Chair: Welcome back. The challenge that we will be focusing on this afternoon responses not in conformity with the three international drug conventions, and not in conformity with applicable international human rights obligations pose a challenge to the implementation of joint commitment based on the principle of responsibility.
UNODC Scientific Services Branch: I have a brief moment to introduce the issue at stake this afternoon. I want to walk you through several positive frameworks and conceptual considerations for addressing responses that do not conform to conventions and human rights. When we consider responses not conforming to the drug convention, many fail to criminalize behaviors that the convention deems punishable offenses. I want to broaden our thinking and provide examples from other areas within the conventions. For instance, the conventions emphasize the prevention of drug abuse through treatment, education, rehabilitation, and social reintegration, offering alternatives to imprisonment for producers. Another area is international cooperation, encouraging mutual legal assistance, expedited proceedings, and cooperation between agencies. Also, parties are required to furnish data, including annual reports and drug seizures, enhancing transparency. Moving to the issue of criminalization and legalization, some jurisdictions have legalized or partially legalized non-medical cannabis use, impacting drug use patterns even before formal legalization due to media discussions and changing perceptions of risks. Additionally, the implementation of medical cannabis in various ways has influenced attitudes, potentially affecting norms and support for legalization. I mention psychedelics because ongoing research explores their use for certain health conditions, with over 400 clinical trials worldwide. Some jurisdictions have enacted regulations for access to psychedelics, including therapy services, though not always provided by trained medical staff. Regarding treatment, there is a global shortage in coverage, accessibility, and funding. Progress has been made, with an increase in countries reporting drug-related data. However, substantial gaps remain, particularly in Africa, highlighting the need for comprehensive data collection. In terms of human rights, thematic rights such as the right to life, health, and security, intersect with cross-cutting rights like equality, non-discrimination, human dignity, and participation. These rights are applicable not only to drug users but also to individuals involved in drug activities, their families, communities, and society at large. Domestic frameworks related to health, socio-economic conditions, and safety further complicate this complex issue. Understanding and implementing these frameworks within specific contexts is a challenge that requires careful consideration. Thank you for your attention.
UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Services Branch: The fundamental aim of our recommendations is to protect the health and welfare of individuals and society from the dangerous effects of controlled substances. The conventions, enjoying near universal adherence and ratification, signify a commitment by third parties to uphold obligations outlined within them, providing an international legal framework for our work, particularly within the UNODC. The international community emphasizes the universality and inalienability of human rights. To effectively address the global drug problem, policies and actions must align with the principles of the United Nations Charter, International Law, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, I would like to focus on three critical issues. Firstly, the right of children to be shielded from drug abuse and associated disorders is paramount. Scientific evidence indicates that early substance use increases the likelihood of mental health disorders. The 2022 world report highlights the vulnerability of young people, especially in low-income countries, projecting an increase in drug use among those aged 15 to 24 years. Secondly, addressing the imbalance in access to controlled drugs for medical use is crucial. Ensuring access to essential medicines is a fundamental human right. The conventions, while preventing non-medical use and illicit activities, also establish a flexible system allowing for controlled substances’ availability for medical and scientific purposes. However, there is a significant global imbalance in their availability, necessitating a better understanding and interpretation of our rule-based and flexible scheduling system. Lastly, I want to emphasize the fundamental rights of individuals who use drugs and live with drug use disorders, especially those in contact with the criminal justice system. Compulsory or low-quality treatment services are not the answer. Instead, a public health-oriented approach, focusing on voluntary, evidence-based treatments and care, is essential. International drug control conventions allow for this flexible approach, recognizing the importance of investing in services to protect the health of people who use drugs and limit drug use disorders.
Chair: Any questions?
USA: Justice Teddy, I have a question regarding your CHAMPS program. In our country, we’ve previously implemented a program called DARE, aimed at raising awareness among youth about the risks of drug use. Regrettably, the evidence indicates that such targeted programs have not been successful. I’m curious to understand how the CHAMPS program is structured and if there is any evidence indicating its success. Could you please provide more information on this? Thank you.
