Click here to view the presentations on UNGASS 2016.
Chair (Ambassador Khaled Shamaa, Egypt): Began by introducing various procedural matters, and the agenda for the day was adopted. It is expected that UN General Assembly will adopt the UNGASS preparations resolution at their 69th Session. The Chair also encouraged Member States to invite civil society organisations from their countries to submit their contributions onto the UNGASS website – so that Member States can learn about lessons on the ground.
There are numerous upcoming regional meetings highlighted on the UNGASS website – including events in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East – as well as a series of informal interactive discussions in Vienna. For the inter-sessionals today and in late October – plus the reconvened 57th Session in December – we will continue to draw on expertise from UNODC, and encourage increased contributions by all stakeholders.
In resolution 57/5, the CND decided to hold two formal meetings devoted to UNGASS preparations at the reconvened session in December – these will be open to the usual organisations like all CND meetings. The agenda for these meetings was agreed. These formal meetings need to take new trends into account and must take a practical approach – strengthening implementation and sharing expertise at the national and regional levels.
(The Chair then distributed a “non-paper” outlining initial proposals for the UNGASS preparations, and a draft agenda for the UNGASS itself)
The proposals in the “non-paper” reflect the desires and feedback of Member States in previous discussions to have a substantive coverage of topics, a balanced approach that focuses on health as well as crime, and a more comprehensive framework for drug issues. The preparations will include expert panels, workshops and plenaries – giving heads of delegations the opportunity to participate. These would be prepared by the CND, and should result in recommendations being made on key issues. Once agreed, the proposal would be presented to the General Assembly for their consideration.
Italy (on behalf of the EU): Need time to reflect on the “non-paper” and to consult. The EU is strongly committed to these preparations, and their drug strategy is based on respect for human dignity, human rights, the rule of law, the well-being of society, public health, and a balanced and integrated evidence-based approach. The discussions should focus on countering money laundering and trafficking. The EU also reiterates our call for the universal abolition of the death penalty, and would like discussion also on alternatives to incarceration, new psychoactive substances and the availability of controlled medicines.
Within the special sessions, we should have an open debate about the challenges, appropriate solutions and different policy options to implement our targets while ensuring coherence at the global level – ensuring respect for human rights, the drug conventions and the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. We must guarantee an inclusive preparatory process with all relevant actors contributing in advance of the UNGASS so that their recommendations can be factored into our final assessments. The proposed interactive roundtables and panels are important for our success. Any outcome document should be short and concise.
Ecuador: Would like to see something more tangible regarding the links between CND and the General Assembly – for both substantive and organisational matters. A report on the preparatory process, as requested in resolution 57/5, is overdue – we have to consult with capitals as well.
Mexico: Resolution 57/5 requires substantive consultations to be held with specialised agencies and NGOs – these must be inclusive and open. Discussions are progressing fast outside of CND, and we must also be a part of these. We benefit from hearing voices and perspectives from outside – from civil society, specialised agencies and academic experts. We need to understand how they perceive the world drug problem.
Norway: Agree with Italy/EU, who raised many important issues. It is very important to base our work on human rights, human dignity, solidarity, and the rule of law. In this respect it is also important that we respect UN norms, and take into account that there is not full respect for these norms in some parts of the world. It is important that we have inclusive process, and the meeting today is an example – with observers from all sides.
Argentina: Welcomed the Chair’s “non-paper”.
USA: We have elaborated four pillars as a framework for open conversations on drug policy: ensuring the integrity of the drug conventions; allowing flexibility within these conventions; being tolerant of those who try new policies within their own borders to address specific national concerns; and fighting transnational organised crime. The CND should outline how we can operationalise ways to meet the targets of the 2009 Political Declaration. We must consider ways to increase the availability of controlled medicines while preventing diversion and abuse.
France: Prevention should be our main approach, as drug production and consumption is rising in all countries. New synthetic drugs are of particular concern. All our conversations need to take place within the framework of the drug conventions – and we support the US approach.
Netherlands: We support the proposal for interactive workshops – the interactive way of communication will bring new angles, and we welcome this approach. Regarding the draft list of issues for consideration – minimising the social and health consequences of drug abuse goes beyond just HIV, so we need to further elaborate on this. We note that the “non-paper” leaves open the issue of the outcome of the UNGASS – we agree with this process. The conclusions should be based on the recommendations from the expert panels. Ensuring the availability of pain medication should be considered as a main theme, rather than just under drugs and health.
Costa Rica: In addition to drugs and young people, we must ensure the implementation of a gender approach. The gender perspective has not been duly studied in depth at the CND. We agree with the EU regarding the broad discussion of human rights, and in particular the death penalty, and full respect for the rule of law.
