Social, Economic and Legal Issues for UNGASS 2016 and Beyond

Organized by the Government of Mexico in partnership with the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform and LSE IDEAS

Roberto Dondisch, Mexico
Need to clarify what flexibility means in context of the UN drug conventions. The term flexibility needs to be clarified. We need to look at the UN drug conventions and understand what is allowed and not allowed.

Baroness Meacher, UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform
What can we achieve in practical terms at UNGASS 2016. It’s quite difficult to achieve something concrete. Must be positive, constructive, and supportive of each other as countries that support some type of reform, or those that do not want reform will be very happy. Using the flexibility of the UN drug conventions, and being clear about what they allow us to do, is the next step in the road towards reform. We don’t want the conventions debate reopened, and some believe we would get something even worse. At the moment, we have a great deal of work, even in Europe, to do all we can within the conventions. Health and human rights should be at the centre.
Four policy areas in the guidelines on what conventions permit:
1) production, trafficking, supply,
2) possession and use,
3) access to essential pain-reliving medicines, and
4) death penalty.
Regarding, possession and use, decriminalization is perfectly acceptable. However, only 21 countries across the world do it. Developing heroin treatment is within the conventions, but only a few are doing it.
Regarding access to essential pain-reliving medicines, the UN drug conventions are not helpful and the INCB has lost its way and had a spectacular failure. Guideline suggest a a new role for the INCB. INCB needs to be much more focused on access to essential pain-reliving medicines. CND should hold states to account.
Regarding death penalty, UN is very clear. You cannot use it for drug offences.
Evidence shows us that imprisonment, aerial spraying, and other crop eradication methods are ineffective, so we don’t need to do it. Regulated markets are not addressed in the guidance. They exist now and the most important thing is for these markets to be evaluated scientifically. Have to evaluate the models so we can learn whether there is a model that makes a safer world for our young people. Hope there will be a resolution at the UNGASS proposing that the world would benefit on a guidance about what is permitted within the UN drug conventions. Number of member states could come together to put that resolution to UNGASS. I believe that would be helpful.

Jindrich Voboril, Czech Republic
Mexico had the courage to call for the UNGASS. Remains to be seen if we will actually use this opportunity. We can talk about how we don’t want to change the conventions, but then we need to do something else. Project presented on guidance is certainly an option. Few questions keep coming to my mind, namely what do we actually need to change? Our plans and strategies are consistently shown to be unrealistic. Today we know much more, there is evidence, examples of good practice, and we should follow it. What is the evidence-based, scientifically proven, good examples to follow? UNGASS need to have concrete, evidence-based debate, not ideological.
Four things we need to change and bring to the debate:
1) Get rid of unhealthy fears and rhetoric such as “if we change something who knows what will happen.” This could have been said in 1961, but we know enough about what works now.
2) Scientific community needs to be involved.
3) Define what we mean by “balanced approach” and what indicators to use.
4) UNGASS process needs to have more than debate. There should be an outcome paper with a clear statement of what the next steps should be, defining some guidelines, and clearly saying how these will be prepared, specifically that they will be based on evidence.

John Collins
Ten-point economic strategy
1. Role of multilaterism. Why do states come together to work on drug policy? What is the value added of this and of the UN? The strategy of the last UNGASS did not work on its own terms. We now know it is not possible to eradicate the illicit market. You can manage it, displace it, but you can’t eradicate it. We know that planned commodity markets lead to supply shortages, which we have seen with the licit market for essential medicines. We need to move from market reduction strategies, demand or supply, towards market management. Look at indicators around violence, criminality, corruption, and also scale up public health responses, and expand access to essential medicines.
2. Price effect. Prohibition raises country prices. Is there a more rational implementation of prohibition? This is not beneficial to producer and transit countries.
3. Cost displacement. If we recalibrate our resources, it needs to be done in a more just way.
4. Illicit market eradication doesn’t work. It leads to market displacement, not reduction, and a new violence equilibrium.
5. Blanket interdiction strategies do not work. Can be more targeted, focus on violence and impact, not flows. Show that violence is what attracts state attention, not flows.
6. Effective cost benefit analysis to quantify costs of drug policies on people.
7. Quantify the institutional costs.
8. Avoid and scale back incarceration. No need to be incarcerating vast numbers of people. It is ineffective and harmful to health. Decriminalization is recommended by the WHO.
9. Scale up public health response.
10. Engage in rigorously monitored regulatory experiments. We will learn a lot.

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