Informal Dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director

Informal Dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director Ms. Ghada Waly, Wednesday 10.30-11.30

Opening remarks

Jamie Bridge, VNGOC: This is a meeting that we hold every year. And I’m really pleased that we’ve continued this tradition that we have with the Vienna NGO committee to have this informal dialogue and this opportunity for civil society to ask questions. We selected the questions in advance there was an open call, which all NGOs were invited to submit their question.

Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director, UNODC: I’m glad we have been able to continue this tradition. Despite the restrictions of the pandemic. And I thank you for joining us here in the room and online from different time zones. The work of UN ODC to promote health, safety and sustainable development relies on our partnership with civil society organizations, both here in Vienna, and most especially through our field offices to provide support on the ground. Partnerships are a key component of UN od C’s corporate strategy for 2021 2025 as well as our strategic vision for Africa 2030 And your strategic vision for Latin America and the Caribbean. These documents keep the role of civil society front and center and we are relying on your cooperation and contributions so that they can be implemented as efficiently as effectively as possibly. Your insights also help to ensure that our interventions are informed by realities on the ground and address the needs of affected populations. Furthermore, civil society voices held to bring important issues to the attention of Member States and the international community and contribute to developing effective strategies to address and counter the world drug problem. These interactions present multiple opportunities for sharing information, best practices and lessons learned. And I urge you to make the most of them. Thank you and I look forward to hearing your questions and to our dialogue.

  1. NDLEA- National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigeria (Uzzi Osahon Henry) & Green Crescent Zimabwe (Dr. Nemache Mawere) & CADCA – Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, United States, (Chris Doarn)

Community-based substance use prevention is a sound investment, with every dollar invested having the potential to result in savings of between $2 and $20. How does UNODC support programs on primary prevention strategies for children and how will UNODC collaborate with Member States to ensure that community-based substance use prevention becomes a higher priority in response to the world’s drug problems.

 Answer: we do work in 20 countries and reaching 10,000 children and parents and training 300 facilitators, we do think that community based prevention is one of the evidence based interventions identified by the WHO and UN ODC prevention standards as effective in preventing drug use and other risky behaviors supporting healthy and safe development of children and youth. In addition, we have ongoing programs of seminars and policymakers globally, promoting evidence based drug prevention and treatment. And our office is at the disposal of member states of member states to recommend evidence based models in this respect. I’ll tell you about my own experience in my own country. I have fought for two or three years in Parliament until I have changed the curriculum in schools. And I have introduced information and education for primary schools from the age of six to the age of 15, which was in my country seen as too early. Let’s not tell the children about drugs when they are six. So what I did was I did a field survey, which had showed that some kids started 11 And then trying drugs, especially if there’s an older family member doing drugs. So I finally managed to change the curriculum in schools and then we trained we also trained all social workers in schools so that they have answers to questions and they can give messages. And I felt that it was a very important and impactful Step. Because if you go into schools, you reach millions of students in Egypt, we have 21 million students in schools. So, this was my personal experience that I felt it was very useful. 

  1. Association Proyecto Hombre, Spain (Oriol Esculies)
    Numerous national and international reports reflect the enormous impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on vulnerable groups such as people with substance use disorders, especially in mental health and socio-occupational integration areas. The strengthening of alliances between civil society and governments has become a good practice to better address this emerging situation around the world. From the UNODC’s view, what policies should be promoted in our countries to ensure continuity and enhance these partnerships?

Answer:  I think for governments to take the proper policies, they need to have alliances with everyone. They have to have alliances with civil society will bring in a very important voice to the table, but they also have to work with universities and research institutions and to get from them the evidence base the the data analysis that is needed, and other stakeholders. for instance, the private sector, I believe is also an important player in that governments should have alliances with and should work with. In the 2021 UNODC one track record, there’s a section on the impact of COVID on track challenges, including the provision of treatments and services, and I can refer you to this report for more information about in general and we have issued a number of policy notes on the enormous impact of COVID on vulnerable groups. I think that to address such a pandemic of this magnitude. Governments have to work with civil society with academia and private sector.

  1. RIOD – Red Iberoamericana de ONG que Trabajan en Drogas y Adicciones, Spain-Latin America (Ander Arredondo) & Instituto RIA, AC, Mexico (Zara Snapp)

Following the UNODC Strategy 2021-25 that mentions that it will seek to open governance spaces to civil the UNODC Strategic Vision for Latin America and the Caribbean (2022-2025) sought to incorporate civil society inputs and focuses on strengthening relations with civil society.

