Member States gathered at the first intersessional since the 57th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to discuss issues related to UNGASS, law enforcement, HIV prevention and demand reduction, etc. A summary of the discussions is available below.
Agenda item 1 – Consideration of Resolution 57/5 on UNGASS
Chair. The chair urged civil society to contribute to the open dialogue around UNGASS through the official UNGASS website from their own countries and areas of expertise. They should also inform member states on their experience and brief them on their expertise working on the ground. This would enrich the commission’s dialogue during the coming period. If not, we continue as far as the consultation process allows with UNODC.
UNODC has been requested to provide substantive expertise to the process.
Agenda item 2 – Preparations for the reconvened session
Chair. We would hold formal meetings during the 57th session and then the 58th session. There will be additional meetings in the fall so as to prepare for the reconvened session in December 2014. The original dates for the reconvened session were 4 and 5 December. Two formal meetings during the 57th session were devoted to UNGASS preparations. The Extended Bureau meeting on 6 May recommended that it could be absorbed between the existing entitlements and recommended that 3 December be devoted to the UNGASS.
Up to four additional meetings could be absorbed, meaning 2 additional days. OP. 7 of resolution 57/5 says that eight meetings should be convened – that is, 4 additional days to be held in March 2015 for the preparations of the special session. We will have the secretariat prepare a provisional agenda for next intersessional meeting in September.
Data collection and analysis – the World Drug Report
Netherlands. Question about website – it is good for NGOs, but how does this work in practice? Do we send the documents to the secretariat and they upload them online? Since it is an aesthetic thing…see which kinds of debates are ongoing on twitter etc. We need to use it in an interactive mode.
Chair. It is a very good idea. Should we devise drug specific social media, rather than twitter or Facebook?
Secretariat. The chairperson has informed us that the Secretariat invites any NGO wishing to do so to send contributions to the UNGASS 2016 website. There will be a presentation later in the afternoon by VNGOC on how to contribute.
UNODC. Angela Mucci from the UNODC Mission in relation to research. On the basis of the high number of resolutions, our mission is threefold:
- Collect, disseminate accurate statistics, analyse to see trends and threats that can support member state deliberation and member states in general in response to drugs and crime. UNODC is mandated to strengthen national forensic capacity and production and dissemination of data on drug use and supply in framework of official statistics.
- Develop standards – forensics and methodology, always in cooperation with national experts. Try to show you three types of tools that can be helpful. One level is to support national capacity in areas of drug problem.
- Conduct surveys. Facilitate data and information exchange across member states on national, regional and international drug markets and to support the international debate.
World Drug Report, Global assessment of NPS: this includes data on drug use – one of the requirements of the conventions. We try to help member states to fulfil this requirement. However, this is not only to fulfil the global requirement of the convention but also to monitor their drug problem in their own country. One example of support was in relation to the production of data. We conduct surveys undertaken with member states in relation to illicit drugs. We always use consistent and comparable methods. We use quality standards and harmonise methodology to ensure we have highest level of comparability. We always try to use participatory approach – we use two logos, for example, that of UNODC, and that of the relevant government.
Another example was that on Afghanistan where we only used the logo of the government in the report. We supported them, but in the end that publication rested in the hands of the ministry. It all depends on the member state preference. Information helps countries focus on key elements – i.e. rural economy, alternative development, eradication, etc.
The International collaborative Exercises (ICE) programme offers analytical tools. Seized materials provided by member states are sent to the labs twice a year, and they send back results in real time through a secure web based portal, then send feedback to laboratories so they can assess the quality of their results. This helps the labs to see and focus on where their possible gaps are and to support labs with specific technical advice. The tool covers 57 countries, and 165 labs.
Field identification kits: These are used in remote border control areas to identify drugs or precursors. Another set of tools is the guidelines for NPS identification. Another tool is supporting member states’ capacity to identify substances, by using devices that can rapidly detect NPS. We also offer training to law enforcement to identify NPS.
Facilitating data and information sharing: We try to use primary evidence to be as comprehensive as possible. We always ask to be challenged on the methodology we use. We are happy to discuss that. We really want to support countries and not working against them. Our only interest is to provide an accurate picture of the situation. And we treat all member states equally. We give all member states an opportunity to contribute, we use the same standards. Data on drug use should be based on population surveys. If not, they don’t meet international standards. These standards are applied across all countries. We make a point that everyone receives these at the same time.
