CND Inter-Sessional – Tuesday 14th January 2014

With the High Level Segment of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) scheduled for the 13th and 14th March 2014, member states are continuing their work to negotiate and agree a ‘Joint Ministerial Statement’ that reviews the progress, challenges and next steps for international drug policy.

This was the first inter-sessional meeting of 2014, chaired by the new CND Chairperson –Ambassador Khaled Abdel-Rhaman Shamaa from Egypt. Member states continued to work on the latest draft of the Statement (from 5th December), and reached the 16th paragraph after eight hours of debate. Following on from the last inter-sessional meeting in December, around eight member states had made formal submissions of revised text.

The main issues on the day were:

  • Wording about the importance of the drug conventions (i.e. are they the ‘cornerstones’, ‘framework’ or ‘foundation’ of international drug policy? – at one point, the Chairperson quipped that it had become a literary society, with delegates arguing over the etymologies and translations of the different terms)
  • Other UN debates, such as those in New York, and the post-Millennium Development Goal (MDG) discussion
  • Harm reduction
  • Civil society participation
  •  Human rights
  • The ‘leading’ roles of CND, INCB and WHO

Below is a summary of the main positions being taken during this latest round of discussions in Vienna (with thanks to Katherine Pettus for her work in collating these).

Argentina

  • Submitted comments to the Chair in advance and intervened five times during the day. Many other countries supported the Argentine proposals, having seen them in the handout in front of them.
  • Supported condensing paragraphs 5 (on the continuation of the ‘world drug problem’) and 7 (on the different approaches available) to one sentence each – as well as various other deletions and language edits to the text.
  • Keen to downplay statements that overstate the progress that has been made since 2009.

Australia

  • Emphasized primary policy making role of CND, rather than INCB: “CND alone is the principal policy making body in the UN system on drugs. The INCB is properly recognized, but is not the principle policy making body”.
  • Consistently stressed the correctness of the term “evidence-based” rather than “scientific”.

Austria

  • Supported EU proposal to include other UN agencies (i.e. not just UNODC) in the preparation process for the High Level Review and the UNGASS in 2016.
  • Added “in accordance with international law and human rights law” at the end of a paragraph encouraging countries to formulate national drug control plans. They defended this against pushback from China and Iran, stating that human rights belong in Vienna as well as in Geneva.
  • Supported the inclusion of drug policy in the post-MDG discussions – stating the important link between the world drug problem and the development agenda. Some countries (particularly from Latin America) wanted to delete this.

Bolivia

  • Submitted written comments, mainly aimed at shortening the Statement and making the language more precise.
  • Sought to make the make the language on the role of the WHO  more concise but this was resisted (relating to revisions to paragraphs 8 and 8bis) This was particularly around access to essential medicines under international control. They were unsuccessful with these proposed amendments.
  • Wanted to delete references to the connection between supply reduction and the MDGs.
  • Supported the inclusion of civil society in preparations for the High Level Segment (2014) and the UNGASS (2016).
  • Circulated alternative language and arguments for paragraph 17 on supply reduction and alternative development (for debate at the next meeting).

Canada

  • Very vocal throughout, usually taking conservative positions and proposing various bits of alternative language that were often adopted.
  • Argued for the drug conventions being the ‘cornerstone’ of international drug control, but eventually agreed to the Egyptian suggestion of ‘foundation’ instead although ‘cornerstone’ was retained in the paragraph.
  • Often referred to language from the 2009 Political Declaration, maintaining that the world drug problem “undermines sustainable development, threatens national security and rule of law… [This] gets to fundamental nature of the problem” and claiming that the currently proposed language “is walking back on the nature of the world drug problem”.
  • Wanted countries to be “in full compliance” with the conventions rather than simply “in compliance”.
  • Wanted CND to take the “lead” rather than “engage in” the High Level Segment and UNGASS processes.
  • Opposed any references to harm reduction, calling to substitute the term with “measures to reduce to the negative health and social consequences of drug abuse, and related support services” (from the 2009 Political Declaration).

