Informal NGO Dialogue with the CND Chair, Amb. Alicia Buenrostro Massieu

VNGOC Chair: Good morning and welcome.

CND Chair: My pleasure. I love to meet with Civil Society – as a Mexican, I know how important it is for Civil Society to be present so we can keep doing our homework.

As CND Chair, it’s also important to have you here. The role you play at UNGASS and the post-UNGASS process was very important – since then I have attended meetings in in New York, Brandenburg, Santa Marta – it’s so important that this work continues.

So here we are the CND. As you know, we have been working on the Modalities Resolution, which has not been an easy one. I have been trying to move towards a one track holistic approach, trying to see things in a wider scope in the way that recognizes all commitments. In addition to 2016 we have 2009 which is also important – there are 103 objectives that are important to follow. Polarization has been at the core of negotiations. I have found that the two groups of States – the conservatives and progressives – have cornered themselves into their positions. I made a compromise proposal that I had hoped could strike a balance by Friday evening. Since yesterday we have had negotiators from capital, which serve to reinforce their positions, so in the end they were not as hands on. For me it’s important that everyone feels they’ve been listened to – I have listened to all of the delegations, and last night we made another compromise proposal. At this point it is only the modalities only, taking out everything else, and we will go to the delegations and ask – is this the best product we can have?

It’s sensible to ask, what can be achieved? And then let’s think about the future.

So this is where we are. I resume negotiations at 3pm, starting with this very technical, procedural resolution and see where we can go. I think we can do better, on the issues of Civil Society and data collection which are very important, and on the other side also. You have to understand and be sensitive to realities, and this is about how to bridge and go forward. Even from the most conservative countries the recognition of UNGASS is as the latest and it will continue to prevail. I will strive until the end, until the last hour because it’s very important and I feel strongly about getting something – maybe apolitical – but substance is also very important. Let’s see how we can work constructively. In the end if we don’t get it down, every minister will come and talk about their own realities.

So, I’m happy to see you all – happy to see that Civil Society organizations are playing a constructive role and that it will continue to be this way.

VNGOC Chair: Thank you and you have our support in trying to get the two sides together. Let’s go to some of our prepared questions. The first question is from International Drug Policy Consortium.

IDPC: Thank you, we very much appreciate your holding these sessions with us, it is really very helpful for us to see where things are. My question is, how will you ensure meaningful Civil Society participation at the upcoming 2019 Ministerial Segment?

CND Chair: I was telling you about the Modalities Resolution that is still ongoing – I know you have followed and I invite you to follow the negotiations. My original proposal was based on the arrangement of UNGASS. Then when I told you we’re going more towards procedural so it follows more like the high level review in 2014 but is also very open in terms of the general debate – very inclusive. For the roundtables, we will follow the UNGASS procedural rules. No agreement on the intersessional period. If we come to consensus I will adhere to guidelines of the post-UNGASS facilitator and we’ll follow the same way – civil society, experts, etc. If that is the case I will follow exactly that. So, stick with UNGASS rules for General Debate and for intersessionals I will follow the guidelines from post-UNGASS.

VNGOC Chair: A question from the VNGOC on Drugs. The VNGOC is an umbrella with a variety of organizations, coming from all spectra of the drug debate. Can you see a value in letting as many different voices as possible address the CND?

CND Chair:  I acknowledge different views. As chair I believe there is much value in hearing different voices. For example during UNGASS it was very important. Here there are close to 100 side events – it is very important that you keep pushing your work also regarding the side events. It’s useful to present your views and I encourage you to keep doing so. Seeing how policy positions translate to realities on the ground is very important. For example, the progress made in access to essential medicines is testament to NGO work. It’s good to see the Civil Society organizations working together on a consensus basis towards that issue – you can see how difficult it is and it’s good to see.

Turkish Green Crescent: We would like to discuss the role of NGOs and the conflict areas between NGOs and states. For example some NGOS are supported by States and sometimes not. For this reason how can governments be motivated to collaborate with NGOs? In other words there is a conflict between NGOs and states. How can we provide motivation for both sides?

CND Chair:  As Chair I can’t take a position per se overall because States have all different views and positions. My personal opinion is that this has to do with the maturity of the society as a whole. I’ll give you an example. Up until 1997 in Mexico, there was one political party in charge for a long time and NGOs were very small, not strong. You see the changes from 1997 to 2017 and from where we are now you see a huge change. NGOs are playing a huge role in all areas, even in climate change. Anti-corruption is recognized as an issue only because of Civil Society – they were the ones that brought that to the national agenda. So in the end that has to do with the realities and maturity of societies and that relates directly to Civil Society. In many countries that is very much part of the national agenda or debate and in some countries you are lagging behind. Civil Society needs to keep working and it evolves.

FAAAT Think & Do Tank: The UN Plan of Action on drugs is a key element for the future. Why not adopt a bottom-up approach, where Member States could provide their own action plan to feed the UN debate. Are there plans in that way? How does the CND Chair value this idea? Don’t you think about the fact that after 2019 there will be no more UN Plan of action on drugs, isn’t that in some way undermining international coordination? What is the expectation of the chair?