UNODC: I appreciate the point made by my colleague from the United States regarding evidence. It’s crucial to understand that prevention is a long-term effort. We’ve conducted campaigns spanning over six months, expecting to witness substantial results. It’s important to consider various factors, such as different age groups and diverse risk environments, especially in humanitarian settings where families, often impoverished, might have parents struggling with drug use. Our research indicates that when these factors are integrated over a period of five years, tangible results emerge, backed by solid scientific evidence. During our briefing on Monday, we plan to share these findings with member states. For several years, we’ve implemented prevention programs in smaller segments. Our new approach involves integrating these packages and focusing on stable countries where we are confident about achieving positive outcomes. In the initial phase, we aim to target approximately 10 different countries. Over a five-year period, our goal is to positively impact the lives of at least 10 million children globally. I invite you to join us for a detailed briefing on Monday. Thank you
EU: It has become evident that we face a significant challenge due to the lack of data, not just in the context of regulation, as you mentioned, but also concerning the access and availability of controlled medicines, particularly for treating psychological problems. Currently, our primary method of gathering data is through the ARQ system. However, especially in these specialized fields, we question its sufficiency. Are there other approaches we should consider? How can we enhance our data collection efforts to ensure they are more comprehensive and accurate in these areas?
UNODC: Indeed, our primary tool for data collection is the comprehensive ARQ system. The Revised Version of ARQ covers a wide array of areas. It’s only the second year of its implementation, and we’ve already observed a 10% increase, which is encouraging. We’re pleased with this progress. Over the years, we’ve consistently had around 120 countries participating, which is a positive sign. Moving forward, our focus is on diversifying our efforts. The new version includes different modules, some of which rotate, appearing periodically, such as every five years, or more frequently, like every two years or annually. To enhance our data collection on access control and availability of controlled substances, we recognize the need for investments in training and capacity building. Specifically, we plan to target various regions and sub-regions to ensure a more robust and reliable data collection process. Regarding the quality of the data, I believe it’s satisfactory. While I can vouch for its reliability, I welcome any feedback or comments from colleagues present in the room on this matter.
South Africa: We acknowledge the challenges outlined in the report, especially concerning affordability in developing countries’ access and availability of essential resources. These issues are intertwined, with affordability being a critical factor. In light of this, we seek guidance from our esteemed panelists and the chair on the role the UN can play, particularly in assisting developing countries, notably in Africa.
Canada: We emphasize the ineffectiveness of ‘one size fits all’ policies in drug prevention and crime prevention. Services tailored to specific demographics tend to yield better results. Gender is a crucial factor often overlooked; drug prevention strategies differ significantly for women in prison compared to men and in various circumstances. Additionally, I want to highlight Canada’s resolution 64/5 in 2021, emphasizing the need for comprehensive, evidence-based drug demand reduction services. The resolution stresses the importance of targeted efforts, especially for marginalized communities impacted by the global drug problem. Governments must implement tailored approaches to reach these vulnerable members of society effectively.
UNODC: You’ve highlighted a crucial aspect concerning access and availability, especially focusing on the affordability of drugs. One major factor contributing to this issue is the intersection of production costs and profitability within the pharmaceutical industry. For instance, essential drugs like morphine, if produced more frequently, could potentially reduce costs significantly. Additionally, examining the regulatory hurdles, such as understanding scheduling regions comprehensively, is essential. Unfortunately, this understanding is lacking in many cases, leading to inefficient control measures. To address these challenges, we’ve recently bolstered our program on access and availability. We’ve dedicated staff working on this and are actively collaborating with partners, including national regulatory authorities and the pharmaceutical industry. The goal is to find ways to enhance affordability, potentially through bulk production that can lower costs on the supply side. These are vital aspects we’re exploring. I appreciate the input from our colleague from Canada regarding tailored responses. Indeed, our approach considers various risk factors and different stages within communities. For example, targeting children from different age groups requires distinct strategies. We’re also taking into account environmental factors such as educational settings and the presence or absence of social support. The program we plan to introduce on Monday encompasses all these dimensions, addressing risk factors and adapting approaches based on diverse environments. Moreover, stability is key. When initiating projects in countries, we aim for a stable environment to ensure consistent results over at least a five-year period. If stability isn’t feasible, we might need to reconsider our strategies. I’m thankful for your valuable insights and comments.
