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NGO briefing on the Annual Report Questionnaire

Billy Batware, Civil Society Team, UNODC. We sent out an online survey last year and were pleased that civil society responded to the survey. The majority of those who responded seemed not to be sure or aware of who their government focal points were for the ARQ. I will give the word to Angela Me who will present the outcome of the survey.

Angela Me, UNODC. I want to give you an overview of the consultation. Last year, there was a CND resolution asking UNODC to start working on streamlining the existing data collection and analysis tools and improving the effectiveness of the ARQ. There was a call for UNODC, in collaboration with MS and UN entities to build the capacity of MS to fill in the questionnaire. We had ad hoc meetings to bring member states on the idea of how to proceed with the ARQ. After these consultations, everybody recognised the need to improve the global data collection system and insisted that there was wide country participation. Few donors and countries: Finland, NL, Germany, Norway funded an expert consultation with wide representation. We had a balanced gender and geographical representation at the meeting, with 52 countries, 5 global/regional organisations. Some also filled in the online questionnaire, including from civil society organisations.

Before the expert consultation, UNODC reviewed all the ARQ and the data to understand the gaps, as well as the quality of data provided. We produced a background document which shows issues to change, issues to cut and issues to add, also looking into the UNGASS outcome document and what to reflect in there.

On capacity building: the expert consultation had a day on the issue. The experts identified areas to move forward:

  • The development of methodological tools, such as cost-effective solutions for drug use data, on supply, and on prevention and treatment.
  • Strengthen coordination and information flows at national level with the building of national observatories.
  • Build networks of experts to share knowledge and experiences.

On the ARQ, we looked at the common situation in terms of reporting. On the proportion of countries which send responses on the ARQ: Europe is high, with the lowest proportion in Oceania and Africa. This year, however, we saw an improvement in Asia and Africa. We should thank Ambassador Bente who pushed countries to better report. We received a record high of ARQ: 118 this year.

In terms of how people fill out the questionnaire: we looked at the number of institutions contributing (most have 5 or more involved), and also on the workload, for many it involves 15 days or more of work. So this is a big burden on countries. This begs the question: how can we make it easier for member states to fill out the ARQ? Also, we need to check which information is never used. So we need to see what has to be cut out.

The experts discussed the following issues – which are reflected in the Conference Room paper produced for CND. The idea is to have some modules every year, on a rotating basis, to be sent out. We also discussed gender effectiveness, and the need to highlight more the questions on gender disparity. In terms of communications flow, we realised many do not know who fills in the ARQ. So we decided to create a focal point which is in charge of and tasked with the ARQ coordination. This is something we have for the crime data collection and could be applied here. We asked for this before but it was rejected by some member states on focal points. But this could help build the network we currently have. We then discussed the need for clarity, complexity and scope of definitions and concepts and we proposed a module for capacity building on each of the sections of the ARQ. We also discussed the lack of contextual information and the need for more structured metadata. We discussed also how we can use quantitative, qualitative and partial data, which reflects varying data collection capacities and capabilities. Finally we discussed NPS and how to incorporate a flexible category to report on NPS.

We then discussed synergies in relation to the ARQ and the need to coordinate with other regional and international organisations to ensure there is no duplication and there is complementarity. We also discussed the need to harmonise the concepts, not only regionally and internationally. For example: the issue of how we call the group of drug users interested in treatment. In the ARQ we call them ‘problem drug users’, the WDR call them ‘people with drug use disorders’, WHO uses another. We all need to use the same terminology. We also discussed the cross-checking of data collection and validation, and the need to minimise the reporting.

In terms of thematic discussions on the ARQ, there is a lot of discussion on the ARQ to reflect:

  • The needs of hidden and vulnerable populations of drug users
  • SDG indicator 3.5.1
  • drug supply data
  • links between drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime
  • drug related criminal activities using the internet
  • money laundering
  • the criminal justice system (and language associated with that, each language has a different system, with different entry points, how many are incarcerated for what, how many benefit from alternatives to incarceration – although there are some concerns on this)
  • alternative development and factors contributing to illicit cultivation.

More information is available on the UNODC website.

This question is also included in the chair’s modalities resolution. We want inputs from experts on this, but with suggestions that are tangible, on how to collect this information.

IDPC. IDPC has been working on the ARQs for years. We have also sent a letter last year to ask for more civil society engagement and so are happy to be here today. But could you please elaborate on what the next steps will be and how you will involve civil society and other UN agencies including OHCHR, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO? And how will you reflect both the UNGASS outcome document and the SDGs?

Transform. My question is similar on the SDGs: there is a mandate to synchronise and the SDGs are a valid framework to which the ARQ is striving to go towards. There is obvious cross-over on issues to HIV, factors contributing to illicit cultivation, gender, etc. Will the disaggregated data be made available in the interest of transparency?

UNODC. The next steps will be to take what we have in the Conference Room Paper and take this and develop a new draft questionnaire, and discuss the new questions with the Expert Consultation. One of the things we have advocated among member states is to keep the process technical, not political. The policy we have to measure is included in the 2 documents we currently have. We now need to understand how to measure what can be measured and what is feasible to measure. In the previous consultation, we were successful in having an expert consultation. in that sense, if you have inputs on the ‘how’, we are open to hear all the good suggestions, please provide this knowledge. We need to make sure we don’t leave anything out from the UNGASS outcome document, but this is a technical process. The more input you may have the more you will be able to influence the process.