Chair asked if anyone had visited the lab? Only a handful said yes. The “Philosophy” of treating member states equally is not really a philosophy, but an obligation. It is not a matter of choice.
Canada asked UNODC to send these tools to the capitals as they are not aware of all of them.
Guatemala questioned the data. As with the Canadian colleague, he declared that there were many bodies and agencies within government and outside, and they all have their opinion on reports to produce. It is sometimes difficult to bring everyone on and encourage a report that is full of negative commentaries about the country – then these reports are used by the local press or even to scare tourists away. Tourism is a huge source of income and growth for our countries. It is also a huge source of employment. So many of these reports convey the idea that travelling to our countries is a frightening undertaking because they are so negative. Guatemala did mention this to the President of the INCB but nothing has happened. When you write country reports, before you send out the printed copy, please consult with missions so we can have a look at the text either for countries or regions. They convey such a bleak picture of our country it is almost like we are not playing on the same team.
Chair. These points could be shared by a good number of member states. We need to discuss among ourselves, with the Secretariat and try to figure out and find out ways how best to deal with the issue.
Romania mentioned the need for better coordination with the INCB, UNODC, the World Drug Report and member states.
Chair hopes that the new INCB leadership will facilitate this.
Russia. The UNODC picture of Russia is also not entirely accurate. We need to set up a coordination mechanism between countries and delegations etc. so reports are more precise and more authoritative.
Brazil stated that it would be useful to have the World Drug Report to send to our capitals. We would like to make a comment about consultations with member states. Initial information comes from member states, and UNODC has to seek information wherever it can get it. It should instead have the support of the country. We have seen some research from other bodies that cannot be extrapolated and in research on drug consumption in different countries we often see that the methodology used can be used for a wider population not for just a country’s population. We would like to have information so we could work with the World Drug Report to have an accurate view of the country because sometimes we get erroneous extrapolation.
France. We need information on drug policy. We have a general comment on statistics of the past few months – we have been asked to work on very important items and provide information to UNODC. Perhaps with the INCB and UNODC there could be some rationalisation in terms of the information we provide to the two bodies. Because of budgetary restrictions, it is important not to duplicate the work. Important pieces of information include figures that we use to define policy on drug supply, which is very important as we do a lot to control our borders etc. Information on drug demand is not there. Some segments of population are more vulnerable than others. Addiction in vulnerable sections is an important item. We need to have an understanding of how that works. Addiction affects vulnerable populations. We ask UNODC to provide us with information on this matter.
Afghanistan was mostly positive about the World Drug Report.
Bolivia praised the constructive process and interaction with UNODC.
Pakistan. There is always room for improvement in data collection and coordination with member states. For the purposes of data collection, effective coordination with member states is an important element. We ensure that timely and effective responses are sent to UNODC. The purpose of data collection is of pivotal importance. The element of law enforcement might be effective in certain countries. Data collection then may be collected in a way that could assist this country in furthering law enforcement measures. We suggest that we keep in sight the element of cultural specificities. This is very important for us. Last, for our region, the level of reports that UNODC has done is satisfactory, but when it comes to feeding information into other mechanisms, data is not accurate or up to date, for the purposes of this specific situation, it would be useful to rely on the most accurate and updated information so that wrong conclusions may not be drawn.
Iran. The aim of data collection is to lead or to show a picture and a trend, something different. Many countries with small units should be very careful because they are scrutinised word by word. A small unit has a lot of work to do and most information is not up to date. Most information comes in very late. The purpose is to help the government work better.
Presentation by UNODC. There has been an evolution in recent years. The trend is to move away from the plenary setting to informal, creative ways to talk, interact on important points. Can we collectively come up with more creative ways to debate? In terms of participation, should this only be from law enforcement teams? A change in topics discussed has led to a change in the people involved in the discussions.
In terms of border protection issues: In many instances there is no possibility for any country to physically protect all its borders, because of the terrain, length, human resources, etc. Cross border issues are not limited to the physical border itself. This is part of law enforcement, and it is not limited to one country. It is part of a wider phenomenon. And borders always have two sides.
In terms of backtracking investigations, law enforcement must be able to go behind traffickers. Countries and their law enforcement agencies should be able to conduct special investigative techniques. Many countries are involved in such activities and have set out border liaison offices. These exchange information, ensure daily cooperation, each has a focal point, and ensure that relevant agencies are involved. This originally started in South East Asia and now has expended in Central Asia. We bring together all law enforcement agencies, and ensure a mirroring of structures and exchange of information.