Chair: Now I open the floor for the interactive part.
Palestine: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I intended to speak for two reasons. First, it seems quite absurd for Palestinians to discuss narcotic drugs while they are facing daily massacres and lack basic necessities like clean water. Second, our intention was to keep this meeting purely technical and avoid politicization. However, the EU representative initiated political discussions last Monday, specifically about the situation in Gaza. I want to express our gratitude to all missions that have shown solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemned the attacks on civilians. Presently, Gaza is under heavy bombardment, with thousands of explosives raining down on its civilians. According to UN data, the death toll in Gaza has exceeded 6,000. In the last 24 hours alone, more than 700 people, including 305 children, were killed. Additionally, 1.4 million people have been displaced. The situation has also led to severe damage to infrastructure and housing. We firmly assert that Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Countries offering unconditional support to Israel are, in effect, complicit in these crimes by not holding Israel accountable for its obligations as an occupying power. The international community must urgently press for a humanitarian ceasefire and establish humanitarian corridors to alleviate the immense suffering of the people. Lastly, I want to highlight that the Foreign Minister of Israel, the occupying power, called for the resignation of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres, yesterday. However, it is Israel’s membership at the UN that should be suspended, as there is no place within the UN system for apartheid and war crimes.
Singapore on behalf of 43 co sponsors Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the State of Palestine, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe: We acknowledge the progress made in the implementation of the international drug policy commitments due to enhanced efforts of national competent authorities in addressing and countering the world drug problem as well as broad technical assistance provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. We reaffirm the main role of Member States in developing an effective and comprehensive approach to addressing and countering the world drug problem. We further reaffirm the principal role of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as the policy-making body of the United Nations with prime responsibility for drug control matters and fully support its work within its mandate, without diverting its attention from the core tasks. We underscore that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 constitute the cornerstone of the international drug control system. We strongly urge all Member States to comply with the provisions and ensure the full and effective implementation of these conventions. We appreciate the treaty-mandated work of the International Narcotics Control Board. We encourage the Board as an independent treaty-mandated body to monitor in close consultation and cooperation with States Parties, their compliance with the drug control conventions. We call on the Board to continue to safeguard the integrity of the international drug control system and to assist Governments in effectively addressing and countering the increasingly complex, persistent and emerging challenges related to the global drug control. We underscore that the current developments related to the world drug problem are alarming and represent a global drug crisis. Meanwhile, the adoption of legislation in support of non-scientific and non-medical or “recreational” use of drugs in some countries leads to misperceptions about the perceived risk of the consequences of illicit drug use. The range of illegal drugs and illicit drug markets are expanding and diversifying, compounded by increase in both global supply and demand. Such worrisome trends are witnessed both with regard to plant-based and synthetic drugs. The persistence of the drug problem, and the emergence of new and ever-evolving drug-related challenges, show that the severity of the world drug problem must not be downplayed to merely a “situation”. We believe that strong political will and unwavering commitment of all Member States to strengthen their domestic efforts and increase international cooperation along with concrete measures are required to counter the serious threat posed by the world drug problem. We are deeply concerned about legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes. We fully share the assessments of INCB that the growing trend to allow the use of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes contravenes the 1961 Single Convention and constitutes a significant challenge for the international community, the States Parties to the drug control conventions and for the implementation of these conventions. We would like to reiterate that the principle of pacta sunt servanda is applicable in the field of drug control treaties. We emphasize detrimental effects of legalization of cannabis for public health, safety as well as decreasing perception of risks related to drug abuse in the society, particularly among children and youth, and call upon the UNODC and INCB to continue data collection and analysis of harms posed by legalization of non-medical