Meeting of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs

1. Adoption of the draft agenda

Elisa Rubini, Vicechair of the VNGOC
The first point of the agenda is the adoption of the draft agenda. Any feedback?

Scott Bernstein, OSF
I move to adopt the agenda.

Elisa Rubini
The agenda is adopted.

2. Approval of the minutes of the last meeting
Elisa Rubini
Do the members approve the minutes from the last meeting?

Diogenis 
We accept the minutes. However, I have questions about the way the membership is moving at the moment, though we’ll speak about this later in the meeting.

3. Apologies for absence
Elisa Rubini
We’ve received apologies for absence, which will be included in the minutes of this meeting. Are there any other apologies to convey?

[None]

Paul Rompani, Treasurer of the VNGOC
4. Financial Report
Started with an opening balance of 20,524.17 euros. Surplus of 1,497.45 euros. Closing balance 22,021.62 euros.

Esbjorn, Chair of the VNGOC
5. Update on Strategic Plan
Draft strategic plan adopted in 2013 for the period of 2014-2017.

Mission: Enable NGOs to contribute to UN drug policy decision-making.

Strategic Objectives:
Develop NGO capacity to engage UN member states and relevant UN bodies – do this by creating CND Guide for NGOs, hope to produce National Advocacy Guide for NGOs, etc.
Create opportunities for NGO engagement with UN member states and relevant UN bodies – do this by hosting CND Informal Civil Society Hearing (this year was the first time it wasn’t “informal”), host CND informal dialogues, host CND side events, draft and deliver CND oral and written statements and CND conference room papers, facilitate NGO networking, develop strategy to link NGOs to UNODC Regional Offices
Advocate for NGO inclusion in international drug policy decision making – annual meetings with UNODC, CND, and INCB, etc.
Present a global NGO voice at key strategic events – coordinate NGO input and participation during 2014 High Level Segment, 2015 MDG Review 2016 UNGASS
Didn’t know about the CSTF when created this strategic plan, so now that is an important component of VNGOC’s strategy.

Supporting objectives:
Effective and efficient management – need to find core funding, membership fees are not enough, need to improve distance participation in the VNGOC
Transparent and accountable governance
Marketing and communications

Strategic plan is very ambitious given the limited funding we have. We need more than one part-time staff.
Impressed with the communication throughout the year.

6. Membership Criteria
Recall that we discussed a draft Terms of Reference for future VNGOC voting procedure which was shared last October with the membership. In December, we adopted this unanimously. We also decided that it was not possible to vote by Skype. Only email or in person for voting. Nomination sub-committee elected with Ann Fordham (IDPC), George Ochieng (Slum Child Foundation), and Paul Rompani (Mentor International). New voting came into affect on December 4, 2014. February 2015 information was sent about the upcoming election. Nomination sub-committee became an election committee with the addition of Daniel Quittan. February 3 sent the list of nominees to members. Concerns were raised that not all members met the requirement of being national or international. This was mainly because we had an increase in membership over the last year. October to January accepted 45 new organizations. How do you define national? Suggestion was made to postpone the election and go to an arbitration board. After sending out that suggestion, decided not to go to an arbitration board, but rather create a sub-committee and let the membership decide on the proposal from that sub-committee. Way forward: AGM appoints a sub-committee of three people to look into the constitution and the rules of procedure. Will deliver a proposal by May 15 at the latest. It will be circulated to membership, and discussed and decided at the meeting in June. June meeting will decide when the postponed elections will be done in an Extra Annual General Meeting.

Steve Rolles, Transform
Thanks to the board. Appreciate the way concerns have been dealt with. Fair and reasonable. Proposal you made is reasonable. Only slight issue is that the concern is about the issues of the membership, and we can’t have the constitution and the rules of procedure subject to that same problem. If we have a skewed voting block, that would still be in place. Issue around the new members needs to be decided before voting on process for new members.

Betty Aldworth, SSDP
Quite excited about the ability to have a strong student voice if 250 chapters were able to join. Thousands of chapters of other organizations would also be interested in joining.