Could you explain how civil society inputs were incorporated, how UNODC plans to involve civil society in its implementation and inform us about the strategies or concrete measures taken by UNODC to engage civil society organisations in decision-making spaces in the field of drugs including other functional ECOSOC commissions in the upcoming years? (Responsible office: SGB/UNODC RSLAC)

 Answer:  I am always very proud to see that in every activity that we do. In every event that we have in every inter governmental session, there is an engagement and a presence of civil society and civil society voices are seeked. and we go to civil society, we went to civil society. When we were developing the strategic vision for Africa. We went to civil society when we were developing the latest document our strategic vision for Latin America. and we use civil society as partners for implementing activities from Afghanistan to Africa to Latin America. So at both levels, informing policy by giving them their input and their ideas, and those are incorporated in the documents that we produce in the policy notes in the strategies, but also using them as implementing partner in a number of countries is very important. and we are committed to that. We would like to explore opportunities for collaboration, including on training and outreach in remote rural areas, initiatives that difficult to reach urban communities and activities. addressing the criminal justice reform. So there are a number of opportunities and we will continue to seek every opportunity to engage with civil society. At the Conference of State parties in Egypt in December we had the record number of civil society participate for the CMG. the engagement of civil society is key when it comes to the practical implementation of drug policy commitments and making a difference on the grounds here so participation is especially important in the follow up to the 2019 Interministerial declaration and annual thematic discussions. So please continue to contribute, continue to send your contributions, formerly in the different for us and the different opportunities and also informally, just reach out to us, you are always welcome and we benefit a lot from the input of civil society. 

  1. WFAD – World Federation Against Drugs, Pakistan (Asia Ashraf) & Drug Addicts Detoxification & Rehabilitation Society Chitral KPK, Pakistan (Dr Ajaz Ali Shah, President Drug Society)

Female drug use disorders are underreported and under researched in Pakistan and evidence-based, gender sensitive treatment is lacking. I have seen the Colombo plan, UNODC and INL are doing a lot in terms of UTC and UPC. I would like to know if there are any upcoming plans to start women curriculum training in my country Pakistan and how UNODC can support evidence-based treatment services? (Responsible office: RAB/PTRS)

Answer: It’s not just Pakistan. It’s all over the world, women are underreported and do not come forward for treatment. The stigma varies from country to another, but there is a stigma related to women doing drugs, all over the world. In my own country 27% of people doing drugs are women, but only 1% of people going for treatment are women. And when they go, they changed their names, they can even come forward using their names and their families are all the time trying to stop them from seeking treatment so that the stigma doesn’t hurt the whole family. UNODC is working with the Government of Pakistan to implement a National Survey on Drug Use in 2022. This survey will provide information on the extent of drug use and non medical use of pharmaceuticals including among women. So this is going to be an important survey. It will give us evidence it will give us information to work on which we can base our interventions and services for women who use drugs and suffer from drug use disorder. So our office in Pakistan, which is one of our biggest and most active offices. We welcome your questions, your participation, your contributions. In general, we have an ongoing program to support the establishment of a quality assurance mechanisms for drug treatment services in Pakistan, including for women, and our office that is working with the government in all provinces in these efforts. Similar programs are being implemented in many other countries, including the five Central Asian republics, Nigeria the Dominican Republic, and Bolivia. And yesterday actually on the margins of the CMG, I have met with a delegation from Iran. And they were very proud to say that they have established this last year three centers that are just for women dedicated for treatment of women who are doing drugs. So getting this coming from Iran receptors in one year where there is COVID and doing the work in Pakistan, and other places in the world. I’m optimistic that while the situation is very unfortunate for women, but there is a bigger realization that they are a very important group to address. and I think the situation will improve. 

  1. International Drug Policy Consortium, United Kingdom (Marie Nougier)

The new Global AIDS Strategy has a clear target on social enablers which commits to there being less than 10% of countries criminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs by 2025. This is further reinforced by the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. Given that UNODC is a UNAIDS co-sponsor with the mandate for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support among people who use drugs, can you share what UNODC is doing to support governments to meet this ambitious target? (Responsible office: HAS)

Answer: We are co sponsors of UN AIDS. We are committed to supporting the implementation of the Global AIDS strategy. This is emphasized in our own UNODC strategy 2021-2025 under the first thematic area, and as part of our work UNODC is supporting the reform development and implementation of effective legislation and policies to facilitate access to evidence, informed HIV services as well as alternatives to imprisonment. UNODC also joins UN AIDS partners in advocating for reducing stigma and discrimination and promoting human rights and evidence based public health centered approaches to drug use and HIV. I have visited UN AIDS among the very few field visits and trips outside of Vietnam. I went to Geneva met with really the head of UN AIDS and we have agreed that we will be traveling together in Africa to speak about this together, doing an advocacy campaign about the stigmatization and promoting the agenda. So I hope that we can, once COVID stabilizes in Africa, we can do this plan

