MIKE TRACE, RELEASE
(ON BEHALF OF INTERNATIONAL DRUG POLICY CONSORTIUM)
PANEL DEBATE ON UNGASS
Ladies and Gentlemen. I speak here under the registration of Release, a UK based NGO, but also on behalf of the International Drug Policy Consortium, a global network of over 100 organisations that work together to promote a strong and progressive drug policy debate, with the meaningful and credible involvement of civil society and academic experts.
We have observed closely the preparations for this CND and High Level Segment, and in particular the negotiation of the Joint Ministerial Statement. While many diplomats worked hard to achieve this consensus statement, we have to admit that there is currently no consensus amongst member states on how to react to three realities:
– Firstly, drug markets and patterns of consumption are becoming more diverse and entrenched around the world – with more substances being more available in more countries, making more profit for organised crime. For example, we are all struggling and trying to find ways to react effectively to the rapid arrival on the market of a wide range of New Psychoactive Substances (on that point, we are concerned at the apparent willingness of many delegations in this meeting to sidestep the Convention-established system of referring substances of concern to the WHO Expert Committee for scientific advice, before making policy decisions on risks and responses.
– Secondly, while there are some encouraging trends in reducing demand for some drugs in some countries, the two main strategies the international community has placed most faith in – the deterrent effect of arrest and punishment to reduce demand, and the fight against traffickers to stifle supply – have not achieved sustainable reductions in the overall scale of the illicit market. This conclusion is very clear in the report of the Mr Fedotov to this CND, but is glossed over in the JMS.
– Thirdly, and here talking about political and diplomatic issues, there are a small, but likely growing number of clear defections from the previous drug control consensus – first Bolivia with its withdrawal and reaccession with reservation, and more recently the regulation initiatives in Uruguay and parts of the USA.
It seems that some countries wish to react to this mid-term review analysis by strengthening existing punishment based strategies, others believe that this is the time to try alternative policy frameworks, and others again emphasise the flexibility to move towards a health and human rights based approach within the conventions.
This is the diplomatic reality, but we should not allow these strategic differences to paralyse the essential debates in these multilateral forums. We now have the opportunity over the next two years to find ways to have an open, meaningful and inclusive debate, and find a new, sustainable consensus that is fit for purpose in responding to a 21stcentury drug market. If the UN structures can not rise to this challenge, we will be bystanders as national and local governments, and citizen initiatives, take the decisions for us.
There are signs in the corridors, plenary statements, and the presentations of the various UN agencies, in this meeting – that there is a hunger for this debate, and IDPC stands ready with you to make the most of the review opportunity afforded by the UNGASS. Thank you for your attention.