use of cannabis. We also underline that legalization of drugs for non-medical purposes poses a threat to promotion and protection of human rights, especially the right to life, the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and, as Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides for, the right of the child to be protected from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. We emphasize the importance of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding for UNODC in order for the Office to enhance provision, within its mandate, of technical assistance, capacity building, and especially needed equipment and related technology to developing countries, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States as well as the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, upon their request and in accordance with their needs, and to facilitate equal access to such assistance. We further emphasize that all Member States should benefit from research activities of the Office, which should respect sovereign drug control policies, legislation and the unique circumstances of Member States, and that the thematic focus of the World Drug Report should represent a broad consensus. We also emphasize that strengthening of cross-border law enforcement cooperation is essential in our joint endeavour. We recognize the fundamental role of effective international cooperation in preventing and combating drug-related crime and to this end underline the importance of addressing, tackling and effectively responding to international challenges and barriers, in particular measures, that hinder such cooperation, and which are not consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and obligations under international law, and in this regard urge States, consistent with their international obligations, to refrain from applying such measures. We underscore that Article 3 of the 1988 Convention provides that drug-related offences shall be prosecuted and punished in conformity with the domestic law. Moreover, Article 24 of this Convention prescribes that Parties may adopt more strict or severe measures than those provided by this Convention if, in their opinion, such measures are desirable or necessary for the prevention or suppression of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. We urge all Member States to set ambitious goals and not to limit their efforts to reducing harms related to drug abuse, illicit drug cultivation, production, manufacture and trafficking. We call for concerted international action aimed at addressing the root causes of the world drug problem. We are convinced that harm prevention is an important element in the drug-related efforts of Member States. We reaffirm our determination to counter the world drug problem and to actively promote a society free of drug abuse in order to ensure that all people can live in security, peace, health, dignity and prosperity. We call on all Member States to work constructively and in good faith towards adopting a concise, action-oriented document at the opening of the high-level segment of the 67th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs within the framework of 2024 mid-term review and reaffirm our commitment to accelerated implementation of all existing international drug policy commitments beyond 2024.
EU: My delegation echoes the joint statement made earlier this week by the Swiss ambassador and affirms our alignment with the forthcoming statement from the European Union. We emphasize the crucial need to center human rights and public health in international drug policy, promoting equality and non-discrimination. We commend the report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights titled ‘Human Rights Challenges in Addressing the World Drug Problem.’ This report sets a positive precedent that we should continue to build upon. We call on UNODC and all member states to carefully consider its recommendations, especially in anticipation of the upcoming midterm review. I would like to highlight three key points. Firstly, ensuring access to and availability of controlled substances for medical use is fundamental to the right to health. There persists a significant imbalance in the availability of these substances globally, a concern exacerbated during emergencies. Addressing this issue should be a priority for the international community, both in the context of the midterm review and the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Secondly, we firmly oppose the use of the death penalty, particularly for drug-related offenses, and call for its universal abolition. Law enforcement efforts must align fully with human rights obligations. Lastly, we express deep concern about the lack of clinical access to treatment and harm reduction. We urge all states to adopt drug policies that prevent discrimination, ensure quality, and reduce stigma. Meaningful engagement with civil society organizations and other stakeholders, adopting gender-sensitive approaches, is imperative in these efforts. In conclusion, as we approach the midterm review, we urge the reaffirmation of the centrality of the right to health in international drug policy. Recognizing the importance of human rights, equality, and non-discrimination is crucial. I yield the floor to the distinguished representative of Venezuela for her intervention, followed by the European Union and Slovenia.
