Informal NGO dialogue with the President of the INCB

Dr Naidoo, INCB

 
The involvement and support of NGOS is absolutely necessary in the work of the INCB. In your work, groups give voices to people in society who may otherwise be invisible. We can gain insights today into realities on the ground, and share best practice on the ground.

By working together, I hope we come closer to reaching balanced approaches.

This year the INCB has worked with a number of countries in the fields of access to medicinal drugs controlled under the conventions. The international drug system has undoubtedly changed since 1961, and policy must adapt to these changes. The 3 conventions remain central to addressing the drug situation and provide a basis to discussion such as this one. Thank you for your participation.

Question from Dianova International

We highly appreciate INCB visits to member countries, and would welcome feedback on them, particularly more concerning interaction with civil society groups in these countries.

Dr Naidoo

INCB visits are organised by receiving governments. Feedback on the NGOs met during visits should be providing through the VNGOC. The information we glean from country visits are generally bilateral between the INCB and government. The facts we find are translated into recommendations, some of which go to the UN, some to the government.

A few years after a mission we review the recommendations and determine is they’ve been followed through. The INCB is not an implementation organ, we should remember.

Through working more with the VNGOC we can facilitate more feedback with NGOS and better collaboration.

Question from IDPC

In light of the proposed scheduling of ketamine, how has the INCB worked to ensure compliance with scheduling procedure? And, how will this impact on access to it as an essential medicine?

Dr Naidoo

INCB does not have a role in monitoring scheduling procedures. This comes under the remit of the CND. Ketamine is currently not under international control, but should the CND decide to control it, the impact will depend on the schedule it is placed under.

Our report of 2014 has a special section on procedures in emergency medical situations to facilitate access to medicines in such scenarios.

On the issue of access to medication, the problem we are encountering is implementation at the domestic level. It’s important for NGOs and others to encourage states to remove barriers to accessing medication, and as such this would apply to ketamine if controlled.

Question from Smart Approaches to Marijuana

How will the INCB assert itself in relation to laws that contravene the conventions?

INCB

Countries are sovereign. The role for the board is to support member states in implementing laws that adhere to the conventions. As things change with drug policy reform, our role is becoming increasingly difficult. So, the board is engaged in ongoing discussions with states that apply laws that are in contravention of the conventions.

We’re in regular intensive discussion with many countries. We’re hoping that in the lead to UNGASS it affords us more opportunity to talk more about this issue and determine what really are the flexibilities contained in the conventions.

Another area I’m concerned about is alternative development. There isn’t sufficient focus on this currently. I’m hopeful that NGOs are able to come up with solutions to issues stemming from the drug problem that address other issues such as food security and development.

Question from Drug Policy Futures

How will INCB play a role in the UNGASS, and how will it emphasise the importance of the conventions?

INCB

UNGASS is state driven, though the INCB is engaged in discussion with member states. The INCB has not seen a major drive by member states to revise the drug conventions. The report we produce in 2016 will have a chapter on specific challenges moving forward with regard to the conventions.

Question from IDPC

How has the INCB advised countries that impose the death penalty for drug offences?

INCB

We need to refer to our annual report for 2014 and 2013. In both, our statements read in line with UN policy that is all countries that continue to impose the death penalty for drug offences should abolish this penalty. It is up to member states to impose this. The conventions do not stipulate the death penalty should be used.

Question from S.A.M

What has been the reaction in the developing world regarding changing cannabis laws in the Uruguay and US?

INCB

We have not received any communication from a state in the developing world regarding this.

We have reiterated to Uruguay and the US that regulation of marijuana for non-medical use contravenes the drug treaties.

Cannabis for medical use is in the mandate of the conventions. I would encourage more research into the medical benefits of cannabis, though I find it hard to understand how someone who is sick can continue to smoke cannabis as this method of use makes you unable to properly contain the dosage.

Question from Diogenis Association (Greece)

I have the feeling we are not consistent in our approach to the conventions. I have not heard from many people here that people are against the conventions as such, but are concerned with certain provisions which need addressed. I would like to ask you that the UNODC paper on the conventions that they have submitted to you – are you going to support it, or will you dismiss this interpretation?

INCB

It’s important to understand, I feel that the conventions have not been extensively explored. For example, if you have applied a lot of emphasis on the phrase ‘war on drugs,’ and determine that this war has failed, it is not correct to simply move to the other side which is legalisation. What we need is better interpretation.

It’s very important that the INCB is not seen as the boogey man on the issue of drug convention compliance. My duty is to be able to say, ‘you have not implemented the full convention. You have not examined the issues that need proper implementation.’ For example, harm reduction. We have applied an enormous amount of flexibility in looking at this issue in the conventions and pushing the provision of harm reduction. Don’t throw a stone at the INCB. Implementation is dependent on member states. INCB is a compliance body. You need to direct your stone throwing at others.

If you want to take a drug, it is your choice. Your countries must take a choice on legislation.

I’ve come to see that we’ve created so many interventions in drug use, that we’ve failed to collaborate and integrate them. As a family practitioner, the issue of pain and palliative care is very close to my heart. That is why I put my voice behind access to medicine.

It’s important we introduce substance abuse education into medical schools.

The situation concerning the change and challenges to the conventions, it is the prerogative of members to bring forward their recommendations. The INCB can only comment on compliance with the treaty. The mandate is very clear. I’ve gone out of my way to look at areas where we can accommodate people.

I find it difficult to understand that so much money, and so many great minds have applied themselves to find a solution to the world drug problem, and they come up with one solution; to legalise cannabis. We need to find better solutions and widen this. The pillar of alternative development must be raised higher on the agenda.

Question from Transnational Institute

I hope you can be brief. This is a dialogue which means two parts talk. You say you’re a compliance officer. Most compliance officers give advice if that rule seems out of touch with reality. It seems the INCB therefore can also advise on when they see there is a problem, especially concerning a convention ratified in 1961 and we are now in 2015. It seems the INCB can advise governments on what type of modernisation of the treaties can be suitable.

INCB

The treaty is our mandate. On the issue of suggesting changes to the conventions, I don’t think it is within the mandate of the INCB to do that.

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