Side event: Follow-up to UNGASS: Establishment of the inter-agency technical working group on drug epidemiology

Angela Me, UNODC: (…) We are investing resources in improving, piloting, testing, methodology. We are working in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to implement a set of school and youth surveys. We support training to member states too. The UNGASS Outcome Document calls CND, UNODC and INCB to assist in their mandates to the consecution of the goals set out by the document. It gives us renewed impetus to coordinate our work. An opportunity to reinforce our collaboration. There is one specific SDG on drug use (SDG 3.6) WHO and UNODC are the “custodian agencies” for this indicators. We are responsible for the technical assistance to member states, developing methodology, etc. There’s also an issue of terminology. We need to work to harmonise this. The establishment of the “inter-agency technical working group on drug epidemiology” seeks to facilitate this coordination

Vladimir Poznyak, WHO: A call for intensified collaboration between agencies who still have serious limitations in terms of the validity of the trends that we are trying to present to the world community. We revisited and discussed our action plan and tried to identified gaps. ECOWAS was represented. It showed intense differences in terms of capacity. The working group would be a low resource setting, mostly sharing online, acting to identify gaps and areas of collaboration. The WHO collects, collates, analyses and disseminates information on psychoactive substances and health consequences. Focus on alcohol and tobacco, whilst UNODC focuses on illicit drugs. But producing, for instance, estimates of drug-attributable disease burden, requires data sets that WHO cannot collect; and thus need to ensure member states engage in this work. (…) We agreed to the following as major gaps and challenges: overlaps in data collection, different terminology, [effective] treatment coverage, prescription drug use and associated disorders, NPS, local costs of drug use, globalisation and new technologies, geographical gaps.

Paul Griffiths, EMCDDA: It’s more important than ever to develop common approaches. When we talk about comparability and compatibility, it’s not about doing everything the same; it’s about standardising what we can, agreeing with common basics and looking how it could be implemented in different contexts. We rely on European data, data that is also reported to international bodies such as WHO and UNODC; by aligning our indicators, we would increase efficiency and reduce costs. We are particularly interested now in refining our data collection with regards to supply. But also making sure we stay on top of new trends and needs. Ex. wastewater analysis. Problems are changing, we need quicker ways to address harm and coordinate. We have been experimenting how to monitor drug discourse and sells online. Important to develop guidelines on standards to ensure your information is sound, not politically influenced. There is a need to start looking ahead too, and make sure our methods do not fall in obsolescence. We need to develop coordination and harmonisation, yes, but also innovation.

Question 1 – United States: We’re thinking through on how to address gaps, especially in relation to new challenges such as increasing use of synthetic drugs. How can we collaborate in a way that converges rather than the opposite?

WHO: These discussions, in Geneva, should be expanded to involve all relevant nodes at the Member state level. Academic centres, for instance. But we currently do not have the resources to do that. This is the goal, however.

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