Slovenia: In addition to the statements made on behalf of the EU, I would like to share several remarks in my national capacity. Mr. Chairperson, I wish to follow up on one of the questions posed to Decel, specifically focusing on the topic introduced by Mr. Teleios. What specific initiatives have you implemented to safeguard children from the non-medical use of controlled substances and to prevent the use of illicit production and trafficking of such substances? When discussing human rights in the context of the drug situation, it is imperative to consider the perspective of children and young individuals, emphasizing their right to a safe environment, education, empowerment, and the ability to say no. Some of these crucial human rights were not emphasized in the initial panel discussion. We must empower our children to be independent, resilient, and free. It is essential to educate parents and communities on how to facilitate this. I would like to highlight the importance of recognizing evidence-based prevention, including early education and family skills programs. Regarding early prevention, Mr. Chairperson, prevention stands as a cornerstone of Slovenia’s national drug policy. It is a focal point in our latest National Programme on Illicit Drugs 2023-2030, unanimously approved by our parliament. The program prioritizes evidence-based and cost-effective initiatives to enhance social and emotional competencies. It includes early prevention efforts in schools, social and health systems, making these programs more accessible to vulnerable groups and strengthening early prevention initiatives for children and families of drug abusers. Slovenia has developed various programs for early prevention, such as ‘School for Parents,’ addressing health risks associated with substance use for both parents and children. Strengthening mental health services for women in the perinatal period has positive effects on the health of women, children, parents, and families, reducing inequalities and preventing transgenerational harm and trauma. Additionally, Slovenia has implemented programs like ‘Health in Kindergarten,’ encouraging healthy lifestyles among young children. ‘Incredible Years’ is a program designed for children facing emotional and behavioral challenges, providing early interventions to parents and teachers. Our prevention-focused school curriculum, ‘Unplugged,’ aims to minimize drug initiation among children and prolong the time before regular drug usage. Furthermore, we collaborate with local communities and stakeholders, including the police, to prevent drug abuse. While there are no easy solutions, we believe that evidence-based prevention will yield positive results in the long run. I am pleased that Slovenia’s resolution on early prevention received substantial support last year. I am also encouraged by Mr. Justice’s mention of the upcoming briefing on UNODC’s new prevention framework for the CHAMPS initiative. Slovenia will continue advocating for early prevention and supporting UNODC’s valuable work.
Pakistan: In alignment with the joint statement by the delegate of Singapore, I, representing Pakistan, wish to address the assembly. In our national capacity, Pakistan is deeply committed to effectively addressing and countering the global drug problem while upholding the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are actively engaging with all relevant stakeholders to fulfill our obligations under the 2019 ministerial declaration. Our approach emphasizes a balance between addressing the rights of victims and offenders. We have implemented comprehensive measures to ensure due process in drug-related cases. Additionally, our efforts include providing free treatment facilities and vocational training programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims instead of resorting to criminalization. Pakistan’s consistent dedication to this cause since 2001 illustrates the success of our domestic counter-narcotics policy. However, we express serious concerns about emerging trends in some parts of the world where there are attempts to legalize and commercialize controlled drugs for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. Such actions, as per our assessment and shared by INCB, contradict the legal obligations outlined in the control conventions. Legalizing controlled drugs for recreational purposes not only undermines these conventions but also fuels illicit drug markets, granting criminals a veneer of legitimacy for their activities. We firmly believe that unrestricted access to drugs would lead to an increase in crimes and infringe upon the human rights of society at large. Moreover, non-medical and non-scientific use would boost the demand and supply of illicit drugs, thereby escalating drug trafficking. We urge countries involved in such practices to reconsider their approach, align their policies with international obligations, and strengthen the conventions based on the principle of common and shared responsibility.
Netherlands: Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union. In my capacity representing the Netherlands, I express full support for the statement made by Ambassador Switzerland on Monday. I would like to add a few remarks in our national capacity. The Netherlands welcomes the focus of today’s discussion on drug policy and human rights, particularly highlighting the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights challenges in addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem, published on August 15 of this year. We find this report crucial for the work of this commission in Vienna. The report rightly points out the lack of equal access to treatment and harm reduction services as a significant concern. In the Netherlands, addiction treatment and harm reduction have been integral parts of our drug policy for decades. We firmly believe that everyone should have access to help, support, and treatment to promote their health and well-being. We have implemented various measures, from providing reliable information to distributing clean needles and offering methadone or heroin by prescription. The principle of harm reduction is now recognized in many parts of the world, and its prominent place in the report gives hope that more countries will adopt it, contributing to equal access to treatment and harm reduction. It is imperative that such treatment remains voluntary, evidence-based, and in compliance with human rights obligations. Unfortunately, as indicated in UNODC’s 2023 World Drug Report, this is not always the case. Effective drug policy requires a balanced approach, focusing on public health, combating organized crime, and ensuring safety. We express our concern about repressive drug control measures that violate human rights obligations, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the death penalty. The Netherlands firmly opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle. We call on all member states and UNODC to support drug policy instruments in relation to human rights protection, as highlighted in the 2019 national guidelines on human rights and drug policies and the 2018 human common position on drug policy. We also emphasize the importance of the 2016 UNGASS outcome document, which should receive full attention and support, especially during the upcoming 2024 midterm review. Following the resolution 63/1 of 2020 on improving data collection and strengthening evidence-based responses, we urge member states to cooperate with one another and enhance our collective knowledge regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of our policies. Lastly, we stress the active involvement of civil society organizations and other stakeholders throughout the midterm review process and the subsequent implementation plan. Allow me to conclude by commending you, Mr. Chair, for your excellent guidance and leadership in the commission’s work. Thank you very much.
