Home » Voices of Civil Society: Beyond 2019 – CSTF civil society hearing in Vienna

Voices of Civil Society: Beyond 2019 – CSTF civil society hearing in Vienna

Jamie Bridge, Co-Chair of the Civil Society Task Force, Chair of VNGOC: Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to this Civil Society Hearing. We hope that the discussions today can play a valuable role in the ongoing preparations for the Ministerial Segment of the 62nd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs – as member states negotiate a new Ministerial Declaration that paves the way for the next decade of drug policies. Today, we will hear opening remarks from the CND Chair, the UNODC Executive Director and our co-host, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland. Then Dr Sheila Vakharia will present the full results of the global civil society consultation – in which more than 460 NGOs from around the world gave us their thoughts about the 2009 Political Declaration and its targets, the 2016 UNGASS outcomes, the 2019 Ministerial Segment, and the Sustainable Development Goals. We will then hear from a panel of civil society speakers who will bring us their views on the road ahead beyond 2019. These panelists were selected by the Civil Society Task Force following a global open call. They come from a range of different regions and perspectives, reflecting the variety and diversity that remains a strength of the civil society sector in this area. Many have been able to travel here today from all over the world, with support from our donors Norway, Russia, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. There will also be plenty of time today for questions and answers from the floor – it is our hope that this will be a truly interactive discussion. First, however, I would like to say a few words about the Civil Society Task Force, or CSTF. It is a joint initiative of the New York and Vienna NGO Committees on drugs, which themselves represent hundreds of NGOs from around the world. The Task Force comprises 35 civil society members – each representing a region, community or key issue. It is our role to advocate for civil society engagement in the UN processes, and to ensure that opportunities are made available to the widest possible range of NGOs. Civil society has an important part to play – in these debates, in the development and evaluation of drug policies, and at the front line in terms of advocacy, research and service delivery. We work with, and represent, the people affected by drug policies on the ground. Over the past year, the Civil Society Task Force has worked hard to ensure that NGO speakers have been represented throughout the lead-up to the Ministerial Segment – including the autumn intersessionals, which were a great success from our perspective. In addition to speaker selection, we have conducted the global survey, as well as organizing Hearings here today and in New York last week. Furthermore, as mandated by CND resolution 61/10, the Civil Society Task Force has selected two panelists for the roundtable debates at the Ministerial Segment itself. Finally, we have released our final report, which I am delighted to have available for you all here today. It remains important that we are able to bring these perspectives to the table at the UN – here in Vienna but also at fora such as the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the World Health Assembly. Here at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, civil society participation is as strong as it has ever been, and this needs to be reinforced and reflected in the Ministerial Declaration that is currently being negotiated in Vienna. One final comment from me – I would just quickly like to acknowledge our co-hosts Switzerland for their support, as well as to Dr Vakharia for all of her help developing and analyzing the consultation, Sarah Pirker and the Board from the VNGOC, Samantha Singh from IDPC for supporting the logistics of this meeting today, and Heather Haase, Benjamin Phillips and colleagues from the New York NGO Committee for their hard work and support throughout the past year. I would now like to hand over to His Excellency Ambassador Mirghani Bakhet, the CND Chair, for his opening remarks. Thank you, Ambassador, for being with us here today.

Ambassador Mirghani Abbaker Altayeb Bakhet (Sudan, Chair of CND): Thank you for organizing this event. In my capacity as chair I welcome the efforts of the CSTF and conducting this project prior to 2019. The commission recognizes the need to promote strong partnerships with and including the voices of civil societies is very important to the CND in addressing and countering the world drug problem. The active involvement of CSOs in our discussions is essential in carrying out our global commitments. I commend the work of the VGNOC and the CSTF as they have offered important contributions in the preparations for the general assembly in 2016, sharing practical experiences of the work on the ground and continue to do so in the follow-up process including the thematic decisions that took place last fall. I encourage CSO representatives to continue their active participation in CND meetings and make constructive contributions to the 2019 ministerial segment. As chair, I confirm the commitment of the commission to work together with CSOs and I will carry on exchanging with NGO representatives during the upcoming march session. I look forward to hearing more of the results. Thank you for inviting me, wish you all success.

Chair: Thank you, we look forward to work with you throughout the year as well.

Yuriy Fedotov (UNODC): Welcome to this very important meeting that we are happy to hold here in the UNOV. Thanks for the CND chair for remarks and leadership and thanks for the CSTF for this event. With the ministerial segment is around the corner today is an appropriate time to hear from our civil society partners and experts. It is also a chance for MS to learn more about the global civil society consultation. The results confirm we share many concerns and have achieved progress in the past decade in collaboration. I was glad to see that 75% of the respondents believe the UNGASS outcome is a helpful tool in their work. As for us, the UNODC, we take it as a guidance for projects on the field and continue to support MS to implement the UNGASS recommendations on the field. CSOs are indispensable partners in promoting the safety of families and communities. I want to thank all the CSOs and the dedicated staff who works on the field who provide help to people in need. I limit myself to a few developments to share from our side at the UNODC:
We finalized a new prevention program for parents that is tailored specifically to address displaced persons that proved to be effective in the prevention of drug use and violence and support children in very difficult life settings. Our office is looking for new treatment for people in psychological turmoil and associated drug-related behaviors. The commission endorsed an important resolution in countering stigma and discrimination so we are working on enhancing access to treatment for people who use drugs. We work on disseminating the handbook we produced with the WHO about treatment for people in contact with the criminal justice system – more than one dialogue has been facilitated with relevant partners on this important topic. We continue to comprehensively address the world drug problem with respect to human rights – this includes drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime. We also support alternative development to divert illicit cultivation – soon the UNODC will launch a specialty coffee from an AD project developed in Myanmar. This demonstrates how important public and private partnership is in achieving the SDGs, peace, security and realization of human rights. NGOs are a very important part of this through their support in preparation for 2019 – this is a very important factor from UNGASS. CSOs played an active role in the meeting focused on the UNGASS follow-up process with over 80 representatives addressing the CND – I commend and thank you for your contribution and encourage to further strengthen this collaboration.

