The annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the central policy-making body of the UN drug control system, took place in Vienna on 12th to 16th March 2012. As always, the CND represents an intensive period of engagement for IDPC; preparations involved producing practical and logistical material to support the civil society presence at the event, as well as the planning of IDPC side events and strategic interventions, briefings and orientation sessions, and so on.

IDPC activities

This year the CND blog, which reports real-time developments from Vienna, was run as a cooperative project between IDPC and Youth RISE, and was viewed by our network and contacts in the broader civil society as one of our most valuable resources of information. We also ran a series of well-attended side events, focusing on the launch of the 2nd Edition of the IDPC Drug Policy Guide; an insight into the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; the future of the UN drug conventions, organised in collaboration with the Transnational Institute (TNI); and new developments in drug policy reform in Latin America, organised in collaboration with TNI and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Resolutions

There were a total of 12 resolutions adopted by the CND, a number of which were orientated toward health. These included one proposed by Denmark, focusing on the prevention of overdose-related mortality; another, proposed by Mexico and the US, promoting alternatives to imprisonment; and another promoting the availability of treatment and reintegration programmes for drug-dependent people released from prison. Others were concerned with the provision of gender-specific demand reduction measures and programmes for women, as well as the development of a scientific evidence-base for prevention. In addition, there were resolutions aimed at international cooperation in responding to new psychoactives, and a US-sponsored reaffirmation of the drug control treaties on the occasion of the centennial of the 1912 Hague Opium Convention.

Plenary session

In the Plenary, meanwhile, roundtable discussions took place focusing on counter-narcotics efforts and the principle of shared responsibility, a theme which was woven throughout much of the proceedings this year. A second roundtable focused on the prevention of diversion of controlled substances into the illicit drug market. The highlight of the Plenary session in the early part of the week was formed by the appearance of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who spoke once again on the 'historical error' made in the prohibition of coca-chewing under the 1961 Single Convention (with a 25 year-period in which the practice was supposed to be phased out). The Bolivian secession and re-accession to the Convention was justified by Morales on the grounds that the practice is a cultural patrimony that is not harmful, promotes social solidarity, and was agreed-to a Bolivian government which itself lacked all democratic legitimacy. The Bolivian move has caused considerable controversy amongst those who regard the drug control Conventions as expressing timeless truths that can never be changed. If you wish to know more about what your country said at the CND, please click here.

Civil society participation

Civil society participation is growing each year now at the CND, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this vibrant presence is an essential ingredient of the proceedings. It is a presence which remains highly controversial, however – while agencies such as the UNODC are generally welcoming, and a number of Member States engage in meaningful and important discussions with NGOs, there are others which are stridently vocal in their opposition to civil society participation. The most obvious example of these is the government of the Russian Federation. Fresh from silencing dissenting drug policy voices in their own country, the Russian delegation was openly hostile to interventions expressing views that depart from or conflict with its own, and attempted to make use of points of procedural order to block such interventions and prevent their being heard. In view of such anti-democratic practices, IDPC will in future years redouble its efforts to ensure that an informed civil society presence continues to make its diversity of voices heard at the CND, and to prevent the event from degenerating into a ritualised endorsement of outmoded policy positions.

A detailed account of the proceedings of the CND will be produced by IDPC in the coming weeks.

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