Other mechanisms include AIRCOP, targeting airports, risk assessment, profiling passengers, building operational links between countries and airports, developing this approach as part of a bigger law enforcement strategy. Africa and Latin America are implementing this now. We also promote the monitoring of Cross Border Container shipments, there are 500 million shipments per year. We encourage the targeting of ship ports, dry ports, airports.
There needs to be networks established including the police, customs, border guards, coast guard. We must strengthen regional and international cooperation. We must establish focal points to know each other’s legal systems promote good practice and procedures. We must build trust that facilitates information exchange. Trust must also be promoted at prosecutorial and financial intelligence unit levels.
In REFCO, WACAP, Central Asia, East Africa and Gulf states, we have focal points, hold regular meetings, cooperate in criminal matters, and also focus on MLA and extradition issues.
Our container control programme includes a UNODC Coordinator, a WCO coordinator, and is available in all regions. It is very successful but it is costly. We introduced new elements based on the needs of donors and participating countries. We received funding from Denmark for our Air Cargo Programme. This has showed good results. The total amount seized has been: 80 metric tons of cocaine, 1674 tons of precursor chemicals, 56 metric tons of cannabis. We also seized tons of ivory and illegally logged wood. We have a standardised training programme and equipment package, and have the customs and law enforcement agencies on board. In 2013 we arranged 56 workshops and trained 553 law enforcement officials. Tis project is moving forward in a good way.
France. France has supported this work since the beginning. The advantage is that it provides very quick results. We encourage the secretariat to continue with these maritime controls. France is making a big contribution, but it costs a lot. It would be good to see more action. France is very active in West Africa and we closely monitor results there. Another structure we use is WACI. In terms of money laundering, combatting it is also important because it is a way of attacking the traffickers.
Costa Rica. It is essential to have container and maritime programmes. Costa Rica is a transit country. We are affected by maritime trafficking. The World Customs Union have requested technical assistance. It is very difficult to manage, since we have the ocean on both sides.
Russia. The coordination of activities is important for law enforcement. Legislative barriers impede effective law enforcement activities in the fight against drugs. Are there plans to coordinate a single centre in addition to a regional centre? We need to identify which containers are at highest risk: air, rail transport. We have the largest in the world. We also target maritime transport, in particular coming from Afghanistan in containers.
UNODC Presenter. There is a need for back-checking, but not just focus on one country. This is a bilateral or multilateral issue. We must develop capacity for upstream investigation, and we should not do so in isolation from each other. It is the same with the global programme on money laundering. We need a universal, standardised approach. We have worked very closely with Interpol, etc. All countries are members of Interpol and world customs organisations. Through this, we can promote regional cooperation. We conducted 56 training workshops. We must prepare nominated officials in each unit to look at commercial documents to identify high risk containers. There are several indicators to look for, such as prepaid rates, and others that may be more sophisticated.
Chair. We urge member states to hold a workshop on containers and scanning.
Presentation by UNODC. Alternative development is a very dynamic concept. In the 1961 Convention, member states were mandated that the cultivation of psychotropic substances should be a punishable offense. The 1988 convention moved away from law enforcement to approach related drivers. The evolution towards balanced approach includes alternative development. There are no broad scale interventions, but these are much more integrated. UNODC’s approach focuses on 5 levels: security, governance, the rule of law, economic activity outside illicit crops. We will draft another briefing on alternative development. Have you any projects implemented or on the pipeline in Africa?
Bolivia. In Bolivia, we don’t talk about illicit crops, but about “excess crops”. We have to develop markets for alternative development, be culturally sensitive. We also need to think of the development of preventive alternative crops.
Preparations for the 2016 UNGASS
Gilberto Gerra, UNODC. A health and humanitarian approach should be the new perspective of 2016.This is taken from the Political declaration. To save the lives of people, we need harm reduction. We must mainstream this intervention in the public health system and not discriminate with respect to other diseases. Member states should not accept drugs becoming a way of life, but they should provide indispensable medications for medical purposes. Drug control should not be a huge repressive machine. We have to see it as a humanitarian approach. In the 1972 Convention amendment, it was added that addiction is the result of an unwholesome social atmosphere. The Convention was adopted more than 40 years ago, but already indicated that these people are not criminals, not guilty, but in need of health and support. The idea that people are taking drugs for fun is very western. A lot of people are actually not taking drugs for fun but for survival and to cope with very difficult situations. In Western societies, we are often taking drugs to self-medicate.
