NGO dialogue with the INCB: Mr Raymond Yans

The dialogue begins with a defensive statement about the INCB’s position within the drug control regime. This is followed by a personal defence on the individual members of the INCB… Essentially that they “are unpaid, retired professionals chosen because of their knowledge.” This was followed by a description of the role of the INCB – namely to monitor the implementation of the UN drug conventions.

Question:  Thanasis Apostolou
This question looked at how the current reforms of cannabis in different parts of the world are questioning the effectiveness of the drug conventions – “governments are now looking at new solutions beyond the conventions, doesn’t this show the conventions are now outdated?”

Answer: Simply responded by highlighting how the INCB didn’t create the conventions, they were created and signed by governments. The scheduling of cannabis was pointed out to be a recommendation of the WHO because it is a dangerous substance especially to young people.

Follow up Question –  Fredrik Polak:
Surely the INCB, in its position of power should be telling people/governments what does work and what is not working (ie conventions)?

Response was essentially a personal attack along the lines that the Netherlands, which legalised coffeeshops became the hub of drug distribution across Europe, not just of cannabis but of ecstasy, cocaine, heroin etc…(and that not one should follow their model). Cannabis is a dangerous substance, especially for young people, and as such prevention must be primary.  Legalisation, when implemented in certain parts of the world send the wrong message to young people and destroys the goal of prevention. The question was not answered.

Question:  Sharon (HRC):
This question asks… The conventions are meant to protect the health of young people. However, we have seen in places around the world that where the conventions have been upheld (and public health/harm reduction interventions ignored or ie. Russia made illegal) there have been terrible  levels of suffering of people who use drugs, as well as other catastrophic consequence such a spiralling HIV epidemic, which have almost been eliminated where they have been implemented.

Our position is clear, it is not our position, it’s what the treaties say. The UN drug treaties don’t talk about harm reduction. Harm reduction hasn’t been accepted by the CND. So we use the goal of prevention. The UN conventions don’t specify treatment for each country. If such treatment isn’t there and it is obviously we may suggest they implement such measures. We do advise countries to implement OST, as long as done under medical control, and NSP and tell countries that these programmes are not contrary to the convention. But these measures are not enshrined in the convention as they now stand.  When we see lack of tertiary prevention, we do encourage countries to take action on it.

Question- Eliot Albers (INPUD)  
Question asked why the INCB remains silent on human rights abuses against people who use drugs. The outdated conventions were written before the HIV epidemic and must surely challenged. Why is the INCB report remains silent on human rights abuses that continue in the name of drug treatment?

INCB doesn’t have a mandate to give advice on human rights

Follow up question:  As a body created by the UN and under its mandate, it has a legal obligation to abide by human rights standards that all UN legislation does.

Question ignored after intervention by the VNGOC moderator about the language of the question. (There was no offensive language used)

Question – Donald McPherson:
The Vancouver injection site is supported by the Canadian delegation and by the supreme court. Why is the INCB still negatively commenting on Insite?

Answer: We are not a UN agency. Our opinion is that a government cannot encourage the use of illicit drugs.

Question: World Forum Against Drugs – The CRC is the only human rights document that drugs are mentioned in. Do you plan on exploring ways to work more on this issue.

Answer: Yes, though other UN bodies like UNICEF don’t pay too much attention to this right as other matters (like harm reduction) and concerns us. INCB has never imposed rules to insist that governments criminalise drug use, it just informs governments of the range of options. When u call us inhuman, it makes us feel very bad because it is said publicly and our children might read it, but inside we don’t feel bad because it is not true.

Question – Katherine Pettus: The role of the board is to ENSURE the availability of essential medicine. How does it carry out this role?

Answer: The INCB carries out this function, in its national visits, bringing the attention to the of health ministers and other high up officials providing them with a guide composed by the WHO and other NGO’s and we advise them on what obstacles they can expect and help them overcome them.

Question – LEAP: Strict drug laws have had a terrible impact in the US impacting upon millions of people and the drug issue continues and will continue while these substances are illegal. Surely we need to bring them under government control to control the situation.

Answer: Drugs are legal for medicinal purposes already, just not for recreational use. It is government who have to change the conventions we can’t do anything. I am not for the drug war either. Let’s imagine that drugs are legal and their use is not limited to medical or scientific use and can be open to everybody, very soon you will have governments taking measures to prevent access to those substances by children or young people.

Question: Are their opportunities to review the conventions before 2016 and can INCB have a role?

Answer – INCB has nothing to say here, it’s solely a government issue. As UN is a consensus based system where all countries must all agree together and very different ideas aren’t able to come to a consensus.

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