.
In preparation for the work of the Committee of the Whole (CoW) in March, the Chair informed the room that considerations of the submitted resolutions will start at 3pm on Monday 12th March, and a total of 11 resolutions are to be approved. The titles of these texts are posted publicly and will be available once translation has been completed into all six official languages of the United Nations.
Pakistan then took the floor to express their support for the informal consultations and their appreciation for how they experienced these processes to strengthen drug prevention education.
Spain questioned the necessity of an additional meeting preceding the CND, but the CND Secretariat explained the value of member states familiarising themselves with the material prior to the conference and emphasised the importance of giving the opportunity to sponsors to be involved early in the process and to work together with delegations.
Canada asked for an intermission to state their shared resolution with Uruguay on the removal of disadvantageous stigma of drugs and the delivery of proper health care and comprehensive social services to all people.
Iran then urged the translation of resolutions, and was reassured that although it is subject to consultations, the English version will be available in several languages soon.
The revision of the consolidated budget for 2018-19 was the next agenda point – following extensive discussions in December. The Chair confirmed that the revised budget had already been considered in January, and will be taken up in the plenary in a few weeks.
Regarding the changes in the scope of controlled substances, Gilles Fortes from the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave an overview presentation on international drug control treaties. He emphasised the WHO’s recommendations regarding the changes to the 1961 and 1971 conventions, the consideration of which will be on the agenda of the plenary on the morning of Wednesday 14th March. The WHO stressed its primary concern as the protection of health and well-being of mankind, and therefore, the importance of balancing the availability of scheduled substances for medical use while preventing abuse. This was emphasised as a very complex issue but one of utmost importance.
The next part of the presentation focused on the distinction between schedules and on what these different schedules mean to member states in terms of implementation. According to the 1961 Convention, substances are scheduled into four categories, based on the level of threat for abuse and dependence while considering possible medical therapeutic usefulness. Schedule 1 contains substances deemed to be highly addictive and a danger to health (abuse) and have little medicinal value. Schedule 2 contains substances that are less addictive and “less liable to abuse” but are still considered dangerous, such as codeine. Schedule 3 allows the use of the listed substances in preparations for medical purposes, such as codeine-containing cough syrups. Schedule 4 is the strictest category, comprising a sub-set of substances under Schedule 1 which are considered to be rarely or not at all useful for medical applications.
In March 2018, five fentanyl analogues will be considered to be added to Schedules 1 and/or 4.
The scheduling of substances in the 1971 Convention is similarly based on risk of abuse, threat to public health, and therapeutic usefulness. The WHO has recommended five synthetic cannabinoids to be added to Schedule 2 of this Convention, alongside 4-FA (a derivative of amphetamine).
Gilles Forte (WHO) continued with elaborating on what that means for member states as there are a number of measures coming to play under both Conventions. States have to put in place various measures such as the prohibition of all use, possession, manufacture, supply, import, export and trade (except for medical and scientific purposes), while international trade provisions also have to be in place, and a monitoring mechanism is required to regularly record trends, seizures, trafficking, etc. All these decisions will come into force by April 18th 2018, and member states have 180 days to implement the new regulations.
The meeting continued with a presentation from the CND Secretariat, who also emphasised the complexity of the field and outlined what exactly is going to happen at the 61st CND in regards to reconsidered substances. The voting process that affects the substances scheduled under the 1961 Convention, will follow a simple majority vote (affirmative, negative or abstain) of the 53 CND members present. For the amendments to the 1971 Convention, two thirds of the 53 members will have to vote affirmative. During the process, each substance will be discussed separately with a short introduction by the WHO preceding the vote. There will be a possibility of member states to make a short statement, reasoning for their decision, but only after the competition of the vote.
Russia stated their support for the new Chair and questioned the relevance of abstaining in such votes.
Georgia asked about alternatives for fentanyl analogues in veterinary use, specifically for immobilising large animals, and was responded to by UNODC who stressed the substance’s high potency and the related dangers, then talked about the consultation process during the consideration of carfentanyl which was said to have identified less dangerous alternatives for veterinary medicine.
In preparation for the Ministerial Segment in March 2019, the Chair praised her predecessor, Ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen from Norway, for all her work and talked about the recent meetings with the regional groups, which she found very useful. The Chair also mentioned her recent briefings in New York, where she was able to converse with those that are not represented in Vienna and looks forward to further informal consultations.
In other news, the UN Secretary General decided to change the budget cycle from biannual to annual on a trial basis, and the UNODC will present a 2020 draft strategic framework for the consideration by the commission in 2019.
Regarding the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action of 2009, the Chair called the room’s attention to the importance of co-operation towards an integrated, balanced strategy to combat the “world drug problem”. She then reminded member states that a scientific forum and hearing will be held and will report back to the CND, most likely on March 14th.
Touching on the follow-up to UNGASS 2016, the Chair expressed her appreciation for the delegations, regional groups and all participants for successfully tabling the follow-up meetings in accordance to the outcome document.
Finally, talking about the contribution of CND to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Chair has deemed the annual discussion earlier in February a successful session and announced the priorities for 2018 to be “From global to local: supporting sustainable and resilient societies in urban and rural communities”. The main factors in strengthening the ECOSOC system, and its coherence with subsidiary systems, are interconnectivity, communication and participation, learning from each other’s successes, and improving the impact of contribution. In this spirit, the ongoing collaboration between the CND and the Statistical Commission has been welcomed. The Chair also received a letter from the Vice President of ECOSOC, inviting a submission of a resolution to the 2018 integration segment for communities, leveraging technologies and innovation to build sustainable and resilient societies. In addition, the CND is also submitting a substantive report for the ECOSOC High-level Segment.
Lastly, the Chair reported that she successfully connected with the Secretariat of the Commission on the Status of Women, who will very likely join one of the CND sessions in March.