Ambassador Claude Wild (Switzerland): It is A great honor to open this meeting together with Mr. Fedotov and the chair of CND. Thank you to the CSTF and involved partners for having gathered important stakeholders to identify important common grounds in addressing the world drug problem. Over a decade passed since 2009 and UNGASS was a crucial step in shifting drug policies towards greater focus on health and human rights. Civil Societies were key actors in contributing to the improvement of the debate and major driver of change. This new direction is proving to be an integral part of all our reflections in this area as drug related issues affect pop up in many ways, so we have to work together on many issues. Since its launch, the CSTF has worked relentlessly to serve as the liaison in preparation for UNGASS and the upcoming HLMS, so in its various activities, the CSTF effectively ensured a structured balanced effective participation of CSOs – this report brilliantly points out the most important points. I’d like to underscore that an open and constructive dialogue between MS since UNGASS has been facilitated by CND to compare diff approaches and measures with the intent to apply the recommendations of UNGASS. An inclusive approach should guide us towards CND, when we take stock of the commitments. The inclusive approach should guide us in the years to come and further cooperation between MS, UN entities, the academic sector and civil society. The work of CSTF is further proof of civil society’s commitment to engage as a serious and competent partner, in line with participatory logic contained in the 2030 agenda – societies will only accept transformation if people feel their voices has been heard. Switzerland believe CSOs play a crucial role int he functioning of the multilateral system.

Dr. Sheila Vakharia, Researcher: Greetings, I am giving you’re a brief overview of our survey. First, about the methodology then about progress since 2009, implementation since 2016, NGO’s work towards SDGs. The two largest represented regions were Europe (25%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (22%). The majority of respondents endorsed extending the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action goals to 2029, even though there had been some or significant regression perceived over the past decade with achieving the goals. Respondents from different regions had notably different experiences of the drug policy landscape over the past decade, which was reflected in their diverging assessments of progress and regression. These are explored more deeply in the report. The majority (75%) of NGO respondents felt that their work advanced or supported the aims of one or more of the five goals. Respondent views were most divided on Goal 1 for illicit crop reduction: 41 percent of respondents disagreed with extending this goal to 2029 and offered alternative goals in its place. The most consensus among respondents (73% agreement) was for the extension of Goal 5 to reduce money laundering. The respondents were also divided in their assessment of the goal of a “World Free of Drug Abuse” – with the largest number of respondents (50% of the sample) indicating that this goal should not be extended beyond 2019. The vast majority (70%) of respondents indicated that the entire UNGASS Outcome Document should be integrated into the next declaration or outcome, since it is the most recent consensus document. The majority of respondents (75%) indicated that the UNGASS Outcome Document was a helpful tool for their work.  However, most respondents had not yet begun to see any notable local or national changes relating to the UNGASS Outcome Document and its operational recommendations. Almost all (95%) of respondents felt as though their NGO’s work addresses at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and 19% of respondents felt as though they work towards all 17 Goals. 92 percent of respondents reported that

their NGO worked to address SDG 3, which focuses upon health and well-being. Other SDGs most advanced and supported by the respondents were those on peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16), gender equality (Goal 5), quality education (Goal 4), and tackling poverty (Goal 1). These results show that much of the work of civil society organizations in the area of drugs can actually be defined as cross-cutting. Consultation results can be found at https://www.cstfondrugs.org/cstf-for-ungass-2016/activities/global-civil-society-drug-survey/

Chair: There is a lot data there, thank you Sheila. We have a few minutes for questions you might want to ask dr. Vakharia and we will leave some time at the end of the event for a broader Q&A.

United States: Thank you. Regarding table 1, were individuals able to click one of three or are these potentially overlapping?

Dr. Sheila Vakharia: It was an open-ended question with 1200 responses altogether. Many things individual respondents said was unique to their circumstances so that is why the numbers don’t add up to 461.

Canada: In the leadup to CND, there is a lively debate about what should be done with the 5 targets set in 2009 so it was interesting to see the data on the CSOs’ views. It seems that the majority favored extending the 5 targets but also supported adding the operational recommendations from UNGASS. You spoke about reasons for not renewing but I’m more interested in the reasons for renewing them. I know a lot of CSOs and MS share the view that progress has been difficult and my impression is that these 5 are unbalanced – maybe a I am speaking from the benefit of hindsight but in 2016 we identified a much larger ranges of priorities. Could you into details about the reasons for renewing the targets?

Dr. Sheila Vakharia: That is one of the limitations of our instrument that we didn’t ask for this. eve when people check no, there were a number of people who justified the goals. Certain people had issues with certain words in the goals and not a broader critique.

Nigeria: Fascinating presentation, I took note on the fact that majority that took part were from Europe and Latin America. Africa has seen this it as a challenge to gather data. Could it be that the 5 goals are seen as not so relevant because of ineffective data collection? I looked at the aspect of society free of drugs… perhaps free of drug abuse would be more fortunate. Do you think these goals not must be achieved to be successful, we are today talking about new goals in terms of SDG – we actually strive to achieve a world free of poverty but it is an aspiration, so do you think we should not have aspirations as goals?

Dr. Vakharia: I can only give information based on what our respondents said. It was clear from the exercise that people were willing to suggest new goals and most of them were aspirational as well. I agree on the first comment; the regional variations are favorable to Europe and Latin America. What I see in regional responses in response to Goal 1, consistently two of the least represented regions sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, they said they saw increased efforts. What I shown you are aggregated numbers and figures, so you are absolutely right. Part of the challenge of this survey is that it was done online and it had to be done in one sitting so if people have no consistent connectivity, it would have been an issue in terms of limitations of representation.