China

  • Argued for the drug conventions being the ‘cornerstone’ of international drug control.
  • Wanted to delete the whole of paragraph 6 (on the on-going challenges), as this currently promotes “a greater focus on public health, the well-being of users and the demand aspect of the drug problem”.
  • Wanted to promote the “leading role” of INCB in monitoring the conventions.
  • Supported the USA in revising language to be slightly weaker on the role of civil society.
  • Opposed EU proposals on adding language referring to health, human rights and security, saying this “goes beyond the core mandate of drug control” and is “not relevant”. 
  • Opposed Spanish amendments to balance “drug control” with “treatment and prevention strategies”, saying that “control” encompasses treatment and prevention already.
  • Wanted to delete references to international law and human rights, and supported Iran’s rejection of the term ‘human rights’ in any but the first paragraph – saying “we cannot accept the EU position”. 

Colombia

  • Wanted to keep the world drug problem separate from the post-MDG debates.
  • Agreed with Iran that the world drug problem cannot “undermine political stability of a country”, but can threaten it “in some cases and in some regions”.

Ecuador

  • Strongly supported Canada in that CND should be “lead” the UNGASS process, and not include other UN agencies.
  • Supported numerous interventions from other Latin American states regarding language edits.

Egypt

  • Made the second largest number of statements, after Venezuela.
  • Rejected “human security” language as proposed by Switzerland, saying that there is no agreement on what this means.
  • Stressed the issue of new psychoactive substances.
  •  Offered the compromise of “foundation” in the long debate over whether the drug conventions were the ‘cornerstone’ or ‘framework’ of international drug control.
  • Wanted to retain the “leading role” of INCB, and supported CND’s “lead role” in the UNGASS process.
  •  Supported Bolivian proposals to eliminate paragraph 8bis on access to essential medicines.
  • Contested language on civil society participation in the UNGASS, and wanted to revert to language from the 2009 Political Declaration.
  • Disagreed with language around “evidence-based” measures, saying that there is no such thing: “Evidence in one country is not applicable in another”.
  • Argues that “the social integration of drug users is not widely recognized or applied by different member states”, and wanted to incorporate “where appropriate” after the references to social integration in the text.

France

  • Wanted to stick with the conventions as “cornerstones” of international drug control, rather than adding other international instruments to the text.
  • Did not support the inclusion of MDGs in the text, as these discussions take place in New York.
  •  Supported Russia on maintaining references in the Statement to the Paris Pact Initiative (which aims to reduce the illicit trafficking of opiates).

Greece

  • Made interventions on behalf of the EU, as the current President of the EU (from January until June 2014).
  • Resisted several attempts to change language away from what had been agreed in previous inter-sessional meetings.
  •  Insisted on keeping para 6 (on the on-going challenges) including references to public health that China and Russia wanted to delete.
  • Changed the “leading” role of INCB to the “important” role.
  • Supported full civil society participation.
  • Added “reaffirm the importance of a deep involvement of other UN agencies, in particular in dealing with health (WHO, UNAIDS), development, human rights and security in this preparatory process” in the paragraph on UNGASS preparations – which was deemed unacceptable by China, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
  • Repeated the commitment of the EU to harm reduction, human rights and social inclusion.

Guatemala

  • Repeatedly advocated for shorter, more concise text and deletions of repetition in the Statement.
  • Supported Austria on the inclusion of “international law and human rights law” as a framework for national drug policies.
  • Suggested a new paragraph 15bis: “Recognises that drug addiction is a health problem, therefore it is necessary to strengthen national health systems in the areas of prevention and treatment, and at the same time conduct an evaluation of those systems that permit to identify actions necessary to confront this scourge”.

Iran

  • In the debate over whether the drug conventions were the ‘cornerstone’ or ‘framework’ of international drug control, Iran wanted to maintain both words.
  • Added a new paragraph, which finally read: “Express deep concern at the high price paid by society and by individuals and their families in countering the world drug problem, and pay special tribute to the law enforcement and judicial personal who have sacrificed their lives, and to the healthcare and civil society personnel who have dedicated themselves to addressing this phenomenon”. No states objected to this new paragraph.
  • Wanted to delete a paragraph on how the world drug problem undermines sustainable development and threatens political stability.
  • Amended the text so that the world drug problem undermined “public security” rather than “national security”, and also removed “human security”: “The drug problem cannot undermine the political stability of a country”.
  •  Wanted to maintain INCB’s “leading role” as a UN drug control organ in the Statement.
  • Did not support language on the role of civil society, beyond that already agreed in the 2009 Political Declaration.
  • Strongly rejected the addition of “human rights law” in the text, saying that human rights were mentioned in paragraph 1 and that was enough as Geneva is the place where the UN discusses human rights: “It is not necessary to say human rights, human rights, human rights. We are not going to accept human rights in any other paragraph”.

