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Costa holds NGO dialogue at UN High Level Segment

Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNODC, called an NGO Dialogue Meeting on the afternoon of Thursday 12th March. He expressed his keenness to engage with civil society and highlighted that this session was an opportunity interact and exchange views. Mr Costa advised that he was seeking the views from the NGOs on how the recommendations from the ‘Beyond 2008’ process can be operationalised. ‘I believe that unless we deal with civil society, we leave drug and crime control in the hands of governments. You are the eyes and ears on the ground’ he advised.
The NGOs who attended the dialogue with Mr Costa, held on the second day of the High Level Segment, were advised that any issues they had with the content of the Political Declaration should be taken up with the member states as UNODC had no influence over this. He also advised that the decision to give NGOs slots to speak at the end of the roundtable sessions was out of his hands – this was also down to the member states participating at the CND. When asked why he had not pushed harder for harm reduction language within the Political Declaration, Mr Costa advised that he had refrained from intervening at the negotiation meetings on the text of the Political Declaration and its annex, as he knew his views on harm reduction would not have been listened to.
Mr Costa emphasized that he still views UNODC as the lead agency on harm reduction despite the lack of harm reduction language in the new Political Declaration and the scant references to health within the document. He stated that he ‘had been outspoken about harm reduction’ and that he was ‘not afraid of words’. UNODC would continue its work on harm reduction and HIV prevention and it would take a great deal to convince Mr Costa that they should do otherwise.
The lack of meaningful engagement with drug users by the CND was raised and Mr Costa agreed that this was indeed an issue. In the HIV/AIDS world, he noted that he had seen such people, ‘witnesses’, playing a positive role but he felt it would be hard to convince the governing bodies that drug users should be included. ‘It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try but I am not optimistic. The logic would be to make governing bodies more aware of conditions on the ground,’ he advised. Mr Costa was also asked to explain whom he was referring to when he used the term ‘the pro-drug lobby’ as he himself had now embraced harm reduction. Mr Costa said that he did not use this term to mean the harm reduction community.

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