Mexico: We attach a huge importance to civil society participation and this meeting has proved once again that CSO involvement is key in addressing the world drug problem – you have played an amazing role. It is mandatory for these plural and substantive discussion to be fostered. Looking forward to the HLMS, it is crucial to pay attention to CSO as well as experts on the field. In the implementations of UNGASS 2016, we undoubtedly will reach or goal to learn what has worked and what hasn’t. It is of highest importance to conduct inclusive coordinated dialogues with all relevant agencies and actors considering the crosscutting and multi-dimensional nature of the world drug problem.  We call on the UNODC, UNDP, UN Women, the OHCHR the WHO, among others, to support us implementing the UNGASS recommendations and overcome any resistance to change. We need an effective UN system and, on the national level, recognizing the changing reality, Mexico is willing to review our own drug policies to better incorporate human rights, gender specific factors, appropriate rehabilitation and treatment services; and cross-coordinate with respect to social and criminal justice perspectives. I am impressed with the results presented today, it will be certainly taken into consideration and we hope those who work close to people will actually impact the future of drug policy with respect WHO and INCB recommendations.

Claude Wild (Switzerland): Congrats on this work on collecting and processing these fascinatingly diverse opinions… I have a question in regards to Human Rights: one would assume that it correlates with drug control activities, do your results imply that human rights are not taken into consideration when applying drug control measures?

Dr. Vakharia: HR was explicitly mentioned twice – First in goal1 41% thought it should not be extended and referenced the human rights of growers and farmers. They felt as though farmers were criminalized, exploited and not treated as autonomous individuals. Second, in terms of progress, trends and setbacks. Communities felt the essential rights of PDU has not been respected. Some had seen a negative trend, families being torn apart, PDU disconnected from their families and having their lives or being denied the same liberties other members of society were enjoying.

Chair: Now on with NGO presentations.

Subhan Hamonangan, Rumah Cemara (Indonesia): At present, NGOs’ work in drug policy field remains left behind-at the periphery of decision-making forum -that would ensure the voice of people who use drugs are heard, accommodated and reflected by policies at all levels. The 2016 Outcome Document includes civil society organization on several points, but none that would certify the involvement of civil society in decision making process including guiding the development and implementation of policies that affect the community of people who use drugs both globally and at national level. This has been the common situation not only at Global but also at national levels and it needs to be rectified. The process for a review of drug control should be based on transparent, evidence-based, inclusive and people-centered approaches to reflect progress -or lack thereof, to reflect the ongoing use of targets focusing on eliminating drug markets and the establishment of a society free of drugs, with much honesty and genuineness and consideration on public health-based approaches along with established scientific basis. It is clear that drug policies at the moment are not compatible with the public health crisis that is threatening the world such as HIV/AIDS and other co-morbidities such as Hepatitis C and TB. CSOs/NGOs with their plethora of experiences, understanding firsthand the current and continuously shifting and changing drug situation and appropriate response to which people who use drugs are in the best position to provide guidance for drug policy development at global and national levels. Yet, statements in each point are implying that CSOs and NGOs have not the capacity and ability to contribute in deciding the direction of drug policies. The expectation is to see CSOs and NGOs roles in decision making forum at global and national levels, with equal standing as other members from government and other relevant bodies. To see that communities have their voices represented, heard and followed up to save more lives than it is currently taking place. I believe, the most appropriate and immediate affair is for the UN to facilitate discussion concerning CSOs and NGOs participating mechanism at all decision-making forum. Participation should be meaningful and not mere as tokenism, with equal vote as any members of the forum. One of the most important things is the development of Multilateral Agreement which asks the country members to ratify such mechanisms in country and to remove the legal barriers that limit community-led responses. In a country like where I come from, Indonesia, where war on drugs approach used as law enforcement, repression against people who use drugs, imprisonment and mandatory detention, have continuously put people away from getting access to life-saving services, including what is evident such as harm reduction. In fact, we have seen, in recent years, significant reduction and closure of harm reduction programs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in Asia and the Pacific, and in Latin America and the Caribbean. This situation can only get worse as many donors are transitioning out and many countries are moving towards domestic funding scheme. With the current level of political willingness, and the continuous shrinking space of civil society, I believe we will come back in ten years’ time and talking of the same issue. I urge the UN, through its agencies, and Member States to put people before politics. Putting faces on the numbers, recognizing the importance of differentiated and people-centered approach, recognizing the importance of civil society roles in decision making, and allowing evidence-based programming to take place. Thank you, Madame Chair

Mousa A. Daoud, The Jordan Anti Drugs Society: Thank you. I will be talking about NGO’s. Challenges & Opportunities, namely (1) Lack of Long-Term Strategic Planning: Our NGOs appear to be incapable of predicting what they will do even in one or two months. Most of their activities look like one-time shots. However, a single event is not enough to change the attitude towards some problem. (2) Poor Cooperation with Mass Media – Most of our NGOs rely on journalists when organizing an event: they expect they would come and cover everything. (3) Lack of Commitment: We see birth and death of NGOs. This turnover is a normal process. However, they often disappear because their members were not persistent enough. (4) Lack of Feedback and Social Support Suppresses Enthusiasm:  There is a lot of heterogeneity in why people get engaged in NGOs. However, whatever their motivation is, when people cannot get that sense of belonging to their community and do not have their contribution appreciated. (5) Unwillingness to Cooperate with Each Other: Activists appear to create their NGOs as some “closed world”. We saw situations when organizations doing the same kind of work were not willing to cooperate on any joint projects. (6) Politization of NGOs: Some organizations register as NGOs and then “suddenly” become political platforms. Secondly, some NGOs announce about their support of a particular political parts. (7) Lack of Professional Experience of Working in narcotics:  Very often young people get excited with such ideas. They have much enthusiasm but they lack experience and professional skills. (8) Fear of Grants and International Cooperation: It is a real problem to find an NGO in Jordan willing to work with foreign partners rather than simply be a mass-media star. In conclusion, our NGOs are often powered by enthusiasm of young people but enthusiasm is an unsteady emotion but without public support, NGOs gradually lose their enthusiasm. NGOs often become a political platform that makes public doubt about their real purpose even though members of NGO should be professionals in the area they work. Lifelong learning should be a personal motto of each activists of NGO. However, we’ve seen potential opportunities – During the next 10 years, an increase is to be expected in the number of self-help groups, green groups, advocacy and public education groups, groups with major work in Jordan and an increased capacity to mobilize community resources with NGO staff team growing in capability and willingness  beside skills. I can offer the following recommendations for NGO capacity building: Strategic Planning: help NGOs develop strategic plans which would enable them to have ownership and fulfillment over their vision, mission, values and activities. Corporate Governance to help NGOs build strong governance and accountability mechanisms, and high credibility. Evidence‐based practices in management and Knowledge sharing for innovations.

