UNGASS special segment, first meeting

PGA – As you all know too well, April’s special segment is very timely. Drugs continue to pose a serious threat to sustainable development, endanger communities, undermine rule of law. Our responsibility to address this transnational problem and advance a global and effective response. Your work today has been instrumental for identifying the modalities for the UNGASS and discussing substantial matters. I have enjoyed excellent collaboration with the CND, which will ensure a successful UNGASS. Met with UNGASS board and chair multiple times and involved in preparatory process in New York, such as briefings for member states. Continued engagement for all member states critical in coming week. To date the preparation process has provided member states with opportunity to discuss what works and what doesn’t work. Comprehensive integrated approach. CND addresses many elements, health, human rights, criminal justice, SDGs and international cooperation. Appreciation for efforts that preparatory process undertaken in an inclusive manner. We all have much to learn from the experience of different stakeholders. You have sought their input throughout the process and as you work to finalize the outcome document. Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation (IISC) summary shared with the commission. Thank the Civil Society Task Force and other partners for helping to make the IISC a success. Also in February, the inter-parliamentary union held a meeting on UNGASS in New York, brought out the many different views of parliamentarians. UNGASS must provide clear operational recommendations and bring discussion to a global audience. Deliberations on the outcome document started with over 209 pages of input, shows how seriously member states are treating this issue. Process for shaping this into a short and concise document will be intense. Confident that Vienna spirit prevails and you will reach agreement as soon as possible. Look forward to seeing you in New York in April.

UNODC – A demanding week lies ahead. Honour for UNODC to support CND in preparations for UNGASS. Participation has been broad and diverse. Debate informed and frank. Encompassing issues of drugs and health, crime, human rights, security and safety, emerging challenges, and development. Preparations promoted a more comprehensive understanding of challenges faced globally. UNGASS process emphasized our shared responsibility. Access to essential medicines a serious concern. Millions suffer needlessly. UNGASS emphasized the need to put people first and put the spotlight on considering appropriate alternatives to conviction or punishment, such as using education, treatment, and social integration, which can address prison congestion. Number of countries calling for abolition of death penalty. Use for drug offences never been in the spirit of the drug conventions. Importance of addressing development with initiatives to improve development while reducing illicit crops in a sustainable manner. 2030 Sustainable Development Goals provide a basis for comprehensive action linking development to health, governance, and rule of law.

INCB – We have an important task ahead. CND is the body mandated to consider all matters related to the aims of the three conventions. CND input to UNGASS is of great significance. Exchanging best practices in addressing the world drug problem. Contribute to laying the ground for the best way forward. INCB mandate and experience, role is to clarify and highlight approaches and principles of conventions and political declaration, identify shortcomings in implementation, and make concrete recommendations. Current drug control system has undoubtedly received success in many areas. Thanks to control, diversion from licit trade to illicit market have been significantly reduced. Enormous efforts made in numerous countries to establish treatment programs. International cooperation considerably approved. Some of the targets of the 2009 declaration not met, such as availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes around the world. Globally, the illicit demand and supply of drugs has not been reduced. NPS still emerging. Concern for health and welfare of mankind is elemental to international drug control. INCB focuses on this topic in the thematic chapter of the recently launched report. Emphasize necessity to put health and welfare at the core of international drug policy. Full respect for human rights. Evidence-based policies and practice. In many countries, drug control relies on criminal justice and incarceration. Prevention, treatment, and social integration neglected. Result is an unbalanced drug policy with significant social and economic costs. National and global drug policies are evolving to consider drug dependence as a public health issue. INCB welcomes this and reiterates that it is consistent with the international drug control framework. Comprehensive demand reduction strategy that reduces the adverse health and social consequences is of fundamental importance. Principle of comprehensive, balanced and integrated approach, respect for human rights, and shared responsibility. Thematic chapters of INCB reports over the past years are valuable contributions on the way forward for drug policy. Legislative developments permitting non-medical use of cannabis are not in compliance with the treaties that require cannabis be used exclusively for medical or scientific purposes. These legislations challenge the international conventions, principle of shared responsibility, and international cooperation. INCB is concerned. State parties must find a response to this challenge. Some pretend that flexibility of conventions allow such regulation. Debate on flexibility at the core of the future of drug policy. There exists flexibility, but not in each and every respect. Require use of substances to be restricted to medical and scientific uses. Non-medical use must be considered unlawful behaviour. No flexibility for allowing and regulating non-medical use, however, there is flexibility for how states responds to these behaviours. Subject to the principles of proportionality, minor offences need not be punished by harsh conventions. No need to incarcerate for minor offences. Conventions allow for flexibility of appropriate sanctions for possession of drugs for personal use. INCB drew attention to proportionality in 2007 report. Three conventions encourage state parties to provide alternatives for punishment. Could be used far more than is currently the case. Member states and civil society are discussing new approaches in advance of UNGASS. Current drug control framework doesn’t need to be discarded. We do not need new approaches. We need to better implement the approaches of the political declaration and treaties, where health and welfare is at the core, human rights are promoted, and principle of proportionality applies. Must tackle unequal access to essential medicines. Action rests with member states. INCB wants to assist you with the growing threat posed by NPS. When it comes to precursor control, must pay greater attention to domestic movements. Systematic communication exchange will be critical. Finding new ways to monitor trade and develop partnerships with industry to protect and enhance the health and welfare of mankind. Best way forward is the full and balanced implementation of the three conventions, and full respect for human rights. Success depends on political will of member states to implement evidence-based practices. INCB board will continue to engage with states to ensure the policies they adopt benefit the health of societies.

