NGO Dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov

First I would like to thank my staff at UNODC. UNODC promotes a balanced approach for drug control based on health and human rights. I thank all of you for your contribution. In countries like Afghanistan and West Africa, I saw many people in need who needed public health, welfare. This should be the basic objective of the conventions, with broader civil society involvement drug policy would be more sustainable.

What would be the implications of cannabis legalisation and what will UNODC emphasize in terms of demand reduction and prevention activities? How can NGOs support the work of UNODC in this regard? 
Cannabis is mostly used by young people. We have medical research that shows that cannabis can be harmful on attention, memory, brain functions, etc. The new legislations in 2 US states and Uruguay will need to be evaluated on what the impact will be on health and youth. Cannabis is also seen as a gateway drug. It is rare that addiction starts with heroin or cocaine, it usually starts with cannabis. We attempt to continue to expand our involvement in drug prevention. With regards to treatment, care and rehab, we continue to work with WHO on programmes based on evidence and human rights. We also promote the closure of compulsory centres, with our report “From coercion to cohesion”. There is also a gap between science and implementation – the recommendations prepared in consultation with prominent practitioners need to be reviewed by the CND and promoted by UNODC.

International measurement and evaluation of the impact of NGOs on treatment?
It is important to mention that international standards of prevention were developed by experts from 30 countries. We need to evaluate and measure programmes to understand better how prevention works and how to improve programmes. There are several programmes, but these are more administrative. We offer all kinds of support to member states through an integrated approach.

Access to essential medicines: this is not one of the main pillars of UNODC’s work.
This is of course supported by our Drug Prevention and Health Branch and we will continue to promote it. Last March, we started a new programme  on access to essential medicines, to support member states to increase access for patients with medical conditions. We work closely with WHO on this.

Is there a need for the establishment of an international task force to review the current drug control treaties?
There is a task force set up by the UN Secretary General. We had a meeting in New York with these experts. The task force has prepared a position paper on drugs, organised crime, etc. The task force will be chaired by UNODC and the Department of Political Affairs. We will meet again to gain support from the UN Secretary General.

INPUD: Could we ask you to make a clear statement on support to OST and promote this view to the Russian Federation?
I express my serious concern about the fact that HIV continues to be a problem among IDUs in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. We of course support harm reduction interventions because it is the most effective response to tackle HIV. It should be part of a broader demand reduction approach.

European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies: When you suggest there is a just link between increase in cannabis use and legal regulation models, do you not ignore data from some countries such as the Netherlands?
I express my concerns of course, but I also said that we will need to see the medium and long term implications and impacts on young people, which may be different from country to country. We will need a clear assessment of these implications.

How can we make sure that NGOs have access to UNGASS 2016 (even those that do not have much fudning) and that success stories on drug policies are presented at the Session? What UNODC plans to do?
NGOs can of course contribute to the dissemination of success stories. In South East Asia for example, there is a clear role from NGOs in developing a new approach away from compulsory treatment and towards community-based treatment. NGOs have exceeded expectations in this regard.

UN Economic Council: UNODC was not part of the MDGs, what is UNODC doing to be part of the SDGs post-2015?
There will be a clear set of goals and agenda. We are promoting the role of UNODC through a meeting in Vienna to measure the rule of law. This is a sensitive point because the evaluation of development goals in terms of corruption, crime, criminal justice system improvements, it is hard. This was a successful meeting last year with ideas that still need to be developed. We will remain actively engaged in the MDGs. In 2015, the year of the launch of the new set of MDGs, there will be the biggest event on organised crime, so we can support the process.

International Association of Cannabis as Medicine – Our association is only international association around the world of clinicians and scientists and we are wiling to provide support to UNODC on cannabis medicines. We have many cannabis patient tourists who come to us, and we then cannot enable them to continue treatment after they go home. So how can we help them continue their medical treatment?
I thank you for your offer. On the issue of access to cannabis for medical use, we promote access to medications.

Eurasian Harm Reduction Network – Not long ago we received a letter from the NY office on crime,sent by Mr. Abramov, in relation to our ECOSOC status, and asked “please explain if the organisation uses OST, which is not welcome in the Russian Federation, this will be taken into consideration for the reviion of your ECOSOC status”. What support can we have from UNODC on this regard? 
We will promote harm reduction, not as an ultimate goal but as one of the tools for treatment, rehab and reintegration. This is very important for UNODC and we will continue to promote it.
The VNGOC will take this on as well. OST promotion should not be a factor for exclusion for ECOSOC status. On the basis of process, we at least want to clarify it.

Actors in Drug Policy Futures – The majority of the world is not planning to legalise drugs. There is a growing lie on public understanding about cannabis. What is UNODC planning to do to promote the harms of cannabis?
We will continue to work on assessing the impact of cannabis on health.

There seems to be one voice missing here, it is those at the beginning of the supply chain. Many plant that because of necessity. We will present our research soon, but is there space for discussion on this issue? 
UNODC is investing a lot on alternative development. We must establish a cooperative mechanism to offer farmers food crops and cash crops. The point is not that farmers will earn less, but the problem in Myanmar and Afghanistan is the lack of infrastructure and lack of access to markets. In Thailand and Colombia, we worked on these and had outstanding results. We must have a more consistent policy and we go back to the question of MDGs. This should be part of the MDGs to ensure that help reaches out to the farmers.

VNGOC: Both yourself and Mr. Yans talk about the advocacy role of NGOs. This role is very important and must be continued, in particular in the lead up to UNGASS.

Closing remarks
I want to thank VNGOC for organising this event and wish you every success in approaching UNGASS in 2016. There will be plenty of things to do, including the launch of the 2 UNODC World Drug Reports, the CND in 2015, etc. So there will be opportunities to engage with UNODC.

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