2012 marks the centenary of the international drug control system and the first instance of a state being moved to denounce formally any of the UN drug control treaties. The 55th session of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND), held in Vienna between 12th and 16th March, therefore looked set to be a fascinating event and did not disappoint.

As expected, member states favouring the current regime praised its virtues and ongoing relevance 100 years since The Hague Opium Convention; behaviour that found support in the statements and positions of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB or Board). These bodies sought to ensure, and to a certain extent succeeded, that such a celebratory perspective became the dominant narrative of the event. However, a number of Parties to the conventions openly, and without precedent within the conference rooms of the Vienna International Centre, expressed discontent with the UN’s fundamental architecture for drug control. Alongside these opposing perspectives more familiar debates surrounding the INCB’s mandate and civil society engagement could also be found.

This report aims to provide a summary of what happened at the meeting, including at various satellite events, and offer some analysis of the key discussions and debates; the emerging reaffirm versus reformist debate foremost among them. A supplementary account of the proceedings can be found on the IDPC blog, (supported by Youth RISE). Official UN documentation pertaining to the session can be found here.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.


Previous reports in this series