  1. Turkish Green Crescent Society, Turkey (Zeynep Temel)

We believe that NGOs have a unique role to play in improving healthy living standards in societies, implementing strategies, and building bridges between society and international organizations. In addition, we are well aware of UNODC’s efforts to improve NGOs’ role in decision making. To expand these efforts, is UNODC considering increasing NGO participation in plenary sessions or creating new means to increase dialogue to increase the linkages between NGOs and the Member States? (Responsible office: SGB)

Answer: We were just discussing that the hybrid mode of doing things and meetings has allowed broader participation, has allowed smaller civil society organizations, smaller states in general to be part of a larger dialogue. The meetings that are, you know, conducted in an online or hybrid format showed an increase in the number and range of experts and stakeholders including civil society, even with limited a person participation in 2021 and 2022. The Commission still secured seats for NGOs in the plenary room. Last year 76 NGOs attended the 64 sessions of the commission and for this year CND over 195 representatives from 82 NGOs have registered to attend. In addition, the side events also provide the platform for NGOs to showcase their important work and enhance the cooperation with member states. So this year 56 out of 134 side events are organized by NGOs, which is a sign that there is a growing interest from both sides, member states and NGOs and also is a sign that we are encouraging and helping this expansion.

  1. EURAD, Belgium (Stig Erik Sørheim)

The UN common position on drugs is often cited in national drug policy debates. One of the debated issues in many countries is the decriminalization of drug use and possession for personal use. The common position urges countries to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use”. There is an ambiguity in this phrase that is sometimes interpreted as a recommendation to decriminalize the use and possession, and sometimes as a recommendation to consider alternatives to punishment, one of which could be decriminalization. How does the UNODC interpret this recommendation?

Answer: Is it important to discuss the interpretation of UN ODC or the interpretation of different member states? I think an important element in this is how member states have agreed to implement a wide range of non custodial measures and to apply alternatives to conviction. This people in health center’s approach is in line with the resolutions adopted by member states in the CND and with the international drug control conventions. As you know, the common position was elaborated and agreed by UN entities under the leadership of the chief executive boards to provide guidance on how the UN can support member states in developing and implementing balanced, comprehensive and evidence advice based responses. But I think that different Member States will continue to interpret the difference.  I believe that our role should continue to be the support to member states to provide a range of options and a range of ways to support and to implement the wide range of non custodial measures.

  1. Association of Non-for-Profit Organizations to Facilitate the Drug Prevention and Socially Dangerous Behavior «National Anti-Drug Union», Russian Federation (Nikita Lushnikov)

Currently, various therapies are used in the world to get drug addicts out from addiction. In some countries, methadone or similar substitution therapy is used. In other countries any use of methadone is prohibited by law for any purpose. Our NGO in Russia successfully applies methods and a set of programs that lead to the complete rejection of former drug addicts from using any substitutes.  How do you assess the prospects for the development of therapeutic and restorative therapies and the prospects for the emergence of new trends in this area?

Answer: I am following the developments in science and very much aware that the science is progressing on many fronts. You will notice these views with great interest all innovation that is based on scientific evidence. So the UNODC-WHO standards emphasize the importance of offering a range of therapies tailored to the needs of the individuals it’s essential that the effectiveness of treatment therapies is well researched and randomized control trials and is shown to be effective and safe and peer reviewed journals. As with all therapies for all health conditions.

  1. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United States (Iulia Vatau)

We would like to commend the UNODC on the Youth Forum Initiative for its efforts to increase youth civic engagement. Does the UNODC have any plans to inform country delegations on how to send youth representatives and provide more information on how to engage with the youth forum? We have met multiple country delegations who were not aware about how to send a youth representative or the functions of the forum? In addition, does UNODC have plans to reform the youth forum to ensure that youths participate more effectively, for example by allowing them to facilitate the session to author their own statements and allowing youth organisations to engage with the forum, in line with the Youth 2030 Strategy and Resolution 63/4?  