African Group – Thanks and greets board. Believes that fruitful results are in store for this session. The group commends chair of UNGASS. African Group offers full support for board. AG recognizes that increased international cooperation needed to tackle drug problem. Calls for best strategies, confirms support for all three conventions. Confirms support for the joint ministerial statement of 2014. Hopes that the UNGASS 2016 will offer an opportunity to view the world drug problem through the framework of the conventions. The group welcomes the 25th meeting of (African…?) that will strengthen regional cooperation. Sustainable development goals should be intertwined. Group believes that the public health consequences of world drug problem must not be overlooked during UNGASS. The consumption of illicit drugs still contributes to rise of HIV and psychological disorders. Drug users are also exposed to violent crimes and premature deaths, and high risk of long-term unemployment because of dropping out of school. Realizes that Africa is a key trafficking route, which is bringing negative consequences to the region. the group underscores the enduring efforts of UNODC to address the trafficking situation. The principle of shared responsibility should encourage greater cooperation. The group recognizes the need for a balanced approach between supply and demand reductions. An enhanced international approach needed to tackle the surge of drug use in the region. The group calls member states to pursue a mutually enforcing approach. Must uphold law and enforcement. Must increase access to treatment and rehabilitation – and must increase access to essential medicines. Adequate availability must be ensured. The group calls for increased technical assistance in manufacturing generic medications. The group supports the seeking of alternative measures to incarceration and punishment in accordance with the conventions. Alternative approaches must be employed, including education, social reintegration and treatment – in addition to or instead of punishment. Reconfirms commitments to fight transnational crime. Recognizes the links between human trafficking, cyber crime, and terrorism and the world drug problem. Recognizes increasing sophistication of these networks. Recognizes new challenges of increased trafficking and precursor chemicals. Must use the 2009 plan of action to address these changing and rising issues. Must ensure that law enforcement has the capacity to meet the challenges arising from trafficking, with a particular attention to ketamine, Tyramadol and NPS. Must strengthen efforts to tackle illicit supply of these substances. Must make efforts to offer alternative development to farmers and other stakeholders, while fighting supply of drugs. Offers group’s full support. Complimentary efforts by the international community will further enhance the chance of achieving a peaceful and cooperative Africa. Important to increase understanding between member states. Expresses concern that geographic and gender representation of the UNODC is not adequate – this must be fully incorporated into the recruitment policy of the UNODC, particularly at the senior and policy making levels. Urges the secretariat to engage in an open and transparent debate. Thanks board.

Asia-Pacific Group – Thanks board. Congratulates appointment of chair. Assures of continued support and assistance during preparations for UNGASS. Thanks board for effort. Our group acknowledges progress on capacity building networks etc. Reaffirms collective efforts towards goal of society free of drug abuse. Reaffirms support for the three conventions. Need to strengthen regional, national and international efforts to implement the national control conventions. Expects open and inclusive debate during UNGASS, opportunity to further implement 2009 plan of action. Satisfied with progress so far. Asks for short concise and substantive operational recommendations from the outcome document. Must implement sustainable development agenda, as will be mutually reinforcing. Counter money laundering, reduce supply and demand – approach must be balanced. Recognizes links to terrorism and cyber crime. Must adapt to more sophisticated methods employed by criminal organization. Must effectively counter trafficking precursor chemicals. Alternative development important lawful and viable option to stop illicit crop cultivation. Expresses concerns about methamphetamine and NPs while paying special attention to ensuring the availability of essential medicines. Must ensure good international cooperation. Our groups support regional programs such as triangular initiative. Must address the specific needs of woman, children and youth. Adequate access to medicines can be assured through framework of conventions.

