Side event: Towards a new international drug strategy: Implementing the recommendations of UNGASS 2016

Miguel Ruiz Camanas, Vice-Minister of Multilateral Affairs. The purpose of this panel is to discuss how we can reshape international drug control and implement the implementations of the UNGASS. In Mexico, we believe that international drug policy has not been straight forward. Since the adoption of the Single Convention in 1961, the evolving reality of the drug market has continued to take place. Common and shared responsibility has been key for the drug control phenomenon. 2016 will be remembered as a milestone in addressing the world drug problem. The UNGASS redefined the terms of the international debate by broadening the scope of drug policy with 7 pillars. We have recognised the importance of human rights, health, gender and prevention, access to controlled substances, enhance international cooperation in countering organised crime, and respond to new challenges. Mexico is fully committed to the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document at national and international levels. I want to share with you the implementation of the recommendations of UNGASS. We launched a series of dialogues on each of the thematic chapters of the outcome document, based on a plurinational debate including governments, parliamentarians, UN agencies, academia and civil society. We have established, with CICAD, an example of regional commitment in implementing the UNGASS outcome document. Each country should be able to adapt the provisions contained in the 3 drug conventions to their national realities and needs. The SDGs offer a comprehensive framework for drug policy including peace, justice and equality, as well as a gender perspective and the well being of people. Another driving theme has been the coordination of a multifaceted response among states, as well as among all relevant entities of the UN system.

Following the 7 chapters of UNGASS, let me summarise the dialogues that have taken place so far.

  1. A public health approach ensure prevention, and the well being of individuals and societies. Monitoring and evaluation is demanded
  2. Global scheduling mechanism that should enable access to substances for medical and scientific purposes, this has been very poor, especially in developing countries
  3. On measures for prevention of crime, measures should be strengthened for information sharing to ensure targeted actions, while taking into account vulnerabilities
  4. A gender and human rights perspective should be mainstreamed
  5. We address the challenges of the world drug problem, including NPS
  6. Innovative experiences for illicit drug markets should be addressed through a social, health and economic perspective, not only law enforcement
  7. Address socio-economic factors, with the contribution of all relevant entities, including through the development of new indicators.

Finally, we encourage other states and the international community to ensure the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document and share their experiences with others. We must build on the outcomes of the 2016 UNGASS on the road to 2019, with a much more humane approach.

Adam Namm, Executive Secretary, CICAD/OAS. Protecting health and human rights are not new concepts for CICAD, it can be found in the 2013 reports on the world drug problem, the Antigua resolution in 2013 and the Guatemala resolution in 2014. The OAS continues to provide platforms for discussions and exchange of best practices. We are guided by the CICAD Drug Strategy and our action plan for 2016-2020. We have 5 priority action areas: institution strengthening, demand reduction, supply reduction and international cooperation. We take into account the 2016 UNGASS and the 2030 Agenda for Development in our plan of action.

Regarding UNGASS recommendations and how these are included in our plan of action:

  • Demand reduction: we promote prevention, care, treatment, rehab, social reintegration
  • Availability of medicines: we address the improvement of access, while preventing misuse
  • Supply reduction: we cover drug-related crime prevention, sharing of information, a comprehensive response to drug trafficking, including money laundering
  • Human rights: we cover human rights, youth and women throughout our plan of action
  • New threats and challenges: we address NPS, ATS and preventing diversion of pharmaceutical products and precursors
  • International cooperation: we emphasise the principle through exchange of information and best practice
  • Alternative development: focus on improving economic conditions.

We have an evaluation mechanisms. An expert group will meet in 2018 to conduct an implementation of the plan of action, including of the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document. We are ready to support member states in the implementation of UNGASS objectives.

Ann Fordham, IDPC. We have followed the UNGASS very closely, but have also done all we could to ensure NGO visibility and inclusion, including via the CSTF. Mexico has been a very important ally of civil society in the UNGASS process and has been consistently one of the member states with civil society representation in their delegation in recent years.

On the UNGASS, from IDPC’s perspective, although we did not get everything we’d hoped for, we recognise the outcome document as representing important progress in many key areas of drug policy – access to controlled medicines, human rights, proportionality of sentencing, rule of law, gender and the broadening out of development and socio-economic drivers of engagement in the drug trade. We also welcome the 7 themes of the UNGASS outcome document, and a shift away from the narrow 3 pillars. The 7 themes are much more fit for purpose and are to be welcomed. We hope that they will now form the basis for future drug control debates.

