4th Civil Society Hearing

Heather Haase, Chair of the NYNGOC
Two requests: First, the CSTF needs your financial support. If you are serous about meaningful civil society input, now is the time to show it via financial contribution. Second, attend the side events and see what civil society has to say. They have expertise that can guide you in your policy decisions.

Allan Clear, Harm Reduction Coalition – Introduction to the Civil Society Task Force
18 regions, 4 from the steering committee, and 9 special populations = 31 members which include:

  • Heather Haase (Steering Group)
  • Esbjorn Hornberg (Steering Group)
  • Allan Clear (Steering Group)
  • Elisa Rubini (Steering Group)
  • Katherine Pettus
  • Ross Bell
  • Pien Metaal
  • Boro Goic
  • Nuno Jorge
  • Holly Bradford
  • Vasilka Lalevska
  • Linda Nilsson
  • Rick Lines
  • Margaret Hamilton
  • Carmen Fernandez Caceres
  • Donald MacPherson
  • Dasha Ocheret
  • Ahmet Zeki Olas
  • Margarita Maria Sanchez Villegas
  • Pablo Cymerman
  • Abbas Deilamizade
  • Sandy Mteirek
  • Simon Beddoe
  • Pubudu Sumanasekara
  • Khuat Thj Hai Oanh
  • M.L. Dispanadda “Duke” Diskul
  • Nathalie Rose
  • Eze Eluchie
  • Ann Fordham
  • Fay Watson

Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief, Drug Prevention and Health Branch, UNODC
Support to give to every person affected by substances a new level of dignity, recognition that they are a person. Advocate for the restoration of their dignity, and for their resources not to be lost. Breaking stigma is imperative for the UNGASS.

Elisa Rubini, Vice-Chair, VNGOC – UNGASS 2016 Global Civil Society Survey
Joint initiative of the Steering Committee of the CSTF. Measure knowledge about and expectations for the UNGASS. Objective of the survey is to raise civil society awareness about the UNGASS and their willingness to engage. Also touch base on civil society priorities that civil society wants addressed at the UNGASS. Structure is designed to avoid questionnaire fatigue. Questions are not only about UNGASS, but also about the organization, areas of work, and connection with the UN world (including, but also beyond, UNODC). Striving to translate the survey into local languages, and the results back to english. Currently in trial phase, and gaining feedback to modify survey before disseminating it more broadly to the general public. The members of the task force need to ensue this survey gets out and gets the attention and responses that it needs. Final deadline for completion of the survey will be between July and August 2015. Can engage by filling out the survey when it is public, disseminating it through your networks, and/or volunteering to translate the survey into different languages. Contact erubini@sanpatrignano.org with questions about the survey.

Expectations for UNGASS 2016 and Q&A

Heather Haase, Chair of the NYNGOC
People have very different expectations about the UNGASS. Some see it as a step along the way to 2019, whereas others see it as an important turning point.

Lisa Sanchez, Mexico United Against Crime
There is currently no such thing as an international consensus on how we should address the world drug problem. We should not forget that the main call for the UNGASS was made by leaders that asked us to evaluate all available options and establish a new paradigm for attacking the world drug problem from the social, economic, development and security sides. We cannot repeat the same mistakes of the past. First expectation is that this UNGASS will not fail as some of us think the UNGASS in 1998 did. We cannot just repeat Political Declarations made in the past. Second expectation is for open and honest debate that involves all stakeholders, including other UN bodies and people who use drugs. We want international cooperation to exist, but if we don’t think about things differently, the consensus will break. Third, to reset the objectives of drug policies on how to contribute to broader UN objectives in terms of public health, economic development, security, human rights. We need to allow policy innovations, and discuss alternatives. Need to acknowledge that there are many inherent problems with the current approach.

Diederik Lohman, Human Rights Watch
Expectations specifically in the area of health, which is at the core of the three drug conventions. There has been a shift away from this towards law enforcement and prohibition in recent years. Hope that the UNGASS will place health at the core of the discussion. First, access to essential medicines has been overlooked although it is imperative to the drug conventions. It has been ignored that controlled substances have high value as medicines. Without these medications, our health care systems would not be able to function, yet the 1998 Declaration didn’t even address that these controlled substances are important medications. In last year’s Joint Ministerial Statement, the only reference to access to essential medicines was at the very end of the section on demand reduction, which reflects the lack of importance placed on this. We need a specific pillar added for access to essential medicines. Second, we need to build our programming and responses to the world drug problem based on what evidence has shown works, specifically harm reduction measures. Third, the interaction of other UN bodies, specifically the WHO and UNAIDS, around drug control issues. WHO needs to be able to provide their input. CND needs to engage with resolutions that are passed and initiatives that are started in other parts of the UN. Fourth, there needs to be discussion about targets and indicators that are not only related to law enforcement, but also for the development of health services, access to medicines, etc.

Kristina Sperkova, IOGT International
Child focused approach stipulating of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Keep an open perspective at the core. Ensure that drug consumption in the South does not increase to levels of the West. Drug use is not only a health issue, but also an important component of public health. Public health oriented policies must be highlighted. Prevention first. This is by far the best approach to reducing drug-related harms. Reduce both supply and demand.

Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Foundation
Specific policy recommendations that NGOs wanted to bring to the UNGASS. First, the need to end the criminalization of the most affected populations. The punishment of a crime must be proportional to the crime, but disproportionality is ample in drug policies. The tough approach has not reduced demand and supply, and the negative consequences are increasingly clear. Subsistence farmers, drug consumption, and possession for personal consumption need to be decriminalized. Second, harm reduction needs to be prioritized. Funds from enforcement need to be diverted to public health services under the umbrella of harm reduction. Additionally, we need to bring diverse voices to the table, including the experiences of First Nations people.

Fay Watson, Europe Against Drugs
First, movement towards dug policies that better prioritize public health. What is a public health approach? Not just treatment, but also by prevention and broad population based policies. Second, recovery needs to be a part of drug policies, and that can include harm reduction, but primarily is about abstaining from substance use. Third, alternative development is also of high importance. Need to support the rights of those living in drug producing countries. Fourth, human rights need to be respected and specifically, the death penalty needs to be abolished. Fifth, inequality is widely ignored in international drug policy discussions. Evidence of relationship between drug use and inequality. Sixth, voices of grassroots organizations need to be brought to the table.

Pubudu Sumanasekera, Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, Sri Lanka
The drug issue varies significantly from region to region. Need to respect country specific initiatives, and look at these matters in a fair and unbalanced way at the UNGASS. Our cultures, such as Sri Lanka, have different measures than the West, and that needs to be respected.

George Ochieng Odalo, Executive Director, Slum Child Foundation
Creation of good and best policies that protect children from narcotics and drug violence. Platform to share experiences of grassroots organizations. Protection and prevention go hand in hand. Governments must implement best practices.

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