Mexico

·         Complained about the length of the Statement.
·         Supported the EU inclusion of other UN agencies in the preparations for UNGASS.
·         Supported most of the positions of other Latin American states.

Russian Federation

  • Supported the Egyptian compromise of “foundation” in the debate over whether the drug conventions were the ‘cornerstone’ or ‘framework’ of international drug control.
  • Wanted to delete the whole of paragraph 6 (on the on-going challenges), particularly references to public health, the wellbeing of drug users, and demand reduction strategies.
  • Didn’t support the inclusion of “the treaty mandated role of WHO” in the Statement.
  • Supported the USA in revising language to be slightly weaker on the role of civil society.
  • Wanted CND to “take the lead as the focal point” for the UNGASS preparations – rejecting the EU amendments to include other UN agencies.
  • Defended references in the Statement to the Paris Pact Initiative (which aims to reduce the illicit trafficking of opiates), stating that this is not just a regional initiative.

Spain

  • Affirmed the link between the world drug problem and the development / MDG agenda – as the world drug problem “affects health and other issues that have a great impact on the development status of nations”.
  • Proposed an addition to the new Iranian paragraph paying tribute to those who have died fighting drugs: “take account of drug addicts who died because they couldn’t receive treatment”. They also wanted to replace the word “scourge” with “phenomenon” which was accepted
  • Supported the deletion of language giving INCB a “leading role” in drug policy, preferring an “important role”.
  • Supported full civil society participation.
  • Insisted on balancing drug control language with references to treatment and prevention.

Switzerland

  • Took a leading role in supporting health and human rights language, including references to access to essential medicines for pain control.

Uruguay

  • Argued for the drug conventions being the ‘framework’ of international drug control.

USA

  • Proposed deleting language in order to weaken paragraph 9 (on the role of civil society), stating that “representatives of affected populations and civil society entities, where appropriate, should be enabled to play a participatory role in the formulation and implementation of drug demand and supply reduction policy, including a meaningful contribution to the preparation and proceedings of the 2016 UNGASS”
  • Opposed the EU’s inclusion of other UN agencies in the preparations for UNGASS
  • Proposed the deletion of references to “risk and harm mitigation and reduction measures” in the Statement, instead proposing “risk, support and care services as outlined in the UNODC HIV Technical Guide”.

Venezuela

  • Made the most interventions on the day (more than 20 in total).
  • Suggested using ‘framework’ instead of ‘cornerstone’ to describe the drug conventions, and said that other conventions were also relevant to the world drug problem. This gave rise to a long debate, before member states finally agreed on “foundation”.
  • Concerned about the references to new psychoactive substances, as “No international convention deals with this. There are other challenges that lie outside the scope of the existing system of conventions. These challenges have not been addressed properly yet”.
  • Wanted to add “other relevant international instruments” alongside the drug conventions in paragraph 2. 
  • Wanted to delete the paragraph on the MDGs – saying that CND had no business with the UN development agenda.
  • In paragraph 7 (on the different approaches available), they wanted the social and economic consequences to be studied, and started a discussion on whether “undervalued” means “poorly understood” with regards to new psychoactive substances.
  • Did not support language on the role of civil society, beyond that already agreed in the 2009 Political Declaration.
  • Opposed the EU’s inclusion of other UN agencies in the preparations for UNGASS – the CND should remain as the “lead”.
  • In paragraph 10bis (on the ultimate goal of drug control), they wanted more hard-line language – deleting reference to “sustainable development strategies” and stating that “We do not think that supply and demand reduction strategies will contribute to wellbeing… The ultimate goal of supply and demand reduction is something else”.
  • Wanted to delete references to the Paris Pact Initiative.

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