[VIDEO] Rajiv Kafle, Nava KiranPlus (Nepal): Warm greetings. I am here and I’m not clean. I find this very significant because that makes me a criminal in most countries. Thank you for this space today to allow me to speak. You might also be a mother, father, brother, sister or a friend of someone who uses banned drugs – let me ask you this: Do you think the world is a safer place? Are you confident for the future of your children? After 30 years, it is clear that a drug-free world is not possible. Let’s be realistic, drugs are not bad in itself, otherwise not myself and many others wouldn’t use it. The way we tried people from using it made it look like a monster. We learned that drugs are bad and just say no. When I came into this world, my country had not a drug problem, but a politically motivated so-called war on drugs has started and that is the only war on a substance and not among people of countries. I am lucky to be a veteran of this war. I use the drugs often that are approved by the government and those that are not. The reason for me to speak up about injustices is because I believe I have the right to decide what I do with my body and allow future generations to make right decisions, so they can live in a world where policies are made based on scientific evidence and services are offered with compassion and care. We had a much better drug policy in Nepal before the war on drugs, that is a war on people. It is not drugs that are necessarily causing the biggest harm. I am taking care of 25 kids orphaned by AIDS. I caught HIV over 20 years ago not because I didn’t know the risks but because my government thought that handing out clean syringes will promote the use of harmful drugs.
Here is how a useful drug policy should like for a safer future: decriminalizing personal possession, cultivation and personal use, so users don’t have to engage with the criminal underworld, sensible evidence based regulation has to be rooted in human rights so all law enforcement respects our human rights and our decision to handle our bodies, focus shift to strict regulation of businesses instead of consumers and finally, dissemination truthful balanced information of all drugs.

Hanne Cecilie Widnes, Strong&Clear/IOGT Norway:  Good morning everyone! My name is Hanne Cecilie Widnes, I am a trained sociologist and I work as Secretary General in IOGT Norway which briefly described is a member organization that works so that people can live free and meaningful lives. We do work in the field of prevention, social work and rehabilitation. I am happy to be able to present to you our drug prevention program Strong & Clear whose main objective is to mobilize parents to make a difference in their communities. The UNGASS Outcome Document makes reference to the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention as a guide to choose effective interventions. The Standards point at the important role of parents at all stages of development, from a child is born, through childhood and adolescence. This corresponds very well with the experience and the approach of IOGT. We have developed the Strong&Clear program and see this as one of our contributions to the implementation of the recommendations from UNGASS in 2016. Time has come for action, parents should be mobilized and we are happy to share how this can be done. What you see here are the parents of the 9th graders of a secondary school in my own neighborhood in Oslo, which is the closest you come to a big city in Norway. And here you see another group of parents of 8th graders. They live in a totally different environment up in a small community in the mountain area in Norway called Bø. Both these pictures are from meetings in our program Strong & Clear. Each year we meet more than 5000 parents in such settings all over Norway and in all types of communities. Our core message is that parents -whether they live in a city or in a small village -could and should be the most important drug prevention agents in their communities–but that is given that they do the right things. That is what Strong & Clear is about; to train parents to be better parents. This is why we focus solely on the parents in this program and only meet with them and let them do the most important prevention work for their children. Strong &Clear was initiated in 1997, it is funded by government grants, it is fully in line with the International Standards on Drug Prevention on parenting skills programmes. The program was created to prevent underage alcohol use and use of illicit drugs -mainly cannabis-among teenagers. We believe that preventing drug and alcohol use among these wannabe-adults is only possible if it is perceived as attractive, natural and easy to make alcohol and drugfree choices–not only for adolescents, but also for young adults and for parents as myself. That is one of the reasons why there should be an overreaching goal for all societies to reduce drug use prevalence. This will not only lower the number of problematic drug users but it will also reduce the number of young people who are exposed to drug use in their peer groups, in their society and in their homes. The drug use prevalence in Norway is low –among the lowest in Europe –and it is important to keep it that way – or better to reduce it. So why do we spend all our effort on parents instead of targeting their children directly? That is because we have good knowledge of the fact–supported by new research –that parents can have a huge influence on their youngsters ‘drug-and alcohol se. We experience that too many parents do not believe this.  But they are happy to be told. And they are also grateful that we offer concrete advice and tools on how to act as an adult community to protect their own children. The stakeholders in this program are both the School Management and the Parent Working Committees in the respective schools. Parents are not only responsible for their own children, but they also serve as local politicians, football coaches, religious leaders, journalists, opinion leaders and teachers in their community. Changes in the parent group can positively influence the whole local community. So what are our core advices to parents on effective preventive behavior? I’ll present this to you in four bullet points: 1) Set boundaries and express restrictive attitude towards under-age drinking and use of cannabis. Youngsters want their parents to set boundaries. We know that it is easier for parents to set boundaries in their own families if they are given an opportunity to meet and do it as a group. It is also easier if they are presented concrete suggestions for rules to agree upon for their kids.2)Parents own limited or non-existent use of alcohol and cannabis has an important preventive effect on their own children and on whether drugs are perceived as normal or not in the local society.3)Parents need to have knowledge about harms connected to use of alcohol and cannabis and to discuss this with their children4)Parents need to invest time and love in a good relationship with their children. And this is how we do it: The Strong & Clear method consists of three elements: 1.We arrange 4 parent meetings during secondary school where parents are offered information, case studies and group discussions and last but not least –the possibility to network. We know that parents of teenagers don’t naturally meet each other as often as in earlier school days when they used to follow their children everywhere. 2.Strong & Clear gives funds to the Parents Committee in each school for parents and their teenagers to arrange an activity together. 3.Strong & Clear invites teenagers to sign a deal agreeing to spend their three secondary years without using alcohol and other drugs. Every year one of the 10th graders wins the prize:2000 Euro to spend on the driver license. This is an attractive prize and gives the youngsters a good excuse in their peer group to say no to drugs. And we know that this works: The evaluation of the program shows that the parents who joined the program were more engaged with the topic, their attitudes toward adolescents’ alcohol use became more restrictive and they were more reluctant to give alcohol to their children.  As a result, their children initiated alcohol use later than their peers. They used less alcohol and were more rarely intoxicated compared to their equals. The subject of illicit drugs has lately been given much more attention in Strong&Clear. We know that there is a strong connection between the use of alcohol and illicit drugs. Therefore, we have good reasons to expect that Strong & Clear will have a preventive effect also on the use of cannabis. Thank you for your attention, and please don’t hesitate to contact us for any questions about Strong & Clear or IOGT Norway.