Switzerland: I would like to affirm Switzerland’s support for the joint statement made by 47 members at the onset of the thematic discussions on Monday. Currently, we are facing a significant challenge in the form of drug-related issues, particularly with the rise in synthetic drugs leading to a surge in individuals with drug use disorders globally. Switzerland appreciates initiatives such as the Global Coalition on Synthetic Drugs, which we are soon to join. In light of these developments, we emphasize that the right to the highest attainable standard of health should guide drug laws, policies, and practices. This must encompass access to harm reduction services and treatment for drug users. It remains concerning that there is a substantial unmet demand for treating drug-related disorders. Individuals who inject drugs continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV and hepatitis transmissions, compounded by the associated stigma and discrimination, hindering their access to necessary support. Women, in particular, face greater challenges in receiving gender-sensitive treatments. A recent report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights underscores the essential role of accessible drug treatment services in realizing the rights of people who use drugs. The report advocates for the expansion and improved access to these programs, including within prison facilities. Switzerland wholeheartedly welcomes this report and the collaborative efforts between Geneva and Vienna to enhance global responses to drug-related issues. The 2016 outcome document highlights the need for a balanced, evidence-based approach to drug policies, emphasizing comprehensive healthcare and social support. Voluntary treatment is a vital means to reduce drug use and associated crimes. Switzerland is committed to placing human rights at the core of its drug policy, recognizing that drug use disorders are complex health conditions influenced by multiple factors, requiring a comprehensive approach encompassing prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and reintegration. The role of civil society, academia, and other stakeholders is paramount in the successful implementation of drug policies. Collaborative efforts with UN agencies and other international partners are crucial to minimizing harm from drug abuse and achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Lastly, I reiterate Switzerland’s condemnation of Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine, urging Russia to de-escalate the situation immediately, cease hostilities, and respect international humanitarian and human rights law. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
VNGOC / Amnesty International: Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to today’s important discussion. I take the floor on behalf of Amnesty International to draw attention to the hundreds of executions that have been carried out in the name of drug control. We demand immediate action from member states, the CND and other UN bodies and agencies to help ban this practice globally. The failure of the CND to condemn the use of the death penalty and include its abolition as a programmatic goal across all its work has weighed heavily against attempts to bring accountability for these human rights violations committed in the name of drug control. Pending full abolition, international human rights law restricts the imposition of this punishment to “the most serious crimes”.1 The UN Human Rights Committee has clarified that this restriction excludes drug related offences.2 The International Narcotics Control Board noted in its 2021 report that the death penalty for drug-related offences is in breach of the UN Drug Conventions and violates international human rights law. Alarmingly, in violation of this clear prohibition, 36 countries still retain the death penalty in law to punish drug related offences. At Amnesty International we recorded more than 700 executions for these crimes between 2018 and 2022, in just a handful of countries, with the 2022 figure being higher by 37% than that of 2021. This trend has continued into 2023. The use of the death penalty for drug related offences frequently follows unfair proceedings and disproportionately impacts marginalized groups, rendering its use not only unlawful − but also arbitrary and discriminatory. Numerous studies have shown that the death penalty does not have a unique deterrent effect. Amnesty International has joined many other organizations in calling for a paradigm shift in state responses to problems associated with drugs. We urge states to abolish the death penalty; implement alternatives to the criminalization of minor, non-violent drug-related offences that do not cause harm to others; and put in place measures that tackle social inequalities and promote economic, social and cultural rights. Amnesty International reiterates its call on the CND and UNODC to consistently incorporate human rights into their work. Among other steps, the CND should establish a standing agenda item to address the human rights impact of drug policies; and UNODC should ensure that human rights are part of its monitoring work, including through a specific chapter on human rights in its yearly World Drug Report.