Ann Fordham, IDPC
Welcome the new timetable proposed. Short discussion with colleagues on nomination committee, sense is that the nominations should stand. Would not plan to reopen those if the election takes place fairly soon. CSTF as it is currently constitutes is two members from NYNGOC and VNGOC. From VNGOC supposed to be the Chair and Vice-Chair. I’m concerned that the stalling of the elections could affect that. Both Esbjorn and Elisa have been doing a great job and put a lot of effort in. Want to decouple the outcome of the election with the seats on the CSTF so there would be some continuity between these two processes.

Thanasis, Diogenis 
We seem to do things upside down as it is meant by the constitution. If you want to change the membership criteria, you just make a proposal. Now we did something that according to the letter of the statues you cannot justify. Personally I am against to have very many members. All organizations have several stages. Local organizations do not have a place in VNGOC. Too many San Patrignano is in this list. If they are affiliated with a national one, then we have a problem because many of us have local subsidiaries. It would be a mess if we opened this up to them. Not sure why this has happened in such big numbers. Priority is to elect a new board so we can prepare for the UNGASS. Membership issue is not an urgent issue. San Patrignano should explain why there are so many and what they suggest. Don’t let them vote, then when we have time to decide the membership issue, we proceed. Support Ann’s proposal about CSTF.

Esbjorn, Chair of VNGOC
Avoid discussing individual organizations in this forum. Have we interpreted “national” in the right way is the question.

Scott Bernstein, OSF
We all understand how important the UNGASS is, so the sooner we find clarity about these and move on is best. Don’t agree with Thanasis around not including those organizations that are in question in the voting of the board, however, addressing Steve’s issue is if these organizations may be removed from the decision that comes out of the sub-committee. If we say they are in question, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on their own status. Support decoupling the CSTF from the VNGOC.

David Borden, StoptheDrugWar.org
Subcommittee doesn’t need an either or opinion in front of it. Can create a non-voting option. Can be engaged but not have votes.

Fay Watson, EURAD
If sub-committee isn’t successful, it should go to a legal opinion.

Esbjorn, Chair of VNGOC
Names for sub-committee:
Scott Bernstein, OSF
Sven-Olov Carlsson, WFAD
Michel Perron, Former Chair of VNGOC

Coletta Youngers, WOLA

Problematic to have Michel Perron as a government official serving on the sub-committee. We can do better than three white men.

Soroptimist International 
Need to have someone following the internal discussions who knows exactly the laws to follow in Austria.

Arthur Dean, CADCA
VNGOC is important to the work being done in the CND and UNODC as we prepare for UNGASS. The discussions we are having now could lead to the inability of the VNGOC being seen as a viable organization. Not convinced that current members can solve this by themselves. Increase the sub-committee to five, and the other two come from outside the VNGOC.

YODA
Two outside members would still be selected by the VNGOC members, so this would not change the situation.

???
Gender balance is an issue.

Zara Snapp
Nominate Luciana Pols from Argentina. More regional and gender diversity.

Nigeria
Important also to reflect ethnic diversity.

David Borden, StoptheDrugWar.orgMay not have enough wisdom in our group or personal objectivity to rise to the challenge of this decision, however, an alternative would be for the committee to solicit the advice of outside parties and in its recommendations communicate to all of us the various options and what their reasons were.

Donald MacPherson, CDPC
Time is of the essence. Consulting outside expertise would be a next step after the sub-committee makes their decision. Need to construct a group of diverse people to investigate this issue. Maybe we put forward people in nominations. Have to create this structure quickly and efficiently.

Community Alliances for Drug-Free Youth
Imperative that this voting issue gets solved before any other, as any other decision would be undermined.

L.E.A.P
I should preface my remarks by saying I don’t know if I’m entitled to speak as LEAP has not been successful in becoming a member of other international organisations that advocate drug policy reform.

LEAP is interested in seeing UNGASS as being successful and different, not a continuation. On this issue, because I have not been a part of this I am not sure how to advise on how to modify the framework. My point is we should consider how to include additional new voices like LEAP, which is imperative.

[15 minute break]

Esbjorn
I propose we stick to the three people I proposed for the sub-committee and add Luciana Pols from CELs and the member from EZE.

Diogenis
Now we have the sub-committee, what is their task?

Esbjorn
They will look into what I stated at the beginning.

