Side event: Preparing for 2019: Drug policy objectives and indicators, system-wide coherence and the Sustainable Development Agenda

Renata Segura, SSRC. I thank the organisers and Switzerland for their continued support.

Christian Schneider, Switzerland. I will discuss the state perspective on policy metrics. I don’t represent the official Swiss position here, I am contributing to the World Drug Report and Part IV on law enforcement indicators. I am also a consumer of UNODC’s products so some of what I am going to say is based on UNDOC tools and publications. I want to start by outlining the drug policy dilemmas related to indicators: black markets as they are are complex. There are limitations that prohibit us from deriving meaningful policy recommendations from the data we have on drug markets. The problem is that we are faced with uncertainty around drug markets, how they function, what the effects of the interventions are and it’s hard to find out whether we should adapt our policies to have the effect we want them to have. So do we just stop measuring? The main solution is to communicate uncertainties, being clear about the gaps in the data. UNODC has been working on that in a good way, uncertainties are now more highlighted in the World Drug Report. But there are nuances that get lost as soon as data enters the political process. Then it becomes an argument in the political process. If communicating uncertainties is not enough, what else can we do to ensure that data collected becomes less susceptible to manipulation for political purposes? I want to highlight three ways:

  • Take more indicators on board – this will be elaborated by others in this panel discussion
  • Go beyond member states to collect data, and accommodate for uncertainties to allow for more institutions to feed into the data and their interpretation
  • Join forces with other UN agencies – the authority of the data and presentation of the data creates problems, and there is a risk that trying to manipulate the World Drug Report has a political value and can influence the discourse. So we can become more affirmative by getting more precise data so that there cannot be any debate on numbers; or you can distribute authorities by gathering data from other organisations and hold them accountable for the data they are gathering and disseminating with publications from several different UN institutions.

2019 provides an important opportunity to discuss indicators.

Renata. This was an excellent proposal on how to address the issues related to metrics. I will now turn to Natasha.

Natasha Horsfield, Health Poverty Action. I will here make a link between indicators and the SDGs. There are many ways in which drugs interact with the SDGs and this provides opportunities for action:

  • Poverty, food and insecurity – involvement in the drug trade is often a livelihood opportunity. Drug use may also intersect with poverty. Progress towards these goals is hampered by repressive drug policies.
  • Achieving the right to health – criminalisation of people who use drugs and the lack of treatment and harm reduction services undermines SDG 3. Heavy restrictions on controlled medicines also hampers this SDG.
  • Marginalisation and lack of gender perspective – inequality is also a factor in engagement in the drug trade, reinforced by stigma, discrimination and prohibition.
  • Environmental damage – this affects Goal 15. Drug law enforcement has displaced production in other areas, which also impacts on the environment. Fumigation also has a significant impact on the environment.
  • Peaceful and inclusive societies – including violence and drug-related deaths. The achievement of this goal has been hindered by militarisation, prohibition and the resulting rise in organised crime.
  • Partnerships – this is an area of concern for the SDGs and drug policy, and there is a funding deficit. Drug policies impact on many of the SDGs and yet receive about 100 billion US dollars a year. Greater alignment between drug policy and the SDGs is fundamental.

Given these areas of intersection, what lessons are there for measuring drug policy success? Although the outcome document fails to recognise the negative impacts on the SDGs, it does contribute to measuring progress towards the SDGs. To implement these commitments, we must address the fact that actions rather than outcomes constitute our current metrics and do not measure impact on the SDGs. Aligning metrics for drug policies in line with the SDGs is critical. There are several opportunities:

  • the SDGs are an internationally agreed framework
  • there is a possibility that the SDG indicators can be used or adapted to measure drug policy outcomes – disaggregating data by key population
  • the SDGs provide a good practical example to measure drug policy success
  • the indicators for SDGs will continue being developed over time, so new drug policy indicators can be developed in relation to how they relate to the SDGs. On gender, we could measure the number of women and girls incarcerated for drug offences for example
  • We can develop national indicators on how to implement the SDGs as this relates to drug policy
  • 2019 presents an opportunity to align the time framework for drug policy and implementing the SDGs. The opportunity is there
  • Drug policy goals should better focus on social welfare. This will require political will
  • There will need to be an adequate methodology for measurement
  • The illicit nature of drug activities may make it more difficult to collate data within affected communities
  • There will need to be capacity building on how to measure implementation.

Luciana Pol, CELS. Here I would like to focus on the specific impact on women. The incarceration of women incarcerated for drug offences keeps increasing. They are involved because of poverty and vulnerability. The achievement of Goal 5 will be undermined if we do not address this issue. Data shows that a portion of women are coerced into trafficking. And those who are not have a severe economic drive for engagement. So target 5A on equal rights to economic resources needs to target this population. There are also interactions with Goal 15 and the enforcement of non discrimination of laws and policies. Anecdotal evidence shows severe lack of access to justice for this population. If women have the bad luck of being detained as foreigners, they are made even more vulnerable to lack of access to justice. To measure this problem and achieve goals 15 and 16, we need to analyse the information produced now on this topic, we identified three restrictions preventing us from describing, measuring and quantifying this issue:

  • the close nature of prison life
  • the lack of a gender perspective in the prison data – amount of pregnant women, of children incarcerated with their mothers, access to health, etc. are often unavailable
  • laws don’t distinguish between different kinds of drug offences – small scale sale is in the same bunch as large scale trafficking.

