Side Event: The role of civil society in the implementation of the UNGASS 2016 outcome

Organized by the Vienna NGO Committee and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Civil Society Team.

Esbjorn Hornberg, VNGOC

We have organised this side event to report on what we have done with the UNGASS Outcome Document – because we are asked this question by member states. There will be a full report in due course, but today is a glimpse of what we have done. As civil society, we have the opportunity to attend most of the meetings at CND now, and we held a special hearing with the UN Secretary General in New York before the UNGASS. At present, the civil society task force is still mentioned in the resolution being negotiated this week. So what is our impact, and what can we do in the year leading up into 2019. The drugs issue is now incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Mirella Dummar-Frahi, UNODC Civil Society Team

The Beyond 2008 was one of the first moments of cooperation between civil society groups engaged in the drugs debate. This inspired the efforts for the UNGASS, at which the Civil Society Task Force was created. One of the deliverables from these preparations was the NGO Marketplace platform. This was designed to allow all NGOs in one place, and so we can know what work is being done, but also for member states to know. I am pleased to know that there is a new Civil Society Task Force in place in time for 2019, to take the opportunities that emerge from the modalities this week. There is also an official Memorandum of Understanding between UNODC and VNGOC, outlining the objectives and goals of both organisations in this regard. You have a lot of opportunities here to interact with governments here, but it is also important to continue the conversation back home and outside of the CND as well. As we prepare for the 2019 Ministerial Meeting, the more that we can help NGOs in regions around the world to advance the dialogue, the better. I want to thank the government of Russia, which has funded the NGO Marketplace.

Yulia Kalinina, Russia

Russia is happy to be part of this side event and to facilitate cooperation with civil society. This work will be very important on the road to 2019. Here in CND, our governments negotiate the drug policies. But NGOs have an important role in implementing things on the ground. In this sense, Russia has supported the UNODC initiative to develop the NGO Marketplace tool to enable interaction between NGOs around the globe to share experiences, projects and challenges. This has generated huge interest among the NGO community, and we hope that in the future this tool can become a fully-fledged network for sharing information.

Lisa Sanchez, MUCD (Mexico)

I want to share the Mexican experience, as it does have a number of qualities and lessons learned from almost a decade of experience of partnership with government and civil society. This is the sixth year I am on the official Mexican delegation, and this engagement of civil society has now been institutionalised by my country. This allows us to take part in the negotiation processes and to witness first hands the agreements which affect our lives on the ground. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is a permanent group meeting every two months to discuss issues and international fora such as COPOLAD and CICAD. This is a mixed group of people working on different issues, and allows a permanent dialogue – including amongst ourselves. We also held a series of thematic meetings with all government agencies to raise awareness of the UNGASS Outcome Document, share lessons from other countries, and reach a conclusion of 103 actions and recommendations for Mexico to implement the Outcome Document – in collaboration with civil society where feasible. This was done with the Inter-American Commission, so reporting is also made to CICAD every year. This allows us to monitor to progress against the things that the Outcome Document says. In Mexico, we have several challenges with treatment, recovery, harm reduction and security – so having these dialogues and the permanent mechanism to implement the latest international consensus allows to us to work in a coordinated way. The mechanism will continue, and the reporting will continue – and we are hopeful that this relationship will help us achieve results.

George Odalo, Slum Child Foundation (Kenya)

Slum Child Foundation works with women and children in the slums of Nairobi, and I speak from my experience as a street child. Substance abuse remains a challenge to sustainable development. In Africa, achieving a drug-free world remains a challenge due to the poverty levels. This cannot only be addressed by governments, but also calls for the hand of civil society and various donor agencies. If we do not work together, it will be in vain. In Kenya, our organisation has worked hard to bridge gaps between policy makers and the national and regional level, and the implementers. Accessing politicians is very hard, but if you get an opportunity to reach them in places such as this it can help. Before UNGASS, we came with a document to capture the perspectives of the voices of the voiceless – the children in the slums. These are the most vulnerable people, but lack a platform to share their voices and link them to the policies. We have partnered with the Drug Free Futures network with more than three-hundred members. We have come up with something called ‘Ten Steps for Africa’. We work with a number of schools in the slums, to let them know about the international policies and how these affect their lives. We want them to be the future leaders, so we tell then what is happening in their own language – not in a technical way. We also partnered with the World Federation Against Drugs. We follow-up from the UNGASS with the government, to ensure that the information reaches us on the ground. Last month, we engaged the government through a caucus that brings together 60 organisations. But we lack the resources to ensure that these things are effectively done. We met with the government here in Vienna too. We have people working with the terminally ill, people working with HIV/AIDS, but drug issues cut across all of them. Finally, we are a beneficiary of the NGO Marketplace and I believe that it will play an effective role for 2019. If you do not have a way to connect with organisations, but through the NGO Marketplace you can make the connections.

Peter Calvache, the IT consultant behind the design of the platform, then presented the NGO Marketplace and what it can do. The new version of the NGO Marketplace has been designed like a Facebook or Twitter feed so that you can share information and updates. It is simple to create a profile for the NGO Marketplace – it only takes a few minutes. You can also search the database to find relevant organisations. The NGO Marketplace is also available in English and a number of different languages.

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