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Conclusions from the Informal Civil Society Hearing

Esbjorn Hornberg, VNGOC. Today, you have demonstrated your commitment to support the VNGOC and their contribution to drug control policy. In 2 years’ time, we will gather in New York for the UNGASS on production, trafficking and use of drugs. We look forward to further collaboration. NGOs can help us provide prevention, treatment and care, and provide expertise n drug control policies and programmes. We hope to identify new opportunities for partnership so that UNGASS 2016 is a stepping stone in drug control.

Gilberto Gerra, UNODC. We are encouraged and inspired and full of hope about this high level segment. We are delighted that the Queen of Sweden is here with you. Two objectives here: protecting children and new generations from drugs (children most vulnerable, without education and opportunities). Before thinking about prevention, we must fight inequality and social marginalisation. Then we must promote real prevention based on evidence. On the other hand, we must take care of people affected by the problem without treating them as outside of our society. They deserve our attention and we must offer social reintegration. Let me use the word “recovery”. What does this mean?The important thing to recover from is the amount of love that they’ve been deprived of.

Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, WHO. WHO is a science-based organisation for health matters. We hope that this briefing will make a contribution to the deliberations of member states and the outcomes of the CND.

H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden. It was a short 5 years ago that I came to Vienna to address this audience on a high level review for Beyond 2008. This statement represents a consensus based agreement by CSOs on drugs. Many recommendations from the NGOs are now accepted and common practice. I encourage the VNGOC to continue implementing these recommendations. A key principle of the Beyond 2008 consensus is an understanding that the world drug problem is a shared responsibility. The briefing today works in the same spirit. Participants in the hearing discussed how the drug control conventions allowed us to address drug abuse from a health-based approach. This is also an opportunity to identify issues that require further collaboration. There is a need for us to keep health and safety at the centre of our approach. As head of Mentor Foundation, I am committed to prevention. VNGOC now represents 150 NGOs, and millions of citizens. This hearing represents those voices. We must address health issues within the existing drug conventions. Your attendance here today is very important. In 2016, the UNGASS on drugs will take place – the world will be watching and expecting clear results. Some objectives remain a distant reality. We have not capitalised existing realities. We must renew and strengthen our partnership with the VNGOC towards UNGASS and beyond. I ask you to listen with open minds. to the results of the hearing and scientific committee. We cannot afford to lose our children, the coming generation.

Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary General. We are shaping up for good cooperation for 2016. It will be a historic moment. I want to play tribute to Her Majesty Queen Silvia. I also want to salute the VNGOC for developing a platform of discussion. Your voice is very important. In today’s world, there is no peace without development, and there is not development without peace, and none of these two are possible without respect for human rights. Health and human rights should be at the centre of international drug control. Networks with NGOs are essential. this is especially true as we move towards UNGASS. What has worked and not worked? What are fresh and innovative ideas that we could promote? One concern is the need for a balanced approach with emphasis on health and human rights. The conventions were created to protect the health and well-being of human kind. we must continue to do so. The safeguarding of human rights for all must therefore be embedded in all our actions, with humanity and dignity. There must be access to affordable health, and treatment, as well as for HIV and hep. There is also a huge issue of access to palliative care. We must not ignore the most vulnerable in the production and trafficking chain, with sustainable alternative livelihoods, access to education and social welfare. In our search for a balanced approach, we must highlight the role of law enforcement. traffickers must be identified, arrested and prosecuted. With the help of banks and financial institutions we must tackle financial proceedings of crime. Crime undermines development and peace. No region or country is immune. Take one example: many young people are affected by illicit drugs because of impoverishment. Empowering young people to break with bad relations and move away from drugs is key. That’s why the UN is creating partnerships with young people. We must promote justice, transparency and good governance. International drug policy debates are sensitive and difficult. They are characterised by differences of opinion on the way forward. It is imperative to search for consensus among member states. We all have an obligation to reach common grounds. CS actors have played a constructive role in Vienna and New York, I congratulate you for that. Keep up the good work in Vienna, New York, Geneva and your countries and I look forward to collaborations with you towards 2016 UNGASS.

