Side event: The global drug control system and the Sustainable Development Goals agenda

Organised by the Governments of Switzerland, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Guatemala and Uruguay, the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Louise Arbour, former commissioner for Human rights, Commissioner for the Global Commission on Drug Policy, chair of the event, opens the Side Event by reminding that the Substainable Developement Goals (SDG) ask of our member states to review the failed policy, to be able to fully support the impressive programme of the 2030 agenda for substainable development.

Mogens Likketoft, President of the 70th UN General Assembly

He mentions 5 major areas which should be a basis for further development of Drug control policies in coherence with the SDG agenda :

  1. Operational principles should aim at protecting marginalized population and be a People centered approach.
  2. On international cooperation : in world more connected than ever, we need to share competence and power, as People are demanding to have control over there lives in a a greater extend than 17 years ago.
  3. We need to respond to the urgent need to listen to youth, communities and population suffering from poverty.
  4. As we consider both solutions and issues, we have to look at the entire picture, through an holistic approach.
  5. The need to include civil society, as well as academia and the private sector is urgent.

In Mr Lykketoft’s view, the answer is starting now but also starting in 2019, the answer will be understanding the 2030 SDG agenda as the global framework for all future decisions on every policies, including Drug Control. SDG cannot be achieve without significant solutions to the world drug problem. On such complex issues, the UN needs to break down this impressive agenda through specific programs, on country level, for implementation.

Mrs Arbour notes the mentions of overlaps between the SDG Outcome doc, the 2019 plan ; and the 2030 SDG agenda.

Mr Miguel Ruiz-Cabanas, Vice-minister for Multilateral affairs and Human Rights of Mexico

The goal of the final SDG and the 2030 agenda is the welfare of people.

To that hand, we need to take into account the conditions of people directly or indirectly affected by traffic in rural and urban areas of the world.

The UNGASS follows the same objectives, which are also in the three conventions. We should use all the instruments the GA has adopted during the latest years.

We must align global Drug Policy to the SDG ; and there’s an urgent need to assess the impact of Drug Policies both nationally and internationally, to evaluate and design better policies for Human Development and health. Those are the main results a policy should expect.

Looking to 2019 through a development perspective, the national indicators must be considered from different angles, including economical and on violence. Only this way the global and balanced approach can be possible.

Finally we need to adopt a wide spread angle to implement drug policy oriented from a human perspective.

Policy reform : some countries can 2030 agenda : as the Lancet wrote in September 15 , SDG will not be achieved without the following elements (September) :

  1. Agriculture and earth degradation (SDG n°15), taking into account the environment.
  2. Global public health services and social welfare including prevention of drug use as part of a Health program, with no discrimination in treatment.
  3. Gender equality especially during incarceration
  4. Promote access to decent work for everyone : including Agriculture and through the decriminalization of growth.
  5. Cities should implement social policies
  6. Promote peaceful societies (16) and find an equilibrium in reduction strategy
  7. Achieve all the above with more coherence within the UN and between its agencies
  8. Multiple the actors involved : keep on exchanging ideas, and how the drug market is related to structural equilibrium and political and structural sanity.

With the tools we have from the SDG agenda and the next UNGASS, the year 2020 will be so important.

Mrs. Arbour underlines the mention of a necessity to have appropriated assement instruments to evaluate if targets are met, and to include PWUD. She finally underlines the promotion of policies based on science and not ideology.

Tania Dussey-Cavassin, Ambassador for global health for Switzerland

This is the 1st time the GA gathers after the adoption of the SDG ; which requires a paradigm shift in drug policies.

1st relation between SDG and drug policies is in 3.5 : with the mention of « strong prevention for Substance abuse ».

But it doesn’t stop there : numerous targets should drive standards to implement drug policies. For examples, some of them :

  • On human rights : We are talking about massacres and executions, torture, extortion… Too often those affected are the most vulnerable « Farmers, ethnic minorities, marginalized and excluded populations…». The lack of Harm Reduction measures is soaring transmission of HIV and other injections ; it is killing people. To criminalize drug use creates stigma, limits access to treatment, increases vulnerability. It forbids access to medicines pain and suffering, for those who are neglected anyway because of repression.
  • On peace : we know that the conflict regions are the regions where production and trafficking is the worst. The market is fueling conflicts and the suffering of people
  • On governments : The rule of law is the bed rock of SD ; Prohibition the growing and selling  is giving the black market the power to destabilise.

And to us this is the biggest challenge. We need to cease the opportunity the UNGASS gives us to align policies.

We need a sincere analysis of what has not work, in those areas of the SDG, with the SDG’s as indicators.

Particularly candid about the areas where the treatment have been worst than the disease.

All together. The elaboration of 2019 plan must be a mild stone fully in line with the SDG.