VNGOC / Helsinki Foundation: I thank you for the opportunity for civil society to present at this thematic discussion ahead of the Mid-Term Review. I speak on behalf of one of the largest and oldest human rights organizations in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and thus I address the topic of today’s conversation from the region, where many people who use drugs experience criminalization, stigmatization and marginalization. While responses to the world drug situation should remain in full conformity with standards introduced in the international human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN human rights treaties, what we have observed for decades was the opposite. In its report released last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recognized that drug policy has had a significant impact on the enjoyment of human rights. In particular, the ‘zero tolerance’ policies are incompatible with a health focused and human rights driven approach to psychoactive substances. In our region, national drug laws often prioritize punishment over support to people who use drugs. In some countries criminalization contributes to arbitrary arrests and detention, prolonged pretrial detention, failure to ensure a fair trial, compulsory drug testing or treatment, police violence and harassment, and more. Thus, we welcome recommendations made by the OHCHR to decriminalize drug use and possession, and ensure proportionate sentences, to end the militarization of drug control and ensure that law enforcement efforts are fully consistent with States’ human rights obligations. In CEECA, like in other contexts, women, youth, specific ethnic groups and people living in poverty are disproportionately affected by punitive drug control. In some countries, highly repressive drug laws have become a tool to harass not only people who use drugs, but also opponents of authoritarian regimes, free media journalists, human right defenders and civil society organizations. Only 17% of the Eurasian population enjoy partial freedom, while the other 83% are not free.1 For the 19th consecutive year, democratic governance has suffered an overall decline in the region stretching from Central Europe to Central Asia.2 A combination of the punitive approach to drugs and authoritarianism can be truly devastating. When space for civil society in general is shrinking, it becomes almost non-existent for those working in drug policy and harm reduction. Barriers are created for NGO registration, public action and advocacy. Activists and leaders are unjustifiably harassed and arrested. NGOs find themselves under surveillance and punished for receiving financial or technical support from abroad or for contacting international institutions. It has sometimes resulted in the closure of life-saving methadone programs and harm reduction services. And so people who use drugs continue to be disproportionately affected by preventable infections. The HIV epidemic in EECA continues to grow, with one third of new HIV infections associated with injecting drug use.3 In this context, we call on you to implement the policy recommendations of the OHCHR to ensure the protection of the right to health for all across the region and globally. This includes the need to provide access to gender-sensitive medical care, voluntary treatment and harm reduction, both in the community and in prisons. I conclude by noting yet another recommendation of the High Commissioner to: ‘ensure the consistent incorporation of human rights in the work of international drug control mechanisms’. Human rights should be at the heart of the 2024 Mid-Term Review, and of international drug policy more generally.
UNODC: [summary of the day]
Chair: Rule 45
Sudan: I wasn’t planning to speak but the false accusations by the distinguished delegate of Israel to the States or to Palestine prompts us to push back. How are we to have constructive dialogue on global smuggling of migrants when some delegations take to the floor to express their irrelevant accusations and spread politically motivated lies in their interventions. Our discussions on the 9th of October were derailed. We condemn the killing of all civilian people everywhere. This is not a political forum.
Iran: Crimes against humanity are being committed by the Israeli regime.
Pakistan: The false accusations of Israel towards my country are lies and propaganda. They are the ones harming civilians, women and children – we have witnessed desctruction to hospitals and places of worship. We stand in full solidarity with the Palestinian people.
USA: Constructive dialogues about human smuggling opened the door to a discussion to the situation in the Middle East. Our own nationals have been killed in the recent terrorist attacks and some remain kidnapped. There is no evidence of genocide so we would like to avoid any premature conclusions. We would like to caution that there is a need for evidence in this forum and that we should be working together not apart.
Israel: Sudan’s call for Palestine to have sovereignity over our country is understood as a call for the destruction of Israel.
Chair: Meeting adjourned.