EU – EU considers UNGASS a key opportunity for international community to take stock of achievements. UNGASS provide a unique possibility to elaborate on immense challenges that remain in global, national, and local responses to the world drug problem. Moment to look ahead and set agenda for 2019. Align with targets for 2030 SDGs. Welcome the contributions of all stakeholders in open discussion so far. Appreciate structure by UNGASS board. Respect for fundamental freedoms of human rights, liberty, democracy, rule of law, and right to health. EU is opposed to use of measures that are not respectful of human beings. Oppose death penalty is all circumstances. Calling for absolute abolition. Encourage states to establish a moratorium as a first step towards abolition. Appreciate inclusion of several of our recommendations in the outcome document. Recognize that NPS proliferation poses a significant risk to public health. Value work of UNODC, WHO, INCB, and EMCDDA in supporting states in addressing challenges. Encourage member states to work together to develop evidence-based responses to this emerging threat. Global drug policy is moving towards public-health based policies and acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Public health approach focusing on the health and needs of drug users will bring undeniable benefit. By providing risk and harm reduction interventions, can prevent blood borne infections among drug users. Vast evidence on effectiveness of harm reduction in protecting public heath. Strongly recommend states ensure their implementation. Stress participation of academics and civil society, particularly in public health issues. Recognize that experience of drug users, and their organizations and families, should be taken into account. Member states should ensure that they take into account mitigating and others factor to ensure proportionality. For persons who have committed minor non-violent offences, alternative to imprisonment should be considered. Position of EU that the drug conventions and universal declaration of human rights have sufficient scope to accommodate a wide range of approaches. At UNGASS, international community should focus on how to combine evidence-based approaches to law enforcement and a sound public health approach.

Thailand – Thanks chair UNODC, INCB and CND. Must speak in Thai for accuracy. First of all Thailand would like to convey gratitude for the preparations. The abuse of drugs an imposition of drugs on society damages society and impedes competitiveness. We are not claiming to be the best, but want to share experiences that may be helpful to other countries. The golden triangle region was once considered the biggest opiate producing area. The production of opium has been successfully reduced to insignificant amounts. Now threat of precursor chemical has taken its place. Producing countries must take responsibility over this problem. I recommended that the outcome document tackle the problem of precursor chemical problem. In response to this situation, we have taken steps towards greater cooperation in the Mekong region. In Thailand we used to amend laws to increase penalties for durg offenses in response to drug crisis, but found that networks expanded and prisons became overcrowded. This situation has bought us towards greater cooperation. Thanks the participants in the programme including China, Lao and Myanmar and UNODC and Australia. Thailand recently organized the (?) in order to tackle the drug problem through public health and the ‘sufficient economy. The principles of sufficient economy are very important. Thailand is ready to be learning center on alternative development for any interested countries. “We will not leave anyone behind”. The most challenging thing may be to implement the control conventions, but recognizes importance. Disagree with legalization and decriminalization of major drug traffickers, at the same time drug users should receive treatment and not punishment. Thailand has recently integrated and improved penalties, and made them more proportional. Must emphasize the use of alternative development as a tool to fight drug cultivation in a sustainable way. Sustainable development plans must be integrated and it mutually beneficial. Thailand ready to cooperate. Mentions an exhibition of the Mekong project.

Colombia – Albert Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is what we have been doing for nearly forty years since Nixon declared the war on drugs. Battles won cannot be compared to the overall balance based on evidence over four decades. Drug cartels are severely affected by our efforts, but at the cost of thousands of lives as has been the case in Colombia. World of drugs has changed from forty years ago. Difference between consumer and producer countries is increasingly opaque. In view of the attempt to revise the policy to tackle these drugs, partial successes fail to meet the realities that require a diverse approach. Global figures regarding consumption are alarming. Daily, more than 500 die due to situations linked to drug use that could be easily prevented, such as lack of hygiene of usage method, overdose, and adulteration of substances. 75% of global population has limited or no access to essential medicines. While speaking to you, a new NPS will circulate on the market. Each minute of this speech, a young person in a marginalized neighborhood will die because of drug-related crime. Corruption is a major issue. Foolish to recommend that we keep using these policies claiming that they will lead to better results. Must set aside a black and white view based on repressive issues. This was the concern underpinning the declaration of 2012 when Latin American presidents called for the special segment. Now that the taboo or silence has been broken, the idea that a public health approach must be promoted has gained ground, not only because prison doesn’t cure addition, but because a public health approach will better reduce the harms of drug use, particularly in vulnerable populations. Drug policy must be compatible with a human rights based perspective. Call for human rights treaties to be considered a source and framework for legal reference of design and measurement of drug policy. More voices calling for flexibility as long as it doesn’t impinge on other nations. Drug policy can’t assume that all problems in different counties are identical. Must reach a consensus on advantages of a health approach compared to repressive approach, and include an explicit reference to harm reduction measures and ensure that drug control treaties respect and uphold human rights, and above all, the urgent need to provide countries with flexibility in interpreting these conventions. By doing so we will show the world that we are not blind to the evidence, we are aware of how the world drug problem has changed, and above all, show we are not so foolish to insist that our drug policies can continue unchanged. Must establish a group of experts to consider further alternatives based on evidence. This is not an attempt to usurp CND, but assist CND through design of guidelines and approaches in harm reduction, access to controlled substances, new challenges, strengthening cooperation. For Colombia, the outcome document must include an explicit reference to establish this group of experts. Monitor the drug policy through this group as it is evolving. Our aim is not to legalize drugs, we simply request that based on the evidence throughout forty years, we recognize that time has come to adapt to challenges and realities. It would indeed be insanity to main the current drug policy thinking it would lead to better results than to date.