Answer: It is very important to continue to increase and strengthen the youth participation in this forum and others as well. Youth are mentioned in our corporate strategy as a key partner, not a beneficiary but partner, that we should engage with and work with. So, we are really strong believers that youth are very important and that our youth initiative is seeing increased interest every year. So what we do is that we send a form of communication to the permanent nations of Member States in Vienna, and we invite them to nominate participants to the forum. It’s very simple. We try to provide as much guidance as possible to assist countries in identifying those nominees. Many of them are volunteers, young researchers, people who are members of civil society. The letter of this year’s Youth Forum included suggestions on ways to identify youth candidates to nominate. We also try to provide as much flexibility as possible, including by extending nomination deadlines and my staff are always available to address any issue when it comes to including youth in the delegations. We aim to magnify the voice of young people very much in line with the strategy 2030 And CND resolutions, participants develop a statement that they present to the commission and they choose who will represent them at the plenary so we do not choose the representation at the plenary. It is the youth who get together and decide on who is going to read statements. So we actually don’t interfere in how they work together. But we encourage greater participation. And in general, this is a decision and an element that is very strong in the new document our common agenda that the SG has launched at the beginning of his second term by mentioning that youth will be at the centre and will have a bigger role to play. Thank you.

  1. Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation, Pakistan (Cristina von Sperling Afridi)

What is the experience of UNODC in 2021 (since the CND approval of the reclassification of cannabis & cannabis resin) on implementing control mechanisms to prevent harmful use of cannabis and cannabis related substances in Member States? Are there lessons learned that can be shared?

Answer: Actually, there hasn’t been a big change in 2021. The CND decided to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from schedule 4 of the 1961 convention, the schedule reserved for substances that are not acknowledged to have substantial therapeutic value. They remain on the schedule one however, and so are still subject to international control. As such, the work of UNODC and supporting member states to address the world drug problem has not substantially changed in 2021 in relation to cannabis. Our office continues to promote a balanced response and to promote and protect the health and well being of all people.

  1. Dianova International, (Lucía Goberna)

Regarding the SDG target 3.5 on “Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol”, is UNODC reporting to the High-Level Political Forum on the indicator 3.5.1 on coverage of treatment (pharmacological, psychosocial and rehabilitation and aftercare services) for substance use disorders? Could you inform us about the current situation and trend since 2016?

 Answer: UNODC works with WHO. Together, UNODC and WHO were the custodian agencies for SDG indicators 3.5.1. And through our annual report questionnaires we collect data from member states. As with other SDG indicators, UNODC reports the data to the SDG global database, which is openly accessible, so unfortunately data for this indicator remains very limited. So global and regional trends are very difficult to measure accurately when you have data. Regarding the high level political forum this year, the CND provides regular contributions to the forum and has provided contributions on SDG which is central to the work of the Commission. In its contribution to the high level policy forum in 2021, the Commission stressed that the pandemic and associated mobility restrictions have affected the drug supply chain temporarily  to reduce the availability of controlled substances and reduce access to treatment and medication. The crisis also caused more harmful drug use, increased risk of transmission of communicable disease or overdose. These are important considerations to take into account in our pursuit of SDG 3 and its indicators.

  1. BAPUD- Burundi Association of people who used drugs, Burundi (Minani Eddy Michel)

Recently in the UNODC virtual event entitled “UNODC DATA EXPLAINED” we were informed about how data is collected and processed until it is published. We conducted a behavioral survey on key populations with very alarming results hence the delay even the refusal to publish this data. What can UNODC do to encourage African states to apply policies and programmes on harm reduction which will give access to controlled medicine which is today inaccessible and classified on the list of illicit drugs?

Answer: Every country has its own policy as to how to publish and include to take data into consideration. But for us here at UNODC during this session of this end, actually, the focus was on access to controlled medicines and the chair, the Belgium ambassador, the head of INCB and I together with Dr. Tablas. from WHO, we launched a call of action and we issue the statement to facilitate access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes. I highlighted that I will continue to highlight that people in low and middle income countries do not have adequate access to controlled medicines and called for more effective policies to address this. And in line with international drug control convention, UNODC has always advocated for this balanced approach of access to controlled substances for medical use, including for pain management and palliative care, while preventing their misuse. So we will continue to work with member states, including in Africa to address this balanced approach, to promote this balanced approach to really advocate for people to access it.  To me it’s a human rights it’s a basic right it’s very important that people have access to this type of medicines when they need it. But I don’t think UNODC can do anything about publishing or not publishing research, however in Burundi or in any other country. 

  1. Youth RISE, Hungary (Beatrix Vas)

While we got somewhat reliable data on drug use among young people in Western countries and Oceania to better understand the motives, patterns, potential risks and benefits of use, such data is greatly lacking in other countries because young people feel uncomfortable to report the of drugs use as they fear negative consequences for themselves or their community. However, some peer-led projects that support young people who use drugs are collecting data. Are there any efforts planned to empower more peer-led organisations to collect data independent of university- and government-funded research? And does UNODC have any plans to use this method of data collection to address data gaps?

