Home » Briefing on the preparations for the Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS)

Briefing on the preparations for the Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS)

The briefing’s webcast is available at the UN Web TV site here.

President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft:

President Lykketoft calls to order to brief preparations on his visit to Vienna. The primary consideration of this informal briefing will be to acknowledge the preparations being made on UNGASS 2016. Two areas of UNGASS preparation that are particularly pertinent to this briefing are the status of the Zero Draft Elements Paper and the decisions that have been made on the design of the round table sessions. UNGASS is a key event, and it will encompass common challenges and overlapping responsibilities for all member states. Advanced concrete actions are needed to produce an agenda that will be cognizant of the 2030 agenda. UNGASS must be inclusive and effective to serve a broader purpose, that includes development of public health, poverty and climate issues. The president is confident that the preparations for UNGASS are on track. Inclusion of Civil Society and different UN entities, as well as underrepresented member states will be pivotal to a successful UNGASS. The President welcomes the adopted resolutions that include specific roles for Vienna and New York. The President will be holding a stakeholder event on February 10th, 2016, where all stakeholders including Civil Society Task Force will be invited to continue with preparations. He recognizes the voiced need for a public health approach, effective development and global access to medicine to essential elements in concepts that will enrich UNGASS 2016.  True progress requires action from close interaction between all the essential parties.


Chair of the UNGASS board Ambassador Shamaa:

October 2nd was the last meeting where the Chair of the board described the process of preparing for 2016 UNGASS. The purpose of this informal briefing is to inform stakeholders now on the developments and status of UNGASS preparations.

The 57th CND High-Level-Segment, 57th CND Regular Session and Reconvened 57th CND all included sessions that adopted relevant UNGASS preparatory statements and resolutions in 2014. The 57th CND Regular Session produced the Adoption of CND Resolution 57/5 in response as a response to NGO resolutions. CND 58/8 contained a set of recommendations on the modalities of UNGASS itself including the time and place for UNGASS and the design for the general debate and multi-active panels.

The 58th session of CND took stock of the outcome document and consider the draft provisional agenda for UNGASS. Many members made statements and provided speakers including the EU, the African Group, Mexico, Bulgaria, Colombia, Brazil and Austria. The Commission decided to devote the first three days of its event to UNGASS preparations

During the Reconvened session there were two special events and nine side events by Civil Society. Thirty scientists gathered in Vienna and participants from over 85 countries attended as well. The CND had been mandated with producing a “short substantive, concise and action oriented document compromising a set of operational recommendations”.

Many pages of input were shared with delegations, and to meet the mandate the board started to produce the document on paper. This was marked by two phases: the first was the fine tuning of the Elements Paper and the second was the initiation of negotiations regarding the Zero Draft Document.

November 11-12 operational recommendations needed for the elements paper

Third version was prepared on December 3rd and shared on December 8th at the CND Reconvened Meeting.

Elements paper has undergone fine tuning with general principles that provide working towards a preamble and a set out framework. Key issues included creating a plan of actions, a balanced approach to demand and supply reduction, harm reduction approaches, human rights and the strengthening of international cooperation. Key issues in contributions were; demand reduction, drug use prevention and treatment, insuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific research, supply reduction, cross regional responses to crime, countering money laundering, emerging issues, new psychoactive substances, and wider approach integrating the 2030 agenda into the document.

The expectation is that the document draft will be available in March for later adoption at UNGASS. Roundtables at UNGASS are featured in the CND resolution 58/8, and will feature five themes. The five themes, are shaped after the themes of CND interactive discussions that were held last March.

Last week in Vienna, the CND adopted a decision for UNGASS 2016. The general format for the roundtables will be to provide a forum for discussion in an open ended manner as well as arrangements including chairing decisions, speakers etc.

The roundtables encourage the highest level of engagement, with involvement from CSTF and UN entities, and panels followed by discussion. The five themes of the roundtables include; health, crime, human rights, new challenges and alternative development.

All contributions as received are on the UNGASS website. They are posted on the website so member states can consult them in preparing their contributions to the document.



Opens the floor for member state questions or comments


European Union:

The EU was satisfied with the format of the roundtables and that they would work well. The invited speakers by use of their knowledge will enrich the debate. The EU looks forward to finding sustainable long term positions in the final document. Drug policy should be based on an evidence based approach, drug policy is most effective when a balance in supply and demand is struck. The framework needs human rights to be a cornerstone in order to be effective. The EU is concerned with the proportionality of sanctions, strongly opposes the death penalty being used in drug related crimes. Recognition of Civil Society and the scientific community must be broadened to heighten cooperation. The European Union asked the Chair of the Board how successful he thinks UNGASS will be.



UNGASS 2016 will be the highest level forum on this topic. This will take place as a special session, and not a general session and this means that this cannot be “business as usual”. Participation needs to be at the highest possible level.

In this final stretch of preparations, ideas need to become concrete proposals. Mexico trusts the CND will make a document that will respond to the needs of all member states. A cross cutting approach will be needed and this approach should provide provisions for human rights and gender equality. The process needs to be led and supported of the General Assembly and it needs to be open and inclusive, that appreciates all member states and civil society. When the zero draft is issued, Mexico requests that it be circulated to the delegations so that all member states are duly informed of the steps in the process. Mexico asks if we will have a Zero Draft document by January.



Colombia commented on two issues: 1) negotiation of the outcome document 2) organization of UNGASS. Colombia is taking part in drafting and we would like to underscore the quality of that document, and that a number of countries and regional groups have contributed. This document should accurately depict the conversations leading up to the zero draft. We believe the substantive issues like public health, criminal justice, and health care require greater cooperation between the member states. Colombia would like more information about the elements of the  roundtables. In Resolution 58/8 of the CND, Colombia sees many provisions of a results oriented document; 26 member states, and over 80 academics members and civil society advocates were in attendance to work on the document. Countries not represented in Vienna should continue to be involved and given informal briefings



Portugal stated their satisfaction with the way the work is proceeding in Vienna, as well as satisfaction with the status of the “elements paper”. Portugal recognized the importance of a public health based approach to drug use, as well as a more sufficient balance of demand reduction and also supply reduction. The proportionality of criminal matter will be critical. Portugal also wants to see a sustainable agenda that acknowledged 2030. Portugal believes member states will be surprised if the document is not central to human rights or lacks provisions to allow tools for member states to conduct their policies in line with the manner set forth in the conventions.


Chair of the Board Shamaa Responds to member states:

The points raised are pertinent. Member states are the entities that will be deciding what needs to be included in this document. Inputs by stakeholders have been central to the work of the CND and the CND is providing a platform for a conversation that is often absent. Member states tend to negotiate instead of having a dialogue. Part of what the CND wants to do is provide more and more space for dialogue, which is best in an informal setting. Shamaa makes a point of establishing that negotiation can only take place in one location, and that location is Vienna. The discussion the member states have been having is encouraging. Shamaa is cautiously optimistic about the success of UNGASS 2016, because the atmosphere is quite positive.



Closing remarks. The president’s office will always be open to finishing the preparations for this process.

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