Iran – Thanks board. Congratulates board and members states for contribution. Hopes that tackling the world drug problem will contribute to the alleviation of associated human suffering and pain. Supports the three conventions as facilitating a balanced approach to drug control. Must look at the failure of the system to tackle the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. Allow me to elaborate the topics to be addressed at the UNGASS. Iran supports the UNODC and emphases the important of the international system in matter of drug policy. Iran’s campaign against drugs, which has irreparable damages, recognizes the helpfulness of harm reduction approaches to fight demand. Drug related challenges differ from one region to another. Iran is on the frontline of drug production and trafficking, and is of the view that the existing international treaties are useful in the global plans to tackle drugs. Alternative punishment plans such as freedom under monitoring of electronic systems [tags] have been more implemented in Iran, aimed at reducing the population of inmates and providing them with social support and services. Health and social security shape the pillars of a broad-based approach to fight drugs. Access to essential medicines must be ensured. Harm reduction and public health policies aimed at minimizing harms of drugs are inseparable part of policy approach. Providing treatment options inside prisons, empowerment for individuals to ensure social reintegration. The threat of drugs has increased, and has particularly threatened woman and children. In the meantime special courts have been set-up for young people threatened by drugs. Growing misuse of NPS should encourage more scientific research into the issues and proper regulation must be employed. Reaffirms support for NGOs, and recognizes that a majority of work on drugs is undertaken by these organisations. Iran believes that the success of alternative development plans must be visible in rural areas and shantytowns. The negotiations of UNGASS must respect the sovereignty, equality, and religious background of member states. Views drug problem as a humanitarian problem that must not be politicized. Hope that UNGASS is a milestone in the implementation of 2009 declaration in view of 2019. Thank you for your patience.

Czech Republic – Thanks chair for opportunity. Wants a meaningful, strong consensus. The Czech republic aligns itself with EU position. We express deep concern about the ability of member states to implement 2009 declaration. The “War on drugs” has failed, violence is increasing. We should not fail to help numerous countries suffering because the war on drugs was exported into their countries. Drug polices must be based on human health and human rights. Since 1990, Czech republic decriminalized drugs and personal possession. Possession punished now as a misdemeanor. After 25 years we can provide conclusive evidence that drug policies to this affect do work. We are co-sponsoring a side event that lays out this evidence. The primary aim of our policies is to ensure welfare of citizens. We have the lowest prevalence of death among drug users per capita; low prevalence of disease, and violent drug crime are practically non-existent. Thanks to harm reduction services and the civil society, these programmes are implemented cheaply and easily. Minimize use of drugs is only one way to do it – drugs still exist in Czech republic but the harms have been greatly reduced. Opposes the death penalty, and wants this reflected in outcome document. Miscarriages of justice are most common in drug-related conviction. Must consider human rights – disproportionate penalties reduce faith in judicial and legal system, but also create stigma. There is conclusive scientific evidence that harm reduction saves lives. It is extremely important that the outcome document includes this principle. We agree it is undesirable to get rid of treaties, they must remain. But we must consider other countries that suffer most from the current drug control regime. A weak outcome document will undermine the entire drug control system. A strong outcome document is extremely important to steer us in the right direction.