Answer: Currently, we do not have any programmes on data collection by peer led organisations. It’s a suggestion that I take note of, I will share with our research team. What we do in our publications such as the World Drug report, we make use of different sources of data and information that we can collect, including government reports, scientific journals, and other great literature. At country level, we advocate for collection and reporting of data from diverse sources, which gives it credibility and makes it comprehensive and complete. But we still have not used this peer led approach and I will definitely talk to the research team about it.

  1. Open Society Foundations, United States (Kasia Malinowska) & San Patrignano Foundation, Italy (Monica Barzanti)

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased mortality in prisons across the globe and highlighted direct consequences of locking people up for drug offences. In addition, there was a sharp increase of incarceration rate of women and girls for drug related crimes, especially in some countries. The GBV is largely widespread in jails and women suffer abuse and violence much more than their male peer. Alternatives to detention are not available in many countries.   What has UNODC done to help countries address this problem in the short term? How will UNODC reduce carceral policies for drug offenses in the future?

Answer: Where did you get this data? I haven’t heard that there is a specific increased mortality in prisons across the globe during COVID I know that there have many countries have taken measures to release prisoners and reduce the number of prisoners I have some information on some regions, but I have yet to identify. 

Kasia Maliwska: If you look at United States, for example, you will see that the number of prisoners who died of COVID obviously has increased dramatically because two years ago, there was no COVID. The first two people to die of COVID in US federal prison were there for drug offences.

Answer: I am really interested in getting this information so please share it with us. Happy to to learn about the situation. In the in the mortality in the prisons of the US or other countries. There is gender based violence in jails, of course, and women suffer abuse and violence in different prisons. But the alternatives to development have always been a key corner of our work. We help member states to implement their commitments on non custodial measures and alternatives to conviction or punishment related to drug offences in appropriate cases. For example, we have collaborated with African Union to develop a technical brief that provides an overview on existing legislation and practices on noncustodial alternatives for people with drug use disorders in the context.  In terms of addressing challenges and prison settings, UNODC has advocated for and supported member states to address the plight of people living or working in prison during COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2021, we continued to support penal and prison reform by providing technical assistance to over 40 Member States. We also published a new toolkit on gender responsive non custodial measures. I have attended myself a couple of trainings provided to prison management on the situation of COVID. We have distributed to some countries, we give prisons protective equipment so that we reduce the the transmission of COVID. And we continue to advocate for non custodial measures, especially for petty crimes. However, it’s always up to member states to change the legislation. I believe our role is to share evidence to give them advice, to show them what difference it can make in prison population in general. And we will continue to do so and advocate for that. It’s also important to agree that this is something that needs resources and you don’t find many donors available to fund such programmes where you can come in and really provide services in prisons. We are the custodians of the Nelson Mandela rules and Bangkok rules. We do have in our plans to expand our work on the prison reform agenda.

  1. Harm Reduction International, United Kingdom (Ajeng Larasati)

HRI’s research shows that retentionist countries continued to execute people for drug offences in 2021, and individuals with mental health issues were scheduled to be executed for drug offences earlier this month. As reiterated by Your office, the use of the death penalty for drug offences is contrary to international drug control standards. Can you please share how Your office is planning to support the advocacy movement towards the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences?

 Answer: This question is related to the death penalty and the abolition of the death penalty. It’s the Secretary General’s announced position on the abolition of the death penalty as part of UN Secretariat our office has aligned with. At the country level, advocacy takes place through what is called the UN country team, which is led by the resident coordinator. Our offices are everywhere in every country, part of the country team led by the resident coordinator who and are integrated as part of those advocacy. So Resident coordinators address governments, and UNODC supports appropriate sentencing policies for drug offences through the technical assistance that we provide to different countries and different requesting states including legislation, legislative assistance, and advice on drug control legislation, and also on settling international cooperation through extradition and mutual legal assistance. My office prepares the Secretary General’s report on capital punishment, and in this report which is published every five years, this topic was also addressed. The last report was issued in 2020 and it has confirmed that there is an overall decrease in the use of the death penalty, and that there is a decrease in executions for drug offences specifically following legislative changes in many states. So the trends are positive, we’re not yet there. But we will continue to advocate for abolishing the death penalty and we will continue to provide legislative support to different countries so that they change their laws and try to move away from that penalty for drug offences.

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