On how to involve UN agencies, we continue to invite them but many don’t even reply. Please help us to show them that this is of interest with them.

Are you familiar with our web-portal? There you can find data on the ARQ. But the ARQ is also a huge questionnaire and most is not being used! We do have a web-portal where all the data is made available.

On the SDGs, what do you mean by reflecting the SDGs in the ARQ?

Steve Rolles, Transform. Effective drug policy is an essential part in delivering the SDGs. The SDGs are a conceptual framework to help us approach the ARQs, while the ARQs are a useful tool for demonstrating progress in achieving the SDGs. In practical terms, we wouldn’t incorporate the 169 indicators, but discussions are not exclusively that indicator. For example, the poverty goals in SDG 1 could inform a discussion on data that could be collected in the ARQ framework. The SSRC and International Peace Institute have just published a report on exactly this issue.

Marie Nougier, IDPC. Beyond the broader framework of the SDGs, quite a number of targets and indicators from the SDGs can be incorporated within the ARQ. We can provide our expertise here.

Angela, UNODC. We need to discuss the data, and the analytical framework. I am asking this question because we need helpful inputs which would be good for us to implement data collection in practice. This should remain manageable for member states.

Mirella, UNODC. On the role of civil society, I want to talk about the UN Convention against Corruption which starts with a self assessment countries have to do. Here it happens on more than one occasion that civil society did their own input to the self assessment before the government filled it. And they shared it with the government which welcomed these inputs and they worked together on this issue. This could also be an idea here.

Thanasis Apostolou, Diogenis. You said you don’t know who’s answering the questionnaires. Could you say something about Europe because we have focal points. Could you say a bit more about this? We need to make sure we use these focal points, and would it not be possible to have a more diverse way of answering to ensure that the focal points and EMCDDA data are better used.

Angela, UNODC. This depends on each country.

Danilo Ballotta, EMCDDA. We participated in the working group and are very active as the EU on this process. We have a paragraph on ARQ revision: ‘fit for all, fit for purpose’. The EC is considering supporting the work, but many questions are still ahead of us on how to reflect the UNGASS OD, how to streamline the ARQ, and how to invest in capacity building. There are many questions still ahead but I assure you that we work together with UNODC and want to see a good outcome out of this.

Zara Snapp. Instead of replicating the work, how could we use the indicators that are already being taken in by other UN agencies such as OHCHR and how these could be better used in this process. For instance they collect data on torture in detention, and these are not being reflected in the current ARQ. My other question is: how do we measure the impacts of policies on communities and individuals, and not looking just at the market as a whole – how do we see how drug policies impact on people’s lives.

Donald MacPherson, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. On CSO engagement: UNODC engages CSOs all the time in different areas. Here there is a lot of interest and work, there are many experts within society on what and how to measure. This can help further feed into these complex ideas. Some countries really do engage civil society in this process and this should be encouraged. And there are things that are not being measured and should be, for example the impact on human rights – some are more difficult to report on than others, but they have to be seen as important data.

Gloria Lai, IDPC. On the issue of how to collect data on treatment. UN agencies including UNODC focused on a statement on compulsory treatment. The issue now is how to report data on ‘treatment’, and so are there ways in which we can work on this issue so that people don’t report people in ‘treatment’ if they’re being held in compulsory detention centres. Data gathering requires a lot of capacity building and resources and many member states only report on arrests of people who use drugs. Is there more being done around gathering data on drug use? This should not focus on arrested people who use drugs.

Angela, UNODC. Other UN agencies are at a better place to collect data than UNODC. OHCHR for instance collect data but not on drug use. We need to work on this to find a way out as governments won’t report on human rights violations. Compulsory treatment is another example: we have a small box under treatment which asks whether treatment is compulsory but very few tick that box. When we did the questionnaire in 2009, we tried to incorporate these issues, and here we need to continue thinking of how to collect data, and how to better define the concepts through which we collect information. On measuring the impact of drug policies on people’s lives – this is a good question and if you have an answer let us know. There are some macro level information we can collect through the ARQ: how many people died or went to treatment. There are also questions on overdose prevention and we could include information on access to naloxone. But we may not be able to be as comprehensive in the ARQ. However, we are willing to get inputs from you. Finally, on drug use, there are a lot of discussions on how to collect information on drug use. We need a new way of integrating surveys on drug use where there is stigma. We are experimenting different types of surveys at UNODC to address this.

Dave Bewley Taylor, GDPO/IDPC. when we discuss a mechanism we need to explain why we do it. Here, the ARQ feeds into the WDR – so what do we want to see in the WDR? It is a two way process. When we talk about improving intersections between ARQ and human rights, we need to ensure that drug policy is mentioned in other UN agencies so that they can gather data on drugs issues, and also throughout the SDG processes. This will enable embedding and mainstreaming. For me, there needs to be an awareness of data sets available elsewhere. SDGs being a good structure, we should allow UNODC WDR to take into account broader data, not just the SDGs – and think this through by assessing the utility of the WDR, and the need to ensure more systemwide coherence.

Billy, UNODC. Thank you for coming, we will continue with our work and will tell you about the upcoming processes, and please feel free to contact us. But we have to think through the ‘how’ here. We welcome these ideas.

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