Informal dialogue: CND Chair

Matej Kosir, VNGOC: Welcome. Thank you for your great work during this difficult time of lack of access.

Ambassador Dominika Krois, Chair: Welcome. Very happy to continue dialogue of Chairs with Civil Society, I’m aware of the important role you play and I appreciate it.

Actis – Norwegian policy network on alcohol and drugs & Eurad, Belgium (Stig Erik Sørheim): The global NGO network Drug Policy Futures has launched a report with a focus on follow-up of the UNGASS Outcome Document. One of the conclusions in the report is that it seems that few Members States have made the mobilization of local communities a priority in their national drug strategies. Furthermore, the study indicates that the UNGASS document has had rather limited impact on national policy documents. To what extent do you see that the Outcome Document has led to improvements in national drug policies and how could CND lift the mobilization of local communities higher on the agenda in the years towards 2029?

Chair: I’m sorry to hear it’s only a few member states who made your involvement a priority. Looking at documents adopted, your role is clearly highlighted, UNGASS Outcome Document is just one of them. There are UNGASS operational commitments on recommendations referring to sharing of good practies also related to involvement of CSO. Member states are invited to participate in this. I suggest discussing with your delegations. In diplomacy, we usually start very informal. What we would like to be a priority, we start with informals and bilateral meeting, leading to greater convinction in the matter. Do your homework, your lobbying so your efforts are taken by representatives if they’re convinced this is what needs to be done and there’s an added value. Using good examples from your work. One of the roles of the Commission is to share experiences and replicate good practices. If there is an understanding your work is fruitful, [..] UNGASS introduced new areas, has a chapter on availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes; human rights’ recognition that drug dependence is a multifaceted issue – that also nods to your efforts in drug policies. Annual thematic discussion – your good practices could also be brought to the experts then. If you look at the evolution of provision, you can see more and more recognition of your in treatment.

International Drug Policy Consortium, UK (Gloria Lai): What lessons have been learned by the CND Bureau and Secretariat from the last 12 months, which can ensure better online participation at CNDs in the long-term for civil society and Member States that are not able to attend the sessions in Vienna in person?

Chair: Mainly a question to Secretariat. Not only issue of CSOs but also MS, I see a huge empty room with empty chair. It’s a dialogue with the CND Chair and 300 empty chairs. Have to admit, the fact we even have the session is a huge success for UNODC. We all see the shortcomings of this format, very difficult to negotiate documents without lack of informals. Everyone is suffering a bit. I still think it’s amazing we can connect with you and have a bit limited, but still a discussion. During preparations, we tried to limit participation of MS and also CS in the same way. You are able to participate in the meetings, there are links prepared to follow the Plenary and other meetings and this is a great achievement. In the longer term, all of us would prefer physical meeting. I cannot exclude we will keep this hybrid format as an added value. Next year of course we will meet in Vienna, but could keep hybrid format for those who cannot travel, could be added value, more accessible.

Secretary: Sad for us to be in an empty meeting. It was considering the situation in Austria, it was a choice between this format or no meeting at all. A year ago we couldn’t have imagined we would be holding the 64th Session in this format. It has been an amazing learning curve for all of us. I agree it is labor intensive, it is costly. But I hope we can use it as something complementary, will not and cannot replace in person meetings. Those who otherwise could not participate in person could benefit from keeping this in the future.

Turkish Green Crescent Society (Zeynep Temel): As you know, WHO Recommendation decision on cannabis and its voting in the reconvened session of 63rd CND in December 2020 have been welcomed with cheers as a “first step for legalization” or “UN allowance to legalization” by some parties worldwide. Do you have any plans for the clarification of this disinformation?

Chair: Not an issue for this Commission. In my capacity as vice-chair of last session I can mention this is very sensitive, seen differently by member states. Vote in December clearly showed differences in standing. The whole process was extremely transparent with several sessions explaining effects of cannabis on different areas of health of a human being. Thanks to Ambassador Khan explaining remarkably the steps undertaken until the vote to Member States. The vote on scheduling was decisive. I don’t plan on any clarification as Chair. Schedule I is the strictest control introduced – I also got convinced myself there is no point having cannabis in there with substances that have very different impacts. What I can do is guarantee transparency and that decisions align with governments.