Juan Ballestas Murcia, Trenza Foundation (Colombia): The drug policy reform movement has won numerous battles against the ‘war on drugs’ at international seminars, forums and workshops, but, in many places around the world, such as Colombia, it has not been able to win the majority of the public opinion, nor large segments of the population including various of the very communities that number among the past and current victims of that war. Without a wider ideological consensus, a drug policy reform is doomed to fail. In Colombia, during the last two decades, drug policy reform activism has been centered mainly on public health issues and human rights concerns. These issues were relegated to the domain of experts and technical solutions. This has been related to a particular view of drug policy reform aimed at drug users as its main beneficiary. This is partly explained, in my opinion, because the priorities of drug policy reform have been largely inspired by the innovative experiences of countries of the global north, which of course answer to their needs as user countries. These needs are not the same as those of producer countries. Though not incompatible neither mutually exclusive, these two approaches have different objectives: on the one hand there is an emphasis on the market and the ways of accessing goods without violence, while minimizing public health perils. On the other, the emphasis is put on the need of a different international drug policy regime, out of the premise that production, commercialization, and use of drugs have produced dispossession and privilege relations in producer countries and regions. The production of coca, marihuana, and poppy in our countries has caused social, economic, cultural and political impacts similar to the ones effected by sugar cane, cacao, rubber, coffee, among other commodities. The latter approach poses the challenge of thinking about the links between drug policy and the broader discussions about development models in the global south. In part, this was one of the goals of the drug policy item in the peace accords signed in 2016 between the former government and the FARC guerilla, which contained a vision of drug policy reform as inseparable from political and rural reforms. The peace accords opened an opportunity to discuss some structural problems of Colombian society. The link between drug reform and the development model was again made evident in two key figures created by the agreement, namely, the development plans with territorial emphasis and the integral plan for the substitution of illicit crops. This gave rise to a renewal of political participation and social mobilization in rural areas historically characterized by the presence of violence. Suárez, at the Cauca department, was one of the municipalities that in this context enjoined a moderate but significant transformation in its political landscape. Supported by the Trenza Foundation and the Latin-American Thinking Center Raizal, the three main social organizations of Suarez (Cabildo Indígena Nasa Cerro Tijeras, Asociación de consejos afrocolombianos de Suárez y la asociación de campesinos Asocordilleras) created the Intercultural Peace School Benicio Flor, named after a social leader killed in 2015. This was projected to be an intercultural space to build a Common Good Living Plan in order to structure and canalize the Suarez rural communities ‘struggles. Throughout different discussions on the illicit crops in the region, it was clear the link between the development model imposed upon those communities and the growth of illicit economies. Thus, the strategy implemented to reduce illicit crops was based on policies such as national plans to build rural infrastructure (roads, electric plants, aqueducts), subsidies to peasant, afro and indigenous communities, as well as communitarian strategies for voluntary substitution of illicit crops. It would be a lie to say that all rural communities in Colombia are for a drug reform policy. As I said before there are large segments of the population that still don’t feel represented and recognized in progressive agendas. Nonetheless, it is true that all communities do want to take part in the peace building processes in their territories. Colombia’s current far-right government is not committed to the defense and implementation of the peace accords in all its components: political participation guarantees, rural reform, transitional justice, let alone the problem of drugs and illicit crops. Although there have been significant responses from civil society in defense of the peace accords and other related progressive reforms, social majorities remain in favor of reactionary agendas. We cannot overlook the fact that just in the last three years we lost a plebiscite for peace and a citizen consultation against corruption. In spite of the scientific and technical evidence showing the need of overcoming the current ‘war against drugs’ paradigm; in spite of the clinical research, pilots and innovative experiences on different fields of public health and citizen security, we, the progressive sectors, haven’t been able to persuade the core of public opinion, let alone win an electoral majority. This is the case not only for Colombia. All around the world authoritative and neo-fascist movements are on the rise, in some cases even getting hold over political power. This has been accompanied by the systematic assault against different populations and demands, such as the LGBTI movement, women’s rights, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, migrants, climate change and environmentalist measures, among others. Those of us who are campaigning for a drug policy reform must stop and think. We must evaluate the sort of activism that we are doing. Why is it that we are failing? In my opinion this question takes us again into the distinction between a liberal approach to drug policy reform focused on the drug market and its externalities; and a more comprehensive one that emphasizes social justice, primarily for the most affected communities and countries. The predominance of the technical view in the former leads to a depolarization of the drug policy field: the kingdom of experts has no room for common and ordinary citizens. It also, and very importantly, isolates this debate from other agendas. On the contrary, the reactionary camp has understood the importance of articulating their opposition to drug reform with other agendas informed by anti-immigrant platforms, climate change denial, assaults on minority rights, anti-feminism, so on so forth. It’s a whole cultural block that we are disputing over: a new hegemony, not a particular reform aiming at legalizing some substances and delivering them to the market. It may even be that the liberal approach ends up being compatible with the maintenance of neo-liberal politics and the rise of neofascism. The Colombian example, again, is illustrative on this aspect. While the government promotes the fumigation of illicit crops and rural communities ’territories, we are witnessing an increasing presence of international investments from the pharmaceutical cannabis industry, within a context of exclusion of small producers. We must realize that we are fighting in favor of a practice of freedom much deeper than the freedom of consumption and the freedom of entrepreneurship that lies behind the capitalist liberal approach. We are fighting for the freedom of self-determination of individuals, but also of communities. Hence the crucial importance of restorative measures for the communities that have suffered the most violent effects of the war against drugs. A market-led reform is certainly not sufficient to respond to the expectations and needs of these communities. In our times, we need a more diverse, colorful and active civil society, beyond the dynamics and the restrictions imposed by the budgetary schemes and bureaucracy of international cooperation agencies and institutions. We have to go back to the streets, neighborhoods, towns, and countryside areas where ordinary people live, hope and fear. They are the majorities that must mobilize in the search of a new and more just horizons.