Mexico’s initiative to follow up on UNGASS outcomes is innovative and unique, we encourage other member states to consider such an approach. I will participate at the last event on human rights and a gender perspective in the administration of justice. I have been briefed by other NGO colleagues on their experience. The dialogue is a good example of partnership between NGOs and governments. This shows a global commitment on drugs, and an attempt at implementing the UNGASS outcome document. This has also brought together new people to discuss the UNGASS in Mexico who had not been involved, to discuss what the UNGASS commitments mean. This also reflects systemwide coherence, which we call on member states to continue to promote at UN level. It’s also been an opportunity to pursue opportunities to do better, including the criminalisation of users, the over incarceration of women, how to improve access to justice and medicines. It’s opened a door to discuss innovative harm reduction interventions such as drug checking and supervised injection facilities. It’s also been an opportunity to discuss new indicators on how to measure the implementation of UNGASS recommendations. At national level, there have been speakers discussing Thailand’s alternative development approach, and regulated cannabis markets in Canada and Uruguay.

We now need to discuss how these dialogues will be followed up with task forces, recommendations, etc. I conclude by saying that Mexico has led the way through this initiative, Mexico is a leader and was one of the three countries that called for the UNGASS. We encourage Mexico to continue to push for the debate and be the leader to open discussions on how to modernise international drug policy.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC. I congratulate Mexico and CICAD for their unique approach to translate the outcomes of UNGASS in domestic terms. We are pleased to see that the dialogues are happening. We had meetings in Latin America and other parts of the world, including Brandenburg, showing the manner in which UNGASS has energised the drug control debate. This week, we have over 100 side events too to discuss drug policy issues. All those discussions have found a new momentum which we would like to see moving forward in operational terms for years to come. We are providing new guidelines and technical assistance.

On technical assistance, even before the MoU with WHO, we saw an acceleration of cooperation with UNAIDS, AU, EMCDDA, CICAD, etc. The international standards for treatment will also move forward with field testing. We work with WHO, INCB and IAHPC on access to essential medicines. We engage in a feasibility study on the use of naloxone in several countries. We are also focusing on criminal justice and imprisonment. We also have an HIV/AIDS programme, and have a Strategic Advisory Group that will soon involve UNDP and UN Women. And in the area of law enforcement, we engage with INTERPOL and many more.

We also provide guidelines for addressing the specific needs of women who inject drugs, addressing substance abuse among youth with our guidelines for prevention with WHO, and we’re working on alternatives to incarceration with WHO.

The CND process is the third element I wish to discuss. We are working with UNHCR and the UN DPA and ensure that NGOs can participate through videos and follow discussions through live streaming. We welcome Mexico’s approach on the UNGASS implementation. We encourage other countries to follow the lead of Mexico.

Questions and Answers

Drug Policy Futures. We hear about new approaches, with examples such as medically assisted treatment and legal regulation of cannabis – is cannabis regulation something that Mexico is supporting and considering?

Miguel Ruiz Cabanas. As a result of UNGASS, the President produced legislation to Congress to allow the scientific and medical use of cannabis. Since then, we have had a long a substantive discussion, Senate has passed part of the legislation and Congress is discussing the proposal, and we hope that the legislation will be passed by the end of the Congress’ session. Regarding the health budget, we have had some restrictions in the past few years, but the government is mostly focusing on the challenges we’re facing in our national health system. We will continue to provide basic health services.

Centros de Internacion Juvenil. This bill is not for people to start smoking in the street, it is about medical and scientific purposes.

IAHPC. What came out of the dialogues on controlled medicines?

Germany. The visible engagement of Mexico in the development issues is very positive. What will you plan on leading on for this topic?

Miguel Ruiz Cabanas. We will present information on each panel around drug policies in general. We will present to the MoH, Minister of Interior, etc. It will then be up to them to decide which recommendations to include in national health policies. We will continue to work with academia, civil society and international organisations. We are keen to learn from others. We have concluded that the law enforcement approach is at best very incomplete. It is part of the equation but far from what the state response must provide. We want to keep the 7 chapters of the UNGASS outcome document because they really cover all the areas that affect drug policies. If we do that, drug policy will be much richer and we will have a more relevant impact for drug policies.

INPUD/ReverdeSer. The issues in Mexico are not drug use, they are about violence, linked to organised and government responses. What are the next steps for peace? And what are the harm reduction measures to be implemented? And finally, how are you tackling the traditional use of sacred substances which are currently being controlled by the UN drug conventions?

Miguel Ruiz Cabanas. Civil society has been included in the discussions. We are working on all the ways we can improve for the benefit of society. I agree that we have to confront and reduce violence as much as possible. One of the way we’re doing it is by understanding how drug policy can be redirected towards prevention and treatment. On traditional plants, we will reach a point of discussion around historical heritage but we haven’t reached that point yet. We will nonetheless have a discussion about it.

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