Poland: Subscribes to the EU statement.
Peru: Consultations between Member States and civil society are a good start for these negotiations.
Afghanistan: Appreciate the process, including the interactive sessions.
Colombia: Looking forward to his leadership…process needs to be open and participatory.
Spain: Who will prepare the expert panels and workshops? It would be ideal to have fewer workshops to organise [there are currently six proposed] – but it is hard to leave any of the topics out. The topic of drugs and public health is fundamental, and the use of terminology here is important. Regarding access to medicines – many controlled drugs can save lives. This should only be about pain medications, but other medications as well – as states in the conventions. Precursors and new psychoactive substances should also be explored. What is missing is the involvement of academia, psychiatrists, intellectuals, and others who have studied and published about such things.
Russia: Support Italy, USA and many of the other speakers. These preparations need to take place within CND. Regarding the UNGASS outcome – we also have an event in 2019 to review the Political Declaration and Plan of Action. We should not forget about 2019 when discussing the UNGASS in 2016, and this should not replace or pre-judge the 2019 event. Regarding the “non-paper”, we suggest having thematic discussions before regional ones. Why does the drugs and crime theme begin with violence?
Nicaragua: Where does this flexibility lie – do the drug conventions have to be amended? We have many shared positions but also differences – some of which have not been discussed. Here, we must study our common interests and the common good. The workshops will be helpful so that we can better study various issues and reach conclusions. The issue of poverty is missing – this is one of the chief causes of drug use and should be a fundamental pillar alongside drugs and development. We should also discuss the role of families – the family unit creates the individual and makes us human.
We are under the impression that the UNGASS preparation is an open process – but this resolution does not imply this openness. We need to be systematic and pragmatic. The drug conventions serve as the basis for our action – but can be taken into account in 2019. For 2016, we need a broad vision and a long-term approach. (The Chair acknowledged this intervention as philosophical at face value, but going to the core of what we are, and should be, doing).
India: Supports the central role of the CND in this process.
Pakistan: There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and every region has its own dynamics that have to be respected. This includes respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-intervention. The drug conventions are still valid and do not need to change. Law enforcement measures need to be equally balanced with preventive measures. The workshops will be very important – but one issue not reflected is that of legalisation of illicit drugs in some parts of the world. This is a matter of concern for us and should be addressed. We also need a better definition of what we mean by
Human rights are interpreted in a very different way by some people. The proposed workshop on drugs and human rights is important – but must include the human rights of people who do not use drugs, and how these rights are violated by drug criminals. This is a matter of great importance to us, as we have to be very careful how we look into this element.
Uruguay: Asks how this all ties-in with the General Assembly, and how to make the process as open and participatory as possible.
South Africa: Regarding drugs and human rights, which rights are we going to pick and choose here? It seems like civil and political rights rather than economic, social and cultural rights. Some rights are key – such as the right to food – and could be explored under these themes. This is better done at the Human Rights Council though. UNGASS should not be used to hijack issues that do not enjoy universal consensus. We should also add poverty reduction to the theme of drugs and development.
Bolivia: Drugs are a cultural, societal, economic and geopolitical issue, as well as a health and human rights issue, and cannot be addressed from a single perspective. We therefore need a diverse and open debate that will provide a significant contribution and enhance our understanding. The purpose is to step beyond the confines of narrow thinking and bureaucratic red tape. All stakeholders – scientific, academic, civil society and regional organisations – must be engaged to establishment a common view of the impact of the world drug problem, which should then feed into the UNGASS preparatory process. We should also consider developing alternative strategies, not just those based on the drug conventions. All national policies should draw on the principle of sovereignty, non-interference and the domestic law of states, and other principles that must be taken into account. Regional initiatives, such as the OAS debates, must also be factored in.
Brazil: We have three essential principles: Brazil favours the open inclusive approach, while preserving leading role of CND; we are open to consider possible new approaches to fight the world drug problem while fully respecting the legal framework of drug conventions; and we remain committed to the law enforcement approach to reduce the supply of drugs, fight organised crime, etc. The UNGASS is an excellent opportunity to focus our attention on issues such as the reduction of demand, the importance of a health approach, social assistance to drug users, respect of human rights, and to echo what we have heard in this room today.