Scott Bernstein
I welcome the proposal to have gender balance across the sub-committee. On the debate around the term ‘national’ it can be interpreted in many ways. The question is the membership of this organisation. What do we want as the VNGOC? This is not a legal issue but a decision as a committee.

The other issue is of characteristic of organisations that apply and whether they’re affiliated, what scope they have and so on. But, the sub-committee cannot decide the ‘national’ issue; this is not a legal question.

7. Feed-back from and outlook on VNGOC Activities during the 58th session of CND and
its UNGASS Segment

a. Civil Society Hearing

Hannah Hetzer, DPA
There’s something symbolically and practically wrong when there’s a civil society hearing where non civil society members come in and stress the importance of civil society and then leave shortly after.

Diogenis
It must be clear to whom we are addressing the things we are saying. At the moment we have speeches but we don’t have any commitment whatsoever. The CND must appoint regional groups to listen to us then we can speak and have a dialogue with them.

Lisa Sanchez, MUCD
A rapporteur could be assigned to pass on points raised by civil society to member states to ensure that they are well briefed on our issues.

Council of Women
In some cases I had the impression that governments had prepared answers to civil society concerns and that they weren’t really listening to what we were saying.

Esbjorn
It’s not easy to create this forum of civil society engagement with member states. I take this very seriously and I hadn’t thought of addressing regional representatives before.

I would like to have more engagement from civil society in a way, so if you have any ideas, please tell us either now or after this meeting.

If we can move formal dialogues to the UNGASS in New York that would be great to show what civil society really stands for.

Hannah Hetzer
I think it’s fantastic that NGO voices were heard at the interactive discussions and thank you for that.

Marie Nougier, IDPC
It’s great, also, that NGO voices weren’t relegated to the end of discussions but were fully involved. I don’t know who made it happen but congratulations, it’s fantastic it did.

b. NGO Dialogues

Soroptimist International 
I thought in some cases they didn’t really answer the questions so I think there could be more pressure to ensure they really engage on the points raised by civil society.

Non-violent radical party
It would be helpful if there’s an account of events to disseminate so we can analyse what happened and provide feedback.

Deputy Secretary VNGOC
It was a shame Fedotov wasn’t there, but the responses by his replacements was welcome.

Steve Rolles, Transform
Can we have a couple of more tables for literature at future CNDs?

[People commend the fact that civil society had designated seats at the back of the plenary]

Canadian HIV/AIDS
I echo the fact it was great we could have seats, but could we up the ante and may push for tables next time?

8. Civil Society Task Force/VNGOC roadmap toward 2016

Elisa Rubini
The global survey — the first activity we envisaged — will be out in the coming weeks and we encourage you to disseminate this widely. It will be the first tangible output of the CSTF.

Our aim as a task force is to have a broad range of meaningful NGO participation so their voice is heard, especially collecting the grassroots voice from the field. This will be not only through the survey but consultation with teams on the ground. Now we’re getting closer and member states are defining the UNGASS agenda, we’ll ensure civil society’s voice is heard.

Allan Clear, HRC and NYNGOC 
It’s been a pleasure working with Elisa on the CSTF and I want to say how well it’s gone.

9. UNODC Update

Mirella, UNODC
I don’t think I can add more than what you have in various side events.

Later in the year, as the civil society team working with another umbrella organisation on anti-corruption, we recently had a successful workshop with governments on how we can properly implement the UN convention on corruption. This year there’s a major conference in November on corruption. Keeping these important events in mind, we will do what we can to help the CSTF and the VNGOC.

Soroptimist International
Thank you Mirella for the work you’re doing and it’s great to see the enthusiasm you have on this issue. Regarding the DOHA congress in April, there will be 4 working groups. There will be 2 days of discussion hopefully with official government representatives.

10. Other Business

[Information on the social event held this evening].

Virginians against drug violence
I think the monument outside the VIC for drug users is in need of an update.

[Esbjorn notes this concern].

11. Dates of next meetings

Mirella, UNODC
We don’t have the date of the next inter-sessional. The world drug report should be launched on June 26, but we’re not sure where.

Esbjorn 
Can the board come up with dates later on?

[Agreement].

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