Afghanistan – Considerable efforts to have an inclusive process. Afghanistan had the opportunity to serve as the first vice-chair of the board. Government committed to active participation in this process, including in special session. Hope deliberations in special segment, as the final stage of the preparatory process, will help us agree on what we expect from the UNGASS, including from the outcome document. In 2015, despite the security threats in poppy cultivating areas, Afghanistan witnessed a 19% reduction in poppy cultivation and 48% reduction in opium cultivation. As a result of continued efforts, poppy cultivation decreased to 183,00 hectares in 2015. Great achievement for Afghanistan and international partners, and considerable law enforcement achievement in 2015. Seizures increase by 18% in 2015 over previous year. In 2015, 6% more drug traffickers arrested. Alternative development an important aspect of dug control. Increasing opium prices in recent years are encouraging farmers to cultivate poppy. Any approach that fails to focus on rural development for farmers will be ineffective in Afghanistan. Drug demand at those regional and international levels and trafficking precursor chemicals into Afghanistan need to be addressed in an effective manner. Regional cooperation remains key in addressing the drug problem. Intensified efforts are needed. To sustain our achievements and address the new challenges, we have developed our new national drug action plan. The new action plan includes alternative development, eradication, drug treatment and prevention, interdiction, economic development, stability. Afghanistan cannot address this menace on its own. While we express our gratitude to partners, continue to need technical and financial assistance in support of new action plan. This will help us in improving detection and operational capacities, helping decrease drug addiction, etc. Afghanistan facing an alarming addiction rate. More than 3 million people addicted. Hope that at UNGASS we will witness a milestone in our continued efforts to address the world drug problem.

Russian Federation – Would like to draw attention to new proposals drafted by Russia. Position is firmly against any kind of legalization or relaxation of rules on drugs, because it will have disastrous consequences. Gives China as an example – opium when legal led to 5% of population being addicted and 40 tonnes production. Treaties allowed drugs to be controlled. Relaxing drugs laws leads to upward swing in consumption. Social impact is noted, but the impact of drug problem on global security is largely ignored. I would like to draw attention to the process itself. Close relationship between terrorism and drugs. Terrorist organizations are an instrument of drug barons – a special taskforce for drug barons. They put 5-10% of their earnings to physically destroy competitors. There is clear media bias towards eastern drug violence, which diverts from western drug violence, which is largely ignored. Drugs are the very lifeblood of transitional organized crime, creates a parallel economy of piracy, trafficking in the black market. It is necessary to specify a new document to tackle large-scale drug trafficking, which is a threat to international peace and security. New measure must be placed at the disposal of the United Nations. Efforts must be focused at the key centers of production – Cocaine in Latin American and Heroin in Afghanistan. We must apply the same measures to drug lords that we apply to terrorist leaders. 100,000 people die from drug related crimes each year, so they must be dealt with accordingly.

Ecuador – Align ourselves with the declaration of Santo Domingo developed by CELAC convened in the Dominican Republic at the third ministerial meeting on the world drug problem. Reflects community’s consensus on this matter. The UNGASS will undoubtably set the course of action for coming years this area. Allow me to set up some basic thoughts that guide our domestic and international policy. Ecuador has undertaken changes in policy that have enhanced the protection of populations at risk, including children and adolescents.

Peru – Stated our belief that anti-drug policies should be based on the three international drug conventions, represent a broad framework for consensus. Keystone for the international drug system. We reaffirm the 2009 Political Declaration. Firmly highlight the relevance of the INCB.  Shared and common responsibility a common theme. Recognize outstanding challenges. Highlighting the relevance of the CND. Alternative development as the backbone in this fight. Through alternative development, Peru has replaced coca with cocoa.

USA – We have learned through research and experience about the importance of public health. People can recover. Encouraged by the international community’s focus on public health. Need to look inward and address the drug issues that are relevant to our countries. Punitive approaches do not allow people to recover. Incarceration should be reserved for drug traffickers. USA continues to work with partner nations. Taken major strides to address our over reliance on law enforcement. The USA firmly believes that investing in our people is the solution, not to harm them, but to help them. Balance the approach between public health and law enforcement. USA will fund supply reduction and demand reduction. Additional 1.1 billion dollars to expand access to treatment. Funding priorities in other countries should also be examined. Prescription drug misuse can cause serious problems, but shouldn’t prevent access for those that need them. We all have the power to significantly improve our approach to drugs, and can do so within the existing treaties. Must pursue reforms for all of our people, particularly vulnerable populations, like women, children and youth, lesbian, gay, trans, rural populations, incarcerated, etc. UNGASS provides an important opportunity for drug policy reform efforts, including medication assisted treatment. With the CND and UNGASS, this is a moment for each of us to examine our own policy and make meaningful and lasting reforms to build a healthier and more peaceful society. Full statement available here.

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