Slum Child Foundation, Kenya (George Ochieng): Many NGOs found it difficult to follow member states discussions regarding the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis related substances as many of these were conducted as informal meetings. Some NGOs also felt that the prolonged discussions lead to increased lobbying and influencing of member states. Can you briefly explain why the vote initially planned for 2019 was delayed to December 2020?

Chair: Decisions on those recommendatipns were taken by member states. They asked for postponement with clear indication that they need more time to process the data on cannabis and its impact that was provided. Decision based on cientific data and an informed decision, recommendations already come from a good scientific background. Understandable that Member States need more time as it has an effect on legislation. I can’t force a Member State to vote on a matter. If they need more time, they need more time.

World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD), Sweden (Regina Matteson): Our organisation and members have been working with alcohol policy for many years. One critical issue within the WHO processes on alcohol is to protect policy development from undue interference from vested interests, in this case the alcohol industry. We now see in several countries an emerging cannabis industry with rapidly growing financial muscles. What is the strategy of CND to protect international drug policy development from undue influence by vested interests? And what can be learned from WHO in this respect?

Chair: In general, all decisions are taken by consensus. It’s very difficult to influence whole Commission. Theoretically, if the delegations of all MS decide one way, it’s their decision. Sharing of good practices, perhaps even best practices, if the WHO has it, on how to restrict vested interests, it would be beneficial to UNODC and CND to learn from them. Again, it’s MS that decide how to deal with the alcohol industry. Consensus also decided by all other MS who are not members of the Commission, really carried out by all members of the UN.

FORUT, Norway (Eva S. Braaten): According to the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention, so-called community-based multi-component initiatives can give betters results than individual interventions that do not work in concert with other interventions. Civil society organisations in several countries have developed very promising models for how local communities can be mobilized for prevention of not only drug problems but also many other problems that affect young people and their families. How can these examples of community programmes be made a more prominent part of the UNGASS follow-up processes towards 2029?

Chair: I will mention what I already said. Spreading information is probably the best way to promote what you’re doing. There are annual thematic discussions on implementation of drug policy commitments. Whatever is said is listened to, MS could think ‘let’s try if this could work in my country’. I’ve been following sessions for many years, I really value side events, now I’m stuck with Chairmanship so don’t have time for other commitments. When I had time, I used to attend, because there is very good example presented. The real added value to the Commission is the side events. Because it’s not just theoretical discussions. I come from a country that has a stable situation among drug addicts, so I can use this information.

Association Proyecto Hombre, Spain (Oriol Esculies): It is important to highlight the recent increase in young people who require further indicated interventions, including treatment. In 2019, nearly 2,500 young people participated in our programmes – an increase of 27% in the last 5 years. In light of the above, it is urgent to act as soon as possible. From the CND perspective, which quality early prevention policies and measures should be promoted in the Member States, with the support of civil society?

Chair: Continuing on side event issue – if it’s only physical, it’s time-consuming, tiring. But if you have them virtually – lesson learned is to record and leave them on internet so people can watch after and think about them. I participate in many meetings, if I don’t have time I try to hear them later on. This is also a spreader of information. To respond to your question on children and young people, I’m sorry to hear the increase of number of young people participating in the programs. The Commission focuses on the young people not for the first time, we listened even yesterday to Youth Forum on their perspective to influence the strategies of countries. During this session, there are other documents of the Commission that focus on youth participation. Important to include them in discussions, to have a dialogue, it’s on the member states to decide on inclusive approaches. It’s happening in my country, there is a very new legislation, a blog is open for young people to comment on strategies. They put a strategy or draft online and ask young people to comment on it. Stable situation is an achievement of our program. Just talk to young people, don’t leave them. I’m a mother of a teenager so I really have an interest in this. Talk to your child, what is their problem. Create a situation where children don’t have to hide what they do. If it’s forbidden there’s a temptation for small grown-ups to engage in it. You can do a lot with children of your friends even.

George [..] It would be nice if Member States included civil society in implementation report preparation.

Chair: The main tool to keep stock on progress made on UNGASS is these [..]

International Drug Policy Consortium, (Jamie Bridge): Are there plans to follow up after CND on what worked and what didn’t work in the hybrid format and is there plans to include civil society?

Chair: there is always room for improvement. We do have an evaluation. We can look into working with VNGOC to see if there’s a way to gain feedback from NGOs.

Chair: Thank you! Continue your work, it is very valued.

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