CND Day 5 – Closing Plenary of the 54th Session the CND

In addition to formally adopting all the resolutions previously negotiated in the Committee of the Whole, the final task of the closing plenary session is to approve the draft report of the CND session. As had been announced, the draft report this year was short due to financial considerations. The report is the only official record of the CND session, the only formal registration of the discussions that take place, the proceedings are not published in any other form. Its contents are therefore important, it is the only formal document that can be referred to.

Drafts are prepared by the Secretariat and tend to be very general and avoid any potentially contentious issues or language. Not surprisingly, this year’s draft did not include any reference to ‘harm reduction’, in spite of the fact that numerous country statements did mention harm reduction practices as a normal part of domestic drug policy and the report is supposed to be a neutral reflection of the discussion that took place. The absence of ‘harm reduction’ was especially notable in the draft CND report’s section (E/CN.7/2011/L.1/Add.4) on the debate on the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action, the follow-up of the UNGASS review process (agenda item 6).

In the statements made during that session, quite a few countries used the term harm reduction and several of them were annoyed about the fact that once again the Secretariat had deliberately censored the draft report by avoiding the term. Norway made a statement on behalf of six European countries (Norway, Czech Republic, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Finland) proposing an additional sentence (7bis) to the draft report to register that “several” speakers mentioned that harm reduction is an integral part of their demand reduction strategy.

The Italian representative intervened, firstly apologising for not being a native English speaker, to ask whether the use of the word “some” rather than “several” would be a more appropriate word to use in this context to refer to the number of countries that had mentioned harm reduction.

A whole debate followed about the precise meaning and difference between “several” and “some”, also discussing how these terms were used in other sections of the draft report. Portugal then added itself to the requested amendment of the report, as they also had used the harm reduction terminology during that debate, making the balance lean more towards the term “several”.

It seemed that an agreement was about to be reached and the chair was ready to adopt the amended draft report, when the US delegation raised its flag offering its help as the first native English speaker to intervene in this discussion: the most appropriate term would in fact be “a few”. As the discussion on the definition of “several” versus “some” had already been concluded, the chair said she did not feel that adding the term “a few” was a particularly helpful contribution at this late stage (18.30). She desperately requested some clemency, saying that in her opinion seven countries could be rightfully referred to as “several”. The Norwegian sentence was thus approved and the term harm reduction made it into the CND report.

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