Side event: Zooming in on UNGASS implementation; what has happened?

Organized by FORUT – Campaign for Development and Solidarity with the support of the Fourth Wave Foundation, and Movendi International

Eva Braaten, FORUT: ‘The goal of today’s event is to zoom in on Member State implementation of all the good ideas stated in the UNGASS Outcome Document. Drug Policy Futures (DPF) is involved in a long-term, 10 year programme to monitor the implementation fo the Outcome Document.  Today we launch the first report in this monitoring programme’.

Dag Endal, Drug Policy Futures: ‘We consider the UNGASS process a very important step forward for the international commuinty. We consider the UNGASS OD as a great policy menu to achieve a balanced approach to drug policies. All states would do well by drawing form ideas taken there.

The name of the report is “Zooming in on UNGASS”.  It can be found here.

We focused on 7 areas of UNGASS implementation for which we did national assessments. We initially assessed 15 jurisdictions (14 member states, and the USA state of Florida). We don’t have the ambition that this selection will tell all the truth about UNGASS implementation – we did not aim to be representative of everything that has happened on drug policies. The country reports are just illustrative.

We have gone through several indicators for each country. Most improtant amongst them:

1/ Do countries have National Drug Policies, and is UNGASS mentioned therein? 14 out of the 15 jurisdictions had National Policies, but very few actually mentioned UNGASS. In that regard, our recommendation to countries is that every states should have a revised National Drug Policy reflecting the most important recommendations from UNGASS.

2/ Drug use prevalence. The biggest contribution to reducing harm is to not use drugs. So we looked at whether decreasing drug prevalence was one of the explicit goals of policies and interventions. We found that few drug policies comment directly on prevalence figures, and few systematically monitor drug use trends.

3/ The third set of indicators is whether countries include prevention in ther national plans, and whether that is implemented in practice . Support to parents and investment in prevention is still massively lagging. We recommend that governments make mobilisation and support to parents a central element of their drug policies.

4/ Another key element of UNGASS is the mobilisation of local communities. We saw that, again, that support of local communities is not at the centre of many national drug policies. Our recommendation in that regard is to include it in policies, and to create national clearing houses to support these communities. Equallly important, governments need to support self-help communities and groups, such as AA. These groups are run by NGOs without support from governments, and they are not mentioned in national drug plans. We recommend that self-help groups are recognised and integrated as community-based drug control treatment.

5/ Special needs of women are also key to UNGASS. The reality is that again very few national drug policies actually envisage gender-sensitive drug prevention actions.

We are at the middle of the 10 year span for UNGASS Outcome Document. In general, there is a great deal that states would gain from drawing from the document. Our overarching concern is that the international community must make sure that the low drug use prevalence is maintained. The is going to be the biggest challenge’.

Diana Joseph, Fourth Wave Foundation: ‘It’s evident that the 2016 UNGASS OD is referred to as the most important international document for balanced drug policies. One of the bigger challenges in countries like India is that the drug situation is becoming increasingly complex. With increased population and increased spending power, access to the Internet, etc., there is a risk that drug addiction will increase.

National drug policies and programmes need to be developed and implemented through action plans. Implementation at a national level will require the involvement of stakeholders, specially the expertise of civil society organisations. CSOs can work alongside the government, catering to vulnerable populations such as women and children.

One of the important factors that has also been at the forefront of our discussion is that so far there is no real comprehensive approach to demand reduction. The problem is that most interventions, like prevention, recovery, treatment, are not used in a systematic way. Countries need to make primary prevention their highest priority. Drug policies need to focus on drug prevention, as that it is the ethically right, economically smart way to do drug policy.

This report contextualises the need for Member States to carefully advocate for the implementation of the UNGASS Outome Document’.

Philip Chimponda, SHARPZ: ‘The future drug strategy in Zambia, quite interestingly, signals that there could political will for the government to develop and approve policies that place prevention at the centre. There seems to be leadership in that sense.

The challenge is that when we look at what the government is actually doing, there is lack of commitment – particularly because there is lack of resource mobilisation, including human resources, financial resources, etc. So as much as these policies might be good, this is the major gap we have identified.

We as civil society are trying to support the governments to come up with a well-developed mechanism of coordination, to ensure that where prevention activities are implemented they are coordinated across different ministries and areas of the government. At the moment, civil society need to deal with very different actors of the government at the same time, from Ministry of Health to Home Office, which is not efficient’.

Kristina Sperkova, Movendi: ‘Before we had UNGASS, some civil society organisations were claiming that the international conventions weren’t working anymore. But UNGASS showed that member states can also look at the international conventions from a different perspective – from a health perspective. So we all left UNGASS quite happy to see that states had agreed on an approach that moved away from the focus on criminal justice.

This new report is therefore very important. What we are seeing from it is that the health perspective, particularly prevention, is not taken seriously. If you look at any other professional area – engineering, medicine – there is always a professional doing it, whereas prevention is seen as a hobby. Civil society is important, but we need states to invest in prevention and to know what they are doing.

Questions / Comments from participants

Roger Kasirye. ‘I agree that we as civil society we need to track the UNGASS. This is the way to bring information from the ground to international discussions’.

Marica Ferri. ‘It’s very important to provide professionals with tools, and to train them. The EMCDDA in Europe has provided some tools, including a European curriculum on prevention, including handbooks. And now we’re going to develop an online platform for training, and for training on trainers.’

Summina Tuladhar. ‘When we are talking about prevention, listening to the rights-holders is essential. Prevention is a very sophisticated intervention.

Sandeep Shahi. ‘Question for SHARPZ. Crystal meth is a trending drug in Zimbabwe. So what are the drugs trending, and what are the administration routes?’

Philip Chimponda. ‘I am from Zambia, no Zimbabwe. In any case, Zambia was never traditionally a consumer of hard drugs. But we have started now, especially with methamphetamines.  The route of administration is normally oral, as it is used in parties. It’s added to drinks, and then used. But some are snorting and injecting.’

Esbjorn Hornberg. ”It would be great if ‘regional people’ from Asia and Africa could meet their governments and create expert groups on prevention. Yesterday all governments spoke about prevention, but they mentioned that long-term investment is missing. When the pandemic is over we will restart work in Vienna, and we will need this network of contacts with governments.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.