Organisations like CND and UNODC have a key role to play in guiding member states on how to improve and expand their metrics and how this relates to women. We should prioritise data collection, compile information on the characteristics of their arrests and incarceration, the conduct for which they are incarcerated and the roles women play in each of them to conduct comparative analyses, produce statistics disaggregated by sex to provide alternatives to incarceration – these were topics of concerns on the gender resolution from last year.

Available data should enable us to develop new indicators and develop new strategies for intervention. There is a coordination role and we must move beyond the packages of data from institutions of governments, gender and women organisations can help in this regard too.

Dave Bewley Taylor, Global Drug Policy Observatory. I will move to a very technical topic now to understand data and move beyond the current metrics used so far, and move towards outcome indicators. These should look at human rights, public health and human security – fitting with the SDG framework. How would the need data feed into the work of the CND and UNODC. Mindful of financial costs of the data capture, the UNODC heavily relies on member states. There is also a fundamental flow in the capture of data – the fact that member states self report. But despite these shortfalls, the ARQ mechanism is agreed and useful. But there is an increasing disconnect between the structure of the ARQ and the world drug problem. This disconnect has been growing for a number of years as human rights considerations become more prominent. But we can argue that this gap came into an even sharper focus at the UNGASS in relation to human development indicators in line with the SDGs. The current ARQs do capture data on public health and those who read the World Drug Report will have seen the increased focus on health. But in the context of the UNAGSS outcome document – the latest political commitment on this issue – and in the context of the expiration of the 2009 political declaration, we are at a critical moment to start reviewing the structure and questions of the ARQs and how these relate to the SDGs. We must focus on the impact of interventions against access to justice, gender equality, a reduction in violence, etc. Many of the existing problems related to data capture will continue and might deepen, but this exercise can put an end to drug fetishism, and help in the fulfilment of the SDGs.

In 2010, a working group was convened to review the ARQs and the CND then adopted a revised questionnaire and stated that it should be periodically reviewed. I haven’t followed the debates in the CoW this year, and am unsure of the final wording of L9, and whether the term ‘streamlined’ was included. But hopefully we hope that the resolution includes some sort of review for the ARQs, through some sort of interagency expert group established by the Statistical Commission. This year’s session of the Statistical Commission discussed these issues, but the item was raised in the roadmaps on drug statistics co-hosted by Mexico. This roadmap was positive, it mentions the SDGs and is a good step forward and a way to start focusing on the ARQs. The roadmap process also includes other agencies within and outside the UN and is a way to provide different sets of expertise. The involvement of more agencies has the potential to improve system wide coherence on drug policy, and provide more direct links to the 2030 Development Agenda.

Questions and answers:

Question: How can we ensure better system-wide coherence?

Question: On ARQ and human rights, the issue of self reporting is becoming particularly acute as member states are unlikely to report on human rights violations – so on a number of SDG issues, there is a need for other scrutiny from other UN agencies.

Questions: Do you have some ideas on how to involve civil society in the review of the ARQ in participating in the expert committee or any more formal ways of engaging?

Comment: The next panel will also focus on the SDGs.

Dave. This is a good point on system-wide coherence, in terms of integration of our little corner of the UN system there has been better coordination with other parts of the UN including the development sector. But things can still be improved. The SDG framework is a good process to increase coherence. There is work to be done but progress is good. Different parts of the system want to defend their turf so we can’t ignore that specific reality. On the ARQ, this is a fundamental problem and it speaks to the issue of involving more actors, not only the data collecting system that feeds into the World Drug report – but also data reporting feeding into this system. Engaging other actors, not only having them feed into the data for the World Drug Report, but conducting an independent evaluation of states, would be beneficial.

Luciana. We are discussing regular and periodic reports. But we also have ad hoc investigations. These should be incorporated into this topic to make these institutions and dialogue, having sections that incorporate and analyse specific problems such as the special procedures of the human rights system. This has happened with the visits of the special rapporteurs in several countries for example. We need to review periodic reports and data, but we also need to use these other ad hoc reports and data collection. On the topic of self-reporting, there are shadow reports form civil society in the human rights procedures, this might be something we could add to the World Drug Report data.

Natasha. We particularly advocate for the involvement of UNDP. And there are issues related to protecting one’s turf – the UNDP is not always willing to engage, and UNODC is not always welcoming to the UNDP involvement. To see more collaboration, member states should shift responsibilities across UN agencies.

Christian. Governments have the responsibility of coherence in the narrative. So how do you bring in the critical voices? From my point of view, in my work I have access to critical voices. But why not incorporate it all into one report and add this decent and be frank about this.

Comment. I want to comment on the inclusion of civil society and UN agencies – it is up to member states to recommend this. If there is a strong recommendation, or an attempt to be made to incorporate these different aspirations, it may be work trying.

Christian. Thank you, I fully agree with you. I cannot put everything in my presentation, but the UN is structured by the member states and we have a role to play.

Renata. The panel laid down the processes towards 2019 and did a more comprehensive mapping for data collection and how civil society and other actors can be incorporated. I encourage you to stay in the next panel to continue the discussions.

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