[VIDEO] Anna Mikholap, National Anti-Drug Union (Russian Federation): Thank you.  My association brings together, on a voluntary basis, more than 100 medical and preventive institutions working on the field of rehabilitation of drug addicts. We focus on the ultimate goal of abandoning drugs and fill social reintegration very successfully. As a non-profit non-governmental organization, we increased the involvement of civil societies in anti-drug activities. We believe NGOs are a powerful tool in solving the world drug problem so we are creating a self-regulatory mechanism in Russia. The main task of that is to create activities of rehabilitation for communities. We work with foreign colleagues and international organizations to share experiences and best practices to prevent persons from the use of narcotic and psychoactive drugs which is especially important now that in some countries there is a growing trend towards the legalization of light drugs. We held a successful conference in Moscow in 2017 with the aim of bringing together many NGOs to participate in the international meeting “Parliament Against Drugs” where a useful exchange of view took place and many business connections were made. We also took part in the World Drug Report presenting statistics on drug-free programs in Russia. Unfortunately, the efforts of the international community have not yet yielded the desired drugs to reduce the spread of drugs. Many centers at the final stage of recovery use drug-free programs while others use replacement therapy. We call for the creation of a global community for a world without drugs that would connect centers who work with drug-free programs. This could be the final step in the overall system of personality recovery and further enhance our common efforts to prevent the spread of drug abuse. We are a ready for a constructive dialogue.

Ravi Kandiah, Foundation for Innovative Social Development (Sri Lanka): Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play an important role in prevention and treatment of substance in Sri Lanka and other developing countries. CSO could mobilize families, schools, and community level organizations for prevention and control of substance use. Thereby, they could enhance socio-economic development of the affected persons, families and communities. In Sri Lanka, economically marginal groups send nearly 40% of their family income on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. CSOs closely work with the vulnerable groups to substance use and they are the first to know about the ground situations of substance use in their communities. They are also much empathetic towards the substance users and their families and genuinely involved with issues related to them. On the other hand, the resources of the Government Sector is stretched to the maximum and their capacity is diminishing. However, the potential of CSOs on substance use prevention and control has not been fully recognized or harnessed.  Among the limiting factors of CSO participation, lack of space for CSO involvement in substance use policy dialogue is a critical one. CSO participation with Government Sector in the policy dialogue will create more effective policies that could be efficiently implemented at the ground level. It would also provide a more balanced perspective to the policy dialogue. Also, it will create synergies in the policy implementation. On the other hand, any vacuum created due to the lack of CSO participation would only benefit the drug traffickers and organized criminal cartels, who would swiftly move into fill the void and profit from it.  The Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) at Global Civil Society Hearings urge the ministerial segment of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs to move effective resolutions that would facilitate UN member states ensure the participation of CSOs in substance use policy dialogue at national and global level.

[VIDEO] Myrtle Clarke, Fields of Green for All (South Africa): We would like to thank the CSTF, New York and Vienna NGO Committees for helping us have our voices heard on this international platform – They have been a pillar for our work. Within the UNGASS 2016 operational recommendations, there is a commitment to protect human rights and freedoms of all individuals in the development and implementation of drug policies to protect the well-being of individuals and communities. When me and my partner were arrested in our homes in 2010, we’d never have thought to be in a position that how we’d felt to be articulated so eloquently in a United Nations document. Our human rights, privacy and freedom was violated, indignantly handled by the police and we spent 8 years fighting the government in court. We had our first win when the constitutional court declared that prohibition of personal use and cultivation of cannabis in private spaces in unconstitutional. Following that, our volunteer-run organization had its work cut out to ensure that the voices of civil society are heard when writing the new cannabis related laws so as to pave the way for regulations that respect human rights beyond cannabis. As our country joins many in changing cannabis laws, we call the United Nations to not stand in our way. South Africa has an informal sector that makes up 75% of our economy in relation to cannabis. Our goal is to raise our voices at every level and by every means in order to set an example both in Africa and the rest of the world. Our efforts would be greatly enhanced by assistance from policy experts. The makers of the international conventions would do well to motivate our government to implement the UNGASS recommendations. We all have a commons and shared responsibility to address the world rug policy problem and here in South Africa we start with what matters most, cannabis and the informal sector. The change will have a global impact. The 2009 goals lead to a massive waste of time – I invite whoever wrote those words to visit South Africa and we will show you fields of green for all! Cannabis can contribute to the attainment of the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals, so give us a chance. We appeal to you to stop setting unrealistic goals and rethink the unnecessarily complex scheduling.