Mrs Arbour recognized the Swiss model as a good alternative to monolithic repressive policy, which not only is eroded but has been worst than the first issue of drugs.

Mr Milton Romani, Secretary General of the National Drug Board in Uruguay

The SDG & 2030 agenda are small steps forward towards 2019, which will require the added-value of an open process. This process isn’t finish with the text ; the debate must continue to be open to different approaches. These approaches are the real corner stones for international system, which is not only about conventions ; they are the legal framework but 2030 agenda is our political framework.

Because the SDG will have multi-dimensional effects, not only do we consider the effects on the problem on drugs but also on peace and economy ; war is always more expensive than peace.

There’s a budget issue behind balancing strategy on drugs. When you consider the national budget you need to decide wich part goes to each issue : how much should we spend for Health ? for Social affairs ? Nowadays, we spend a disproportionate amount of money on D Commissions and military and security affairs.

And as in any warfare, we know when it starts, but not when it will end.

Well, now we know : War On Drugs is over. « Kaput ». We need to give it an end. Now we want health for all.

But this means a shift of perspective, because is doesn’t limit itself to the absence of diseases. It needs to go as far as the « right to fully enjoy your mental and physical capacity » for all.

Therefore, public health needs to be guaranteed by the SDG. They are not only a piece of jewelry but a full out basis for the policies multi-sided approach.

The topic of Substances must be decentralize. Professionals working in public health know and tell us that when you see someone with addiction, the dependency is not the only problem. Other faces are important : we need to take care of that.

So yes, we need to try to warn about drugs, but some people will still use ; so we have a responsibility to reduce the damage caused including the social damages to them, not to criminalize them.

And on the care of clinical addicts : we really should stop asking « why do you take those substances ? » because this is not the point. The person has other problems (like a tragic history) and we must widen your horizon for human beings, enslaved by addictions. So often we focus only on that. Don’t forget it, but change the approach.

To conclude, the development goals relates to the logic of liberal markets, but our goal is human development, not economical only. On that front we’ll have a problem with the markets. In their logic, they’ll want to maximize uses as it is done on alcohol and tobacco. The Uruguay experience shows us that substances markets must be regulates by state, by the society, communities. So the implementation of SDG comes with regulated markets. »

Jessica Faieta, Regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at United Nations Development Programme 

The UN Drug agency’s view on the overlaps between DP and SDG must point towards the well-being of people.

The SDG 30 agenda is considered as the blueprint for a better word, and it is now adopted by all Member States.

The question now is how to implement them ?

Because of those overlaps, the relation between DP and Development must be wider.

The DP is not only concerns by paragraph 3.5 . Nearly every aspect of the impressive agenda concerns DP : food security, education, employment, justice, gender, youth…

Even without a specific mandate we must consider the impact of DP on those objectives, and have an active presence from the SDG point of view on DP.

The UNGASS was convened by countries in our region, all-the-more reasons for us to include civil society in all our works.

The time coincidence between the adoption of the SDG and the UNGASS underlines once again the need for a more profound review of the global DP, as there’s substantial and clear contradictions between the SDG and the drug 2009 plan.

The drug policies currently negatively affect the « putting people first and leave no-one behind » goals.

It is now essential to change the paradigm. All the indicators we need to change are in SDG.

The 30 SDG agenda needs to become the fundamental framework and blueprint.

The future is already here, the future of humanity is in our hands now, and in the hands of the new generation.

The next resolution must insure this journey is a successful one.

From the floor :

Czech republic EMCDDA

what should we do concretely ? in Czech republic « Harm Reduction » is a clear philosophical policy framework; beyond specific measures, it is thought as and implemented as the only answer to the philosophical view on organizing drug policies.

We are ok with all that’s being said today, but how do we organize our legislation ? not criminalizing personal uses ok, but this language is not allowed by the conventions, and still some states are currently doing it. how to formulated it for it to be acceptable ? Because it needs to be acceptable otherwise we’ll create a risky « precedent ».

I worked in Afghanistan, and Latin america : for countries like Afghanistan, one of the answers is to open possibilities for opium licencing, as it could be the legal production of Cannabis medical use in Latin America…

Are we going this way concretely, or are we limited to just general terms on global policy ?

Rase Hia : Jamaica : growing farmers

The issue of drug policy is directly linked with global poverty. As long as there’ll be an economical unbalance, a colonial problem, people without job there will be illegal jobs, there’ll be problems with exploitation, because people will want a better life.

Our issue here is really poverty which directly drive illegality simply because it drives unhappiness.

But there’s a big difference between the plant itself and its effects, and the job to grow it. People do have the right to do whatever they want with there body and soul, we are only concerned about information and the regulation of access and production of those substances. Something quite significant in that regard is that we never hear about tobacco and alcohol, even with amount of lives it costs each year.

Until poverty is eradicated from the face of the planet there will always be a problem, because people want a better life.

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