Switzerland: There is a long and winding road ahead leading up to the UNGASS 2016, and we have to analyse the “non-paper” better before commenting. But what is going to be the outcome of the UNGASS? We feel that the process needs to be structured according to the outcome, not the other way around. It seems that we are heading for expert recommendations – but would these be adopted? In agenda item 9 (conclusions), the Committee of the Whole could report back on the recommendations stemming from the workshops, but would this reflect the nature of the discussions in the workshops themselves? It is great to have an open dialogue, but if we are going to negotiate and fine-tune the recommendations, then we could end up going in the same circles as before. There must be room for views that have been expressed, as there will not necessarily be consensus on some important topics. But this doesn’t mean that we should avoid these topics, we have to discuss them. The time to find a new consensus will be when Political Declaration expires in 2019. Then we have to look for new common ground, but not necessarily at the UNGASS in 2016.
El Salvador: Reaffirms the central role of CND, and commitment to the drug conventions – whose text should be upheld. On the specifics of the workshops, we agree on the inclusion of a gender perspective. One further topic to add is on alternatives to imprisonment. This is raised in the text of the drug conventions, and could be very useful to help focus our attention. My country is also very interested in countering drug use among children and youth.
Zimbabwe: We should safeguard the integrity of the drug conventions and the CND. Young people are a very valuable component of our society. International cooperation is only currently reflected under the theme of drugs and crime – but this should be over-arching across all of the different topics.
Indonesia: We should highlight the progress and achievements of Member States.
Slovakia: Supports the EU statement, and echo the Swiss comments re: the outcome from UNGASS.
Austria: We appreciate the ‘drugs and human rights’ pillar, as it is extremely necessary to have a good discussion on this. New psychoactive substances should have their own workshop / pillar, as should drugs and gender.
Chair: Thanked all for their comments, then gave the floor to UNODC to present on the involvement of young people and the scientific community.
Giovanna Campello (UNODC): UNODC support around 20 youth groups for activities such as mobilising young people, raising awareness of drug issues, and addressing stigma and discrimination. These include concerts, marches, poster competitions, life skills, education skills for peers, and parenting skills.
Scientists held a consultation and presented to Member States at CND in March, and UNODC aim to build on this successful initiative. They are looking to create a network of scientists that can lead research on drug issues globally. Their role will be informal and advisory. Member States have been invited to nominate academics before 10th September. UNODC have already received nominations of a very high calibre. The network will serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas, and for identifying areas of research that need attention. There will be electronic consultations and at least one face-to-face meeting.
Netherlands: Prevention doesn’t work, because drug use is still increasing. Prevention is important, but only as part of a package. Network invites should go out directly to independent scientists, not just to those recommended by, or representing, governments.
Mexico: What will the network’s outcomes be, and how will these be fed back to CND?
Chile: Agree with Netherlands regarding the independence of scientists.
UNODC: The network will involve the wider scientific community, as well as those nominated by Member States – we have already identified leading academics to take part. The initial focus is on health issues. Agree that prevention is part of the spectrum alongside harm reduction, treatment, etc. But most of what countries call prevention is not evidence-based prevention – the latter does work.
LUNCHTIME SIDE EVENT:
This was hosted by the Swiss Mission, and coordinated by VNGOC – and was entitled “Addressing Drug Abuse together through a Health Based Approach as part of the International Drug Control Conventions”. Following opening remarks from the CND Chair, there were presentations from Jòn Sigùfsson (Iceland) on prevention amongst young people, Jamie Bridge (IDPC) on harm reduction: needle exchange, naloxone and drug consumption rooms, and Elisa Rubini (San Patrignano, Italy) on their therapeutic community services.
Chair: Has linked-up with General Assembly, and has had contacts with the Permanent Representative for Uganda in New York (the next President). Once the UNGASS resolution is adopted, we will further elaborate the relationship. The outcome from the UNGASS depends on Member States – you will decide. Switzerland alluded to recommendations forming the outcome, and point of views being expressed that might not represent consensus. We will have to take this into consideration.
The 58th Session of CND – including the special segments on the UNGASS – can last for a maximum of seven days, between the 9th and 17th March 2015. We have committed to holding eight sessions dedicated to the UNGASS. On 26th August, a draft agenda for these UNGASS sessions was circulated to Member States. The agenda was approved.
[The Chair then gave the floor to UNODC, WHO and INCB to discuss access to controlled medicines]
Gilberto Gerra (UNODC): Access to medicines is 50% of the mandate of the drug control system – it cannot just be relegated to a sub-point under the theme of ‘drugs and health’. This covers medicines for ADHD and psychiatry too, not just for pain relief. We need to be careful when creating a control situation, so as not to interfere with medical purposes: for example, ketamine is used in disco clubs but is so important for anaesthesia in many countries. Pain medicine is a human right as pain undermines the quality of life. There is a huge imbalance in access – 17% of the world’s population account for 92% of morphine use.