In 2004, the WHO released a compendium of new science that showed that drug users were affected by a disease. Drug dependence was from then on considered as a neurological or psychiatric illness. We are not permitted to discriminate. This view of a psychiatric disorder predated the “substance abuse disorder” concept. 70,000 lives have now been lost in Europe to overdose. And this was under-evaluated, considered to be heart attacks or strokes instead of overdose.
We are now confronted to an epidemic of NPS. Injecting drug use drives HIV infections.1.6 million injecting drug users live with HIV. There is a huge issue of disparity between people who use prescription drugs illegally, and other people who have no capacity to access drugs for pain relief. We must develop life skills education in schools, think critically. We must focus on capacity building, self-awareness, resilience, etc.
We are promoting 9 essential interventions to prevent an HIV epidemic. This is our bible, written in collaboration with UNAIDS. We have done one year of work with Baltic countries, and we have seen an impressive decrease of new infections within IDUs. This included MAT and NSPs. We also need to address discrimination. We must develop HIV prevention, care and treatment for female drug users and female prisoners. There are already centres in Iran that are offering women the possibility to attend treatment. We have also conducted HIV trainings for law enforcement. In order to prevent overdoses, we will distribute intranasal naloxone. And there is a new programme in Ghana of UICC and WHO, it is a pilot programme to respond to NPS.
Michel Perron, VNGOC. The VNGOC is an umbrella organisation of 160 organisations. We have our strategic objectives, including developing NGO capacity to interact with member states. We value structured dialogue. We would like to organise a pre-UNGASS civil society event to discuss relevant and important topics. We need to develop a market place project to better understand NGO needs and expertise. We are requesting financial support to ensure the meaningful participation of NGOs and to facilitate a global forum. There is a need for investment. We are looking at any opportunity to contribute in all member state.
Canada appreciates the role of the VNGOC.
Portugal. We thank Dr. Gerra for his emphasis on HIV among IDUs. Portugal is advocating for the importance of harm reduction measures. We are convinced of its success. There have been 70,000 deaths by overdose in the first decade of century. Harm reduction is necessary. During the 2016 UNGASS, we should focus on harm reduction. We are looking forward to member states and civil society in general to have input.
China. We thank the presenters for the information offered on the role of NGOs in preparation process for UNGASS.
Austria. VNGOC cooperates with 160 organisations. My question in terms of preparing UNGASS is in what connection there will be in cooperating with New York? Are you regularly meeting NGOs there? What is the level of cooperation?
France. Two points from France. HIV prevention is crucial. We would like to have this given full importance in preparation for UNGASS. We are re-reading France’s national strategy listening to Mr. Gerra. This is a fundamental part of anti-drugs approach. We also support Mr. Perron on civil society intervention. The expertise of NGOs is of great importance and enlightens us on the drug matter. We hope that Mr. Perron would take the floor in French next time.
Spain. We thank Mr. Gerra, who gives us insights into the real world in this room. This is always important. In demand reduction, the international community shares a consensus. Demand reduction and treatment are also crucial in the context of alternative development. We must ensure that treatment is provided. Individuals are of the greatest interest to us. They are victims of the drugs trade. We are grateful for the VNGOC participation. There are a wide-ranging panoply of approaches which require a high level of participation and coordination. We hope to see this participation continue as we move to UNGASS.
Russia. We thank Mr. Gerra for his presentation. Russia supports the international academy on addiction and understands scientific evidence, etc. We also support the constructive contribution by civil society in preparation for UNGASS.
Colombia. All of the work is very significant. We want to hear more about the work accomplished to date. We believe that a health approach needs to be further fine-tuned at UNGASS so we can make solid contributions. Civil society participation is very important. We have promoted this with a view to UNGASS. But we have several questions as to how to bind in national organisations so that they can contribute to discussions.
Kenya. We thank UNODC for the technical assistance we have been receiving in Nairobi. We have adopted a demand reduction approach. This needs to get the prominence it deserves at the UNGASS session. We also appreciate the HIV/AIDS presentation. Demand reduction needs to come out with a linkage with HIV/AIDS.
