Weaknesses in the UN drug control system have often been identified, related to the functioning of the key organs UNODC, INCB, and the CND; related to collaboration with the wider UN system (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, etc.) and related to the outdated character of several treaty provisions. What has been attempted to date to achieve more structural reform? Are existing evaluation mechanisms capable of bringing the need for reform to the table? How could a neutral and evidence-based role of UNODC as a centre of expertise be strengthened? How can these issues be related to the UN call for more ‘system-wide coherence’ and ‘delivery as one’?

  • Edging forward

    How the UN’s language on drugs has advanced since 1990
    Jamie Bridge (IDPC), Christopher Hallam (IDPC), Marie Nougier (IDPC), Miguel Herrero Cangas (IDPC) Martin Jelsma (TNI), Tom Blickman (TNI) & David Bewley-Taylor (GDPO)
    IDPC Briefing Paper
    September 2017

    Diplomatic processes at the United Nations are notoriously slow and difficult, perhaps increasingly so in a modern world of multi-polar geopolitics and tensions. This is certainly no different for the highly charged and provocative issue of international drug control. After the latest high-level UN meeting on drug control – the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the ‘world drug problem’ in New York in April 2016 – many stakeholders came away with mixed feelings at best. Despite acknowledgements of the progress made in certain areas of the debate, and the rich content of some of the country and civil society statements, the UNGASS failed to deliver the ‘wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options’ that had been called for by the UN Secretary-General at the time, Ban Ki-Moon.

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  • WHO and UNDP change in leadership: What views on drug policy and harm reduction?

    The commitment of the aspiring leaders to evidence-based policies must be one of the criteria taken into account
    Khalid Tinasti, Ann Fordham, David R Bewley-Taylor
    Thursday, May 4, 2017

    The UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs held in April 2016 has been organized by the international drug control entities, but has confirmed the inclusion of other UN agencies in the global debates on drugs. Out of these, WHO and UNDP have played a major role in linking drug policy with the priorities of protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development. In May 2017, the leadership of both agencies will change. This letter reviews the aspiring leaders of these agencies’ positions on drug policies through existing literature, providing more clarity on their past or current commitment to the issue of drug policy and harm reduction stakeholders.

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  • What comes next?

    Post-UNGASS options for 2019/2020 – Version 2
    IDPC Advocacy Note
    March 2017

    The 2016 UNGASS on drugs was hailed as an opportunity ‘to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options’. Although the UNGASS fell short of expectations, it was nonetheless a critical moment for global drug policy reform. The next opportunity to build on progress made will be in 2019, when the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action will be up for review. The document established 2019 ‘as a target date for States to eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably’ illicit drug supply and demand, the diversion and trafficking of precursors and money laundering. Evidence from the UN itself shows that these targets are unachievable.

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  • What comes next?

    Post-UNGASS options for 2019/2020
    IDPC
    November 2016

    The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs – held in New York in April 2016 – was hailed as an opportunity for the international community ‘to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options’. Although the UNGASS was characterised by many shortcomings and disappointments, it was nonetheless a critical moment for global drug policy reform. Now that the dust has settled, one serious omission from the proces has become increasingly apparent – the fact that nothing was decided or proposed for the next important UN moment for drug policy in 2019.

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  • UNGASS 2016: A Broken or B-r-o-a-d Consensus?

    UN summit cannot hide a growing divergence in the global drug policy landscape
    Dave Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma
    Drug Policy Briefing Nr 45
    July 2016

    A special session of the General Assembly took place in April revealing a growing divergence in the global drug policy landscape. Difficult negotiations resulted in a disappointing outcome document, perpetuating a siloed approach to drugs at the UN level. There is a clear need to realign international drug policies with the overarching 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, embedding the drugs issue comprehensively within the UN’s three pillars: development, human rights, and peace and security. The UNGASS process has helped to set the stage for more substantial changes in the near future, towards the next UN review in 2019.

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  • UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy

    Martin Jelsma
    Journal of Drug Policy Analysis
    March 2016

    This paper explores key lessons from the 1990 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug Abuse (UNGASS 1990) and the 1998 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 1998), and tracks subsequent policy events and trends. It discusses the wide array of increasing tensions and cracks in the “Vienna consensus,” as well as systemic challenges and recent treaty breaches.

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  • New UN think-tank report: What comes after the War on Drugs?

    Some states, particularly in the Americas, see UNGASS 2016 as an opportunity to rethink global drug control
    The Huffington Post (US)
    Wednesday, November 3, 2015

    The UN's own thinktank, the United Nations University (UNU), published a report entitled What Comes After the War on Drugs? that argues that UNGASS 2016 will largely confirm the current approach to drug control, despite growing calls for change. The report, based on a series of consultations involving over 50 Member States, 16 UN entities and 55 civil society organizations, considers the major political and policy trends leading into UNGASS 2016, and offers recommendations for strengthening global drug policy efforts at a time of deepening divisions.

  • UN attempt to decriminalise drugs foiled

    The UNODC paper also suggests low-level dealing should not be criminal offence
    BBC News (UK)
    Monday, October 19, 2015

    A paper from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been withdrawn after pressure from at least one country. The document, which was leaked, recommends to consider "decriminalising drug and possession for personal consumption", arguing "arrest and incarceration are disproportionate measures". The UNODC has been under pressure for some time to make a clear statement regarding decriminalisation. UN agencies including the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS have been explicit in their opposition to drug users facing criminal sanctions on health and human rights grounds. The UNODC says the document is under review.

  • UN poised to call for decriminalisation of drugs, says Richard Branson

    Businessman says he is breaking embargo as he fears political pressure will lead to withdrawal of statement at last minute
    The Guardian (UK)
    Monday, October 19, 2015

    The United Nations is on the verge of issuing a call for all governments to decriminalise the possession and use of all drugs, according to businessman and global drugs campaigner Richard Branson. In a statement on the Virgin website, Branson has claimed that the call is included in an as-yet unreleased, embargoed statement by the UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC) and marks a “refreshing shift” from a body that has “shaped much of global drug policy for decades”. (Transform: Leaked document shows UN agency in charge of drug war wants world to decriminalise all drugs)

  • UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy

    Martin Jelsma
    Brookings Institute
    April 2015

    This paper explores key lessons from the 1990 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug Abuse (UNGASS 1990) and the 1998 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 1998), and tracks subsequent policy events and trends. It discusses the wide array of increasing tensions and cracks in the "Vienna consensus," as well as systemic challenges and recent treaty breaches. Various options for treaty reform are explored.

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