Cecilia Hajzler, Udruzenje Proslavi Oporavak (Bosnia and Herzegovina):  My name is Cecilia Hajzlerand I was born and lived in Serbia most of my life. Currently, for the past 2 years, I live and work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After more than 20 years of addiction I started my recovery journey within a local community, in a recovery organization and have been in a long-term, stable recovery for 7 years. Since then, I have been involved in grassroots activities of recovery organizations in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Currently in NGO Celebrate Recovery my professional work is based on personal, lived experience of substance use disorder and recovery, but sharing my story is just an ice breaker that enables me to connect with people who seek help to recover. I have learned that it is necessary to continually improve my knowledge and skills through trainings and learning about examples of good practices in order to provide best service I can. Today I’m talking not only because of my experience, but also through many evidence-based researches, that recovery from substance use disorder is possible. I will try to address recovery problem on two levels, first, grass roots level and lived experience of drug user and person in recovery and second, I will highlight what decision makers should keep in mind when considering effective measures to reduce illicit drug use. When I think back about myself while I was using drugs, I see a hopeless, broken person who has lost her identity and all her human dignity. Recovery gave me a new chance, helped me to remember who I used to be before drugs and to dream who I could become. It is not just about being clean from substances, it is about rebuilding your entire life, learning how to live your life by solving problems and not running away from them, fighting your battles daily and learning from them, improving and growing through education and then using all you have become to help others find their recovery pathway. Through our work we recognize that we as a civil society, can play an important role in addressing and countering the drug problem in Western Balkans, and we note that affected populations of recovered users and people in recovery should be enabled to play a participatory role in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of drug control policies and programmes, as well as provide relevant scientific evidence on recovery. For the past 4years we have been implementing a Regional project and we established Community Counseling Centers and free help lines in 3 countries(Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia). According to our statistics and database of all people contacting Center and helpline we have provided 1533services to people with substance use disorder related problems and their families. As you can see on the slide 45% people contacting us are individuals aged18-29 and it is very alarming that the number of minors seeking help has increased over the curse of the project. This indicates that early intervention programmes should be implemented. It is very interesting that majority of these individuals contacted us because they want full recovery and successful social integration-life without drugs. This shows us that people seeking help don’t ask for the reduction of harms caused by drug use but that they aspire to be free from drugs and fully recovered and reintegrated into society. We respond to this strong inner need of individuals to be free, independent and to live life in its full capacity. We all know that family is a key factor in every person’s life and our statistics show that54% of services have been provided to family members. Policy makers need to acknowledge a crucial role of family in recovery process and families need to be aware of the consequences and risks of drug use as well as the need of early and timely interventions. Another very important fact is that 70%, vast majority of users of our services, are not currently engaged in any kind of treatment. 30% have never contacted any kind of service for their problematic drug use before and have never been in treatment. This also highlights the importance of community and grassroots organizations and their role in society which should have more support from the government and other key stakeholders. After the UNGASS2016 and following the adoption of the UNGASS Outcome document, my organization has taken appropriate measures to comply with the standards and recommendations listed in the document and has involved, as appropriate, policymakers, parliamentarians, educators, other civil society organizations, the scientific community, academia, target populations, individuals in recovery from substance use disorders and their peer groups, families and other codependent people, as well as the private sector, in the development of recovery oriented systems of care. As a tool to develop cooperation with and among key stakeholders in society in the past 2 years we also organised28individual and 10 multisector meetings as well as 3 conferences (total of 495 participants) with the aim to discuss current challenges and build partnerships in community to help people on their path to recovery and to establish recovery-oriented systems of care. Conclusions show that there is a need for improving networking among stakeholders, because services are often provided in isolation. But we need a systematic approach and involvement of all actors in multidisciplinary and multi-sector initiatives. So Celebrate Recovery will continue to address the need and to advocate on national, European and here on the UN level, for better and recovery oriented system of care that focuses on getting people into full recovery and off drugs for good. In the end we recognize, as it is stated in the Outcome document that „drug dependence is a complex, multifactorial health disorder that can be treated through effective scientific evidence-based programmes, including community-based programmes that we are providing. Through our work we are strengthening capacity to support recovery process that includes rehabilitation and social reintegration of individuals with substance use disorders, including assistance for effective reintegration into the labor market and other support services. I would like to conclude that we all have our goals; we have to set those goals in reality, but also with ambition. Our main task is to put recovery as the primary goal in drug treatment, because all of us want to see our communities healthier, and reduce the use of illicit drugs. Along with the view that in society we have always had drugs problems, and probably always will, we are aware that some drug dependent individuals will never start with or complete their recovery process. But if we all focus on strengths and assets of a person, and not their weaknesses and deficits, and if we aim to further develop person-centered approach, when we aim to ensure that a person will be supported to achieve her maximum potential, then we, as service providers, decision makers and society can achieve results that will lead to integration of recovered users and their full inclusion into society, and that should reduce the demand for illicit drug use. Thank you for your attention.

Chair: Thank you. We have now concluded the NGO panel and I believe we showcased the broad aspects and a variety of approaches that make up civil society. I am not going to attempt to summarize the presentation, but they will be shred on the CSTF website for your reference and we will be submitting a conference room paper to CND that summarizes the discussion today and the survey and the discussion that took place in New York last week. Now we have time to open the floor for statements and questions.