Italy. We thank all presenters. We think that this demonstrates we have a huge amount of knowledge and it would be very useful to use it as food for thought. We need a thematic contribution in order to make the best use of resources and ask practical questions. Are we going to receive these presentations on the website so that we can share with our capital?
USA. We thank the presenters and look forward to further discussion – including on access to medicine. We look forward to more contribution from civil society. We would also like to receive the PowerPoints.
VNGOC. In terms of the New York cooperation, many of our members are active in New York. We are developing optimal structure. The CND had clarified the process for the development of input which is particularly helpful. I was in New York last week with the UN family, etc. We are trying to deal with the issue in a comprehensive way. We are appointing regional coordinators so that it is all tied together in a global strategy. In Colombia, national NGOs should be identified as we are underrepresented in some areas of the world. I will be in Vienna on June 26 and 27 and we could discuss this point further. We thank you all for your support.
Mexico. We agree on the importance of the issues that have been commented on, in particular the integrated vision. Our mechanisms are in place. We have resources to engage in a broad, comprehensive debate. We have to make an effort to engage.
Canada. This is food for thought. We could follow the process used at the 1998 UNGASS. Four resolutions were adopted, as well as a variety of measures. This included five distinct sub-elements. We must look at something like this as part of what we are considering for the 2016 UNGASS. Five pieces demonstrate a possibility for focused work in technical areas that can be quite successful, i.e. the action plan on amphetamine-type stimulants. If you look at some of the work that has been done since 1998, the same is true.1998 is a watershed for alternative development and judicial cooperation. It may be better that way rather than one document that covers everything and would lack coherence. Drafting separate resolutions, or separate pieces of a large one could be a good way forward. We also need to address NPS and access to essential medicines. We must have focus subjects where technical expertise here in Vienna can contribute as well as civil society and other parts of the UN system.
Chair response to Gerra’s question. Regarding the statement on availability of pain killers, let me give a comparison between 2 states. Accessibility is lowest in Nigeria, Myanmar, etc. Is that due to government regulation or a cost factor? In what sense do you measure that? These are two extremes of classification of availability.
Mr. Gerra, UNODC. As we have written, in 2010, a lot of factors contribute to lack of access.
Chair. The scaling should be based on what? Per use, per person, per year? This needs to be followed up in a separate briefing. On what basis do we measure availability or not of pain killers? The price, or the prescription you are required to have?
Mr. Gerra, UNODC. What we measure is consumption.
Chair. Consumption is not a measure of availability. When you need it, you can find it. We are inviting discussion on this issue. “We need to have a separate discussion on this so we have a better understanding”.
Nigeria. From a legal point of view, only the federal government can buy opioids. It depends on how much money will be put in. Initially, we thought that the private sector could invest, but there was a problem of control. Now we are thinking of putting some guidelines with competition, so we can have effective control, so we can make opioids more available. It comes from limited public funding right now. Third problem is finding alternatives to painkillers. There is rising abuse of tramadol. Many inject the substance. This is a catastrophe not only Nigeria but in the region.
Fay Watson (EURAD). Very short comment about CS engagement: there are three main priorities in terms of civil society engagement. We help ensure that in any process there is a good balance of geographical representation and diversity of opinion on drug policy, and lastly, a diversity of organisations that span different topic areas working on drugs. Prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. We reaffirm our support for VNGOC.
Katherine Pettus. IAHPC. I represent Human Rights Watch as an ECOSOC organization, as well as the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care. We have members from at least 86 countries around the world, mostly from the global south, central and eastern Europe. At the World Health Assembly in Geneva last month, over 53 states from all the UN regions endorsed a resolution on integrating palliative care into national health systems. Access to essential opioid medicines controlled under the conventions is a key part of pain relief and palliative care. As most of you are aware, more than 6 billion people worldwide have little access to these pain relieving medications regulated by CND and INCB. Under this new resolution, the WHA requested the Director General of the WHO:
(6) to work with the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, ministries of health and other relevant authorities, in order to promote the availability and balanced control of controlled medicines for pain and symptom management;
(7) to further cooperate with the International Narcotics Control Board to support Member States in establishing accurate estimates in order to enable the availability of medicines for pain relief and palliative care.
My organization would like to urge you at CND as we move toward UNGASS, to set up a formal mechanism of coordination – a workstream – that will build the requisite interfaces between WHO, INCB and UNODC to solve this problem of 80% of the world having no access to the medicines controlled under the treaties.