CND Chair: I think that it’s ongoing – I think we are here at the UN to work. We are here to bridge the gaps. The fact that you’re putting together the realities from different countries, it really helps us reflect on the way forward and then when it comes to the plan of action, we have agreed to a number of commitments and then we can focus on implementation – 2009 and the implementation of UNGASS. In the end it’s always possible, there’s a lot of flexibility. The beauty is there is a way forward. We are committed to objectives that have limitations. Society is evolving, and that helps us a lot in terms of bridging the gaps. In the end, allowing for flexibility enables everyone to keep on facing this problem from different perspectives. They are listening to you, to the experts, to the problems – there is new hard data that helps us see whether our public policies are working – still gives us a lot of possibilities to continue to face a problem in the best possible way.

VNGOC Chair: We will take questions from the floor now.

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network: We organized a side event earlier this week to look at three country case studies – we named the countries that were relevant since that was pretty central to discussion. We were told we needed permission of the country in order to name them. We see there are other side events in which they are listed by name, so a country can refer to itself but Civil Society isn’t permitted to. Executive Director Fedotov said there’s no rule but that it’s a long standing tradition – freedom of expression of Civil Society must be limited by the rights of others. I understand political sensitivity but a bit arbitrary if countries can but Civil Society can’t. What are your thoughts?

CND Chair: Before I give my answer, why don’t you tell me – what is your take?

HIV/AIDS Legal Network: It seems to me that there is an unwarranted restriction on people who come here to speak about the reality of the world which is a perspective that is often not present at CND.

CND Chair: I understand – but that is me not answering as Chair. What we have is on the procedural side. Side events are not part of the official proceedings and not covered in rules but organizations in the framework of the missions as per the rules as approved by the Extended Bureau (EB). UNODC abides by the decisions of the EB. In EB meetings we decide how to organize things. The main sponsor of the event – finds its limits in rights of others. Event organizers cannot use the names of other organizations or countries without their involvement. This is what we have. On my personal take, I understand perfectly well, so I can bring this to the EB and see how we can do something about it. Let me see if as Chair I can raise this issue and see what can be done.

States can’t do without Civil Society. I remember how it was in Mexico in 2000. Now we have to sign all human rights treaties that we can, shaping internally, to speed up the human rights issue, but that is very different from what it was before. All of the problems that have been achieved to try to foster the level of human rights in Mexico. I am a firm believer that what you do is very important. You’re bringing a different perspective and good information, data. And just look at the way the language on drugs has changed. I am amazed at the change in language to include human rights and public health. So my call to you is to keep doing it. Your question is very pertinent.

Slumchild Foundation: One issue that keeps coming up from Africa in young people – can we request from you that the issue of young people comes up more in the engagements? Can you bring it more and more and more?

CND Chair: Thank you very much for that – very important issue. I’m the chair until December and will include that issue, very important.

Question [organization?]: I’m working on cannabis review at WHO. I know that was discussed earlier. Does the Commission and the chair plan to support countries to make sure we have adequate information between Vienna and Geneva?

CND Chair: I will go to Geneva very soon and I would love to see more collaboration and communication. More on the Mexican institutional side but my colleague there is very active. Let’s see how we can shape things – we can bring a little bit more cohesion into UN agencies. For me as an outsider – we will try to do more on that front and I will go to Geneva and will be happy to meet with you and see what your next steps are and what we can do. Last time we had director of WHO – live on Friday we’ll have UN Women Commission working at the same time – it comes back to the Secretary General’s ambitious reform.

NY NGO Committee on Drugs: Thank you so much for having these conversations with us, both here and in New York. As you know, the committees coordinated many efforts to facilitate Civil Society participation in the leadup to UNGASS – Civil Society hearings, consultations, reports and things like that – and we will continue to do the same for 2019. Sometimes we question the impact of some of our efforts—whether the Member States are reading the reports or sometimes it’s hard to get them to actually attend the hearings. What is your advice to us to motivate States to engage with these processes a bit more?

CND Chair:  What I would do in this regard – we are aware of your work on this. I would sit down with the EU – how can we enhance visibility or how can they be more visible or more present – what are the very important events – let me see how – you can see how much you are very much part of this process. You do your homework very well as evidence by Brandenburg, this is what we have, these are our mechanisms that work. We can plan what is the latest and I will take that with me and think about how we can do this.

Chair VNGOC: Well I’ll give you an update on what’s been happening. Another thing we have had was giving the CSOs on the local level opportunities to have some impact where they are working. During the process up to UNGASS we had consensus regarding the death penalty etc but we are divided on other issues. We have met with countries sometimes called hardliners but on a national level they are supporting much of the work. I don’t think it’s appropriate for NGOs to criticize them in this forum. We are trying very hard to foster communication to get all of the Member States to see Civil Society as a resource and not be afraid of them. Also in the statements, Member States are always talking about how important Civil Society is, but at the national level and at the funding level they are not.

CND Chair: I am taking with me what we said on these issues how can we work on this? Having a mechanism where everything is more expedited and we are more cohesively together. And bringing funding and engagement at the national level. Keep on striving, I’m very open to all of your work and let’s see how we can continue – even small steps are good and that’s the way we move forward. Listening to different voices very important. Also I will bring the Geneva back with me. You can reach out to me anytime. Thank you.

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