The drug conventions cover issues such as record keeping, prescriptions, storage, etc. There contain a lot of rules and excessive limitations – often arbitrary restrictions – which became barriers to access to medicines. A new partnership has been created between UNODC, WHO and an NGO called the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). We must remove the financial, legal, logistic, cultural and professional ignorance barriers that countries face. UNODC aims to avoid diversion, misuse and abuse of these drugs, and supports systematic monitoring and provides case-by-case management.
Gilles Forte (WHO Essential Medicines Department): WHO has a mandate from the drug conventions to assess the risks of dependence and harm, and the therapeutic usefulness of a drug. The conventions have strong references to health as well as to access to medicines. WHO also has its own mandate from the UN Member States to address access to medicines, and its Global Work Programme 2014-2019 includes access to medical products as one of 6 key priorities for WHO leadership. Recent World Health Assembly resolutions on access to medicines and shortages, and on palliative care, have reiterated this mandate. Their 2014 study found that almost half of the world’s population lives with little or no access to controlled medicines.
The WHO framework has five components: evidence based selection and responsible use; affordable prices and sustainable funding; assured quality; reliable and efficient supply chains; and policy, regulation and governance. WHO produces the Essential Medicines List to identify medicines with proven efficacy and safety, many of which are controlled substances. They produce a range of tools and guidance on how to balance responses that promote medical use but prevent diversion etc. WHO is present in 150 countries, and has medical advisors in 50 countries. They are collaborating with UNODC through the UN Task Force, the development of UNODC’s Model Drug Laws, the aforementioned partnership with UICC, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, and expert working group on new psychoactive substances.
INCB Secretariat: There is a tension between the objectives of promoting access and limiting abuse – but there are many examples of where balance has been achieved. Some countries have rates of prescribing that are too high. For example, there is an epidemic of prescription addiction and overdose in the USA. So safeguards need to be put in place to avoid abuse. The 2010 INCB report highlighted the importance of correct assessments of need, better geographical distribution, drug affordability, identifying and removing obstacles and restrictions, educating professionals, and implementing effective registration systems. A new report is planned for 2016 to monitor the uptake of these recommendations, and a survey has been distributed to Member States.
Netherlands: This is exactly what the conventions require that we do – and this is a positive partnership. There is a double failure here, as controlled medicines are misused in some countries, and unavailable in others.
France: This matches our priorities, and we will continue to be actively involved in this work. One issue that has been somewhat forgotten in the past is addiction and dependency, and the damage done by drugs to young people.
Norway: These data speak for themselves, and we need to focus more on this issue on the road to UNGASS. We are aware of the lack of funding for this issue too.
Spain: Sought clarification regarding the UN Task Force.
Chair: Thanked the speakers, and argued that concerns about dependence are not the main factors blocking the availability of controlled medicines. Some of the strictest controlled drugs remain those with the highest consumption, and those with the least controls are among the lowest – so it is not a simple relationship.
WHO: We cannot compromise on the quality of medicine, and quality should not be linked to price. There are other ways to reduce price without reducing quality – focus on volumes, competition, generic medicines etc.
[The Chair then gave the floor to UNODC to present on money laundering]
UNODC Global Programme on Money Laundering (GPML): The drugs trade is now a primary income source for some groups such as Al Qaieda. Globally, just 0.5% of drug crime assets are seized – this will not even figure on the radar of the drug market. We know very little about the business enterprise that underpins this industry: how do they raise, use and store their funds? Financial investigation is a key source of criminal intelligence and leads. GDML provides technical assistance on “threat networks” (where drug trafficking combines with arms, terrorism, etc). There is a big pile of cash waiting for law enforcement officials to go and catch, and imagine the good things that this could be spent on.
Republic of Korea: Are UNODC aware of attempts to bypass the financial trade through direct barter or brokers?
Afghanistan: Other countries are acting as safe havens, and this is an issue.
GPML: Most of the profit is being made at top. Farmers and sub-level dealers are not making huge amounts of money from this. But there are key opportunities at all levels to gather and share information. Used example of Afghanistan. These networks have not been disrupted enough in their financial operations.
The VNGOC will continue to be the main liaison into CND’s work, and are pleased with the open role of civil society in the UNGASS preparations to date – including the NGO contributions on the UNGASS website to offer information to Member States. Regarding the “non-paper”, we will discuss this within our network and send our feedback. We held the first of a series of civil society events today, and we will continue to increase the number and diversity of civil society voices at CND. We will hold a series of events in the coming months, using the latest technology to bring voices to Vienna. We have a joint project between VNGOC and the UNODC Civil Society Team for the road to 2016 – this has been costed at $500,000, yet we have only received $10,000.
[The Chair then closed the session]