Michel Perron, VNGOC. We want to provide the conclusions of the Informal Civil Society Hearing to feed into the high level segment. VNGOC represents 150 NGOs across the world. We facilitate the participation, engagement of NGOs at the CND and UN system. We have a long history of partnership among NGOs and governments. The Hearing was an excellent discussion on two themes: health-based approach in the UN conventions, and the areas of policy and practice to explore in the lead up to 2016 UNGASS. The report will be circulated to member states. Members of the VNGOC are acutely aware of discussions on drug control outside of CND. We offer remarks as a contribution to dialogue. Six points
1. Participants indicated widespread support to build an understanding of what a health-based approach means. WHO’s definition of health is a good basis for discussions. It can be applied for individuals and communities. A dedicated informal forum among member states and NGOs should be held to inform UNGASS on this issue.
2. We must develop a rights-based approach to drug control. We must minimise policy dissidence among UN agencies. Policy coherence should be considered in the broader context. The UN Task Force on Organised Crime an Trafficking is a good basis to achieve this.
3. A health based approach should be comprehensive and balanced including the whole continuum of care – prevention, risk and harm reduction, treatment, reintegration. It must maximise public health. Member state expenditure should also be redressed. We should also address access to essential medicines.
4. The conventions provide flexibility for interpretation and application by states. There are innovative practices – alternatives to conviction and punishment for example. But we should also know that there are competing obligations between different international conventions. In the lead up to 2016, we must pay attention to how these treaties should be understood
5. Member states should make choices on how to apply the conventions. They could deprioritise some areas and place greater emphasis on other. Deprioritisation of drug users for example can be considered. Health should be at the centre of all responses. Member states, NGOs and other should hold informal discussions on these issues.
6. We still lack data on a wide range of issues. We must review the application of the drug control conventions as they are applied by governments. There needs to be stronger analysis of projects and programmes to inform future drug policy.
The report will be available to member states shortly with more details. on the discussions held. VNGOC will continue efforts to collaborate and inform NGOs’ work.

Paul Rompani, Mentor International: Mentor international works to prevent drug use in young people, specifically primary prevention. Since the conventions were established, prevention programmes have evolved. First prevention programmes were centred on scaring. The next evolution showed that providing information was still not enough. The next change moved into generic programmes focussed on forming positive health habits. During the last 20 years, prevention has come forth as a science-based area. A growing number of studies show that prevention programmes are working. Rompani questions the research around health effects of cannabis on young people and the helpfullness of claims like it is less harmful than alcohol. Need a better understanding on how cannabis decriminalisation affects young peoples norms. From a youth perspective there are many questions that still need to be answered. There needs to be more investment in the positive future of young people.

Eliot Albers.   Voices of those who do use drugs can be articulated in this forum.  Usually not heard.  Former users heard or those who regret.  I speak for those who currently use drugs and how prohibition impacts our rights.  (same speech as yesterday on CND blog).  Paul Hunt parallel universe between drug control and human rights law quote.  Shocking way it is ignored by most people.

Oriol Esculies Plou: Speaking from the prospective from those providing services in a time when there is a growing awareness of addiction as a health issue. Has 10 points. 1 accessible and affordable treatment. Four out of five people do not have access or cannot afford it.. 2. Need a wide range of interventions. 3. A wide scope for looking at the problem. 4 Stress the need for provision of drug treatment to be expanded and evidence-based. 5. Promote secure and safe environments for treatment and post-treatment. 6. To engage effective and engaging interventions. 7. Recovering health and social wellbeing takes time. There will be steps forward and backward. Health and criminal justice systems need to support. 8. Sharing of data at an international level. 9 Recoginise that drug treatment effectiveness can be supported by other activities. 10. Let NGOs and civil society help out, NGOs work close to communities and can plug the gaps that governments cannot. They have a positive reputation. Used to dealing with a lack of resources.

In terms of treatment, NGOs and Civil Society, we want to support UNODC on the 2009 plan. We want to see how this is going and see improvements.

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