Russia: Thank you for organizing this important event, it is very timely just 2 weeks before the HLMs, a good opportunity to exchange views. We are pleased to see that the results of the report mirror the discussion that we have within the CND and that CSOs identify similar challenges that we face in countering the world drug problem such as darknet and legalization of non-medicines. We saw that the majority of NGOs see merit in the goals we set in 2009 and expect them to be expanded in the ministerial segment. I have a few questions to the speakers we listened carefully to. The representative from Nepal said many NGOs struggle for attaining financial supports, it would be useful to see the results form IOGT Norway and the Balkan states to direct tour national resources to cost-effective projects and achieve a healthier society, free of drug abuse. Regarding the topics we discussed today with CSOs in Russia, we are expanding dialogue with local NGOs in different levels, one of the key fields for us is palliative care, so for future meetings, it would be useful to have a voice on this issue.

Norway: Let me start by thanking the organizers and speakers of this event. It was interesting to hear different perspectives from a variety of CSOs representatives. It is my understanding that they agree on one thing that is the importance of involving CSOs on national and international levels. My government has always supported an inclusive dialogue. I think the meeting today and the follow-up procedure showed CSOs play an important role and I would like to make a comment on the presentation from Sri Lanka – CSO start on the national level and I would like to explain how we involve them at home. Every year, the ministry of health sets aside half a day to discuss the upcoming CND where we discuss with CSOs and ministries, including briefings about ongoing issues and debates, then we present Norway’s position on broader issues and then 12 NGOs presented their positions. We recorded this and use it as an important background in preparation for CND. It is the government that decides on final statements but the inputs from NGOs were crucial so I encourage other MS to conduct such events and we are happy to share details of this practice.

Chair: I am involved in a similar mechanism at the UK and we welcome such cooperations very much.

United States: Thanks to everyone. US has been a strong supporter of CSO involvement. We support a balanced approach and will continue to value CSO, the ones on the group and who address what we talk about in reality. Ensuring NGOs are involved in the network so we are not replicating efforts, what challenges do you face in making yourself available to those networks? How can we help as MS to better that system and data sharing?

Chair: I’m handing over to the panel to respond. Then to refer to Russia’s note on palliative care – we did have a speaker to address this very issue that is very important to us, but there was a flight issue. We do have her statement and if we have time, we are happy to share.

Hanne Cecilia Widnes: Ours is an expensive project and that is because we want it to be of quality on all levels of the project but it will be done more cost efficiently through more volunteers.

Mousa A. Daud: A lot of challenges need a dialogue between NGOs and the government. What would be important for the next decades is collaboration with the government. We are in close touch with the communities so what we need is a space to keep contacting the communities and transfer feedbacks into actual implementations. We also need support and sponsorships to effectively reach target groups.

Ravi Kandiah: If assistance comes, the bureaucracy still stands in the way some times. NGO participation could be embedded in the multilateral systems. Governments are not bad but we need to take a critical look at what kind of players CSOs are in their mechanisms. Funding an issue. The Norwegian government has been very helpful in Sri Lanka and I welcome their share about their mechanism.

Lucia Goberna (CSTF) on behalf of Tania Pastrana (ALCP): The WHO has listed opioids for management of pain and palliative care in the Model List of Essential Medicines since 2014. And it calls Essential because they are absolutely necessary and must be available at all times in public health systems. Suffering is health-related when it is associated with illness or injury of any kind. Suffering is serious when it cannot be relieved without medical intervention and when it compromises physical, social or emotional functioning. According to the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief, in Latin America 3,3 million persons need palliative care. These figures are real persons, like this grandmother 96 y. with advance COPD, who died in a UCI after 4 resuscitations without palliative care. This map from the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief, shows Distributed opioid morphine-equivalent and estimated percentage of people in need because serious health-related suffering. You can see that Latin America becomes a line. Which means, that a large majority of patients suffering from severe pain in Latin America have no access to opioids. I want to give an example of the situation of a patient with breast cancer Honduras. My colleague from Honduras received an email during a workshop in October.  He explained the situation to me. The brother of Ms M wrote a text asking for help. Pain was getting worse, with bleeding from the breast. Please help us, I am desperate. Do you have a medication? The Dr says now is time to use morphine. They wrote back immediately: OK, I will borrow some money for the injection and buy it. However Latin American doctors are able to achieve incredible things with scare resources. I do not like to idealize the poverty. Patients as well health personnel are affected by it. In this graph comparing the DOME (Opioids included: Fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, and pethidine) every 5 years, In the last years Argentina and Colombia show important improvements thanks to innovative policies. However, the access in the region remains insufficient and falls short of human rights or INCB standards. For example, Argentina, with the program PrAO _ Provision of opioid analgesic, Argentina distributes morphine and methadone free of charge for medical use throughout the country. Calculating the affordability of oral morphine in terms of the number of days’ wages needed by the lowest-paid worker to purchase a 30-day treatment of morphine oral (immediate release), the gold standard according to WHO. According with this calculation. Regional affordability varies from 73,2 days of minimum wage salaries for 30-day treatment in Honduras to 2,1 days in Colombia. In the last months Honduras added morphine oral with a reduction of the price from 73,2 days to 50 days and Guatemala and Ecuador have oral immediate release morphine. The Latin American Association for Palliative Care is working with the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care in order to improve this situation. I will mention some of these actions.
Advocacy: Country workshops with representatives of the Ministries of Health and National Associations, High Level Meetings (Peru and Panama), Global advocacy
Research: Project Opioid Price Watch. The goal of OPW is to present information and generate awareness about affordability, availability and access to opioids for legitimate medical use.
Research: Project Opioid Price Watch. The goal of OPW is to present information and generate awareness about affordability, availability and access to opioids for legitimate medical use.

Chair: Thank you for the panel and, crucially, I thank all of your here for giving us your time and attention, we hope it has been an useful exercise. We look forward to seeing you at CND in the spring.

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