A conference of world MPs at the United Nations in New York has highlighted the need for fresh thinking to meet the challenges of the world drug problem.
The parliamentary hearing, jointly organized by IPU and the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly, drew MPs and other experts from around the world to evaluate current drug policy and search for new solutions.
The meeting concluded that greater international cooperation was useful, but that countries should take advantage of the flexibility provided by existing conventions to tailor their own solutions to the drug problem. This may include decriminalizing the use and possession of light drugs like cannabis, within a strict regulatory system, as several countries have done. The meeting urged countries to focus on the root causes of why people used drugs, as well as tackling the traffickers who are the main culprits, and to develop a people-centred approach toward the problem in line with the new Sustainable Development Goals.
The hearing, on 8-9 February, was part of the preparations for a UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem, UNGASS 2016, which takes place in April.
The MPs, joined by representatives from international organizations and civil society, examined the complex drivers of drug production and consumption, including links with terrorism and organized crime, and the challenges posed by new types of drugs. They reviewed the progress made by parliaments since a plan of action was adopted by governments in 2009, setting 2019 as a target date for eliminating or significantly reducing supply, demand and associated criminal activity such as money laundering.
They also questioned whether the so-called “war on drugs”, which relies on a law-enforcement approach, diverts valuable resources from healthcare to law enforcement, and has a disproportionate impact on poorer sections of society, women and individual users.
IPU President Saber Chowdhury praised delegates for their open and passionate debate, and stressed the need for more compassion and less judgement in dealing with people using drugs.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong added: “if we help people out of poverty, provide health care and education, make institutions more transparent and representative, and indeed do all the things the SDGs ask us to do, then we will undercut the drivers of the drug problem. The most important message from this hearing is that each country needs a comprehensive debate with all constituencies, and to draw up strategies appropriate to its own situation.”
The President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, closing the hearing, urged MPs and parliaments to place the issue high on their national agendas. He said: “Whatever the various national positions, we have to engage with the number one question – are our efforts succeeding for the families and individuals most affected, for societies, for your countries, and for our inter-connected world? And how can we work more closely together to strengthen our global response?”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also spoke to delegates during a reception at IPU offices, while the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, addressed the opening of the hearing.
IPU-UN parliamentary hearings enable MPs to feed their views and experiences into UN work and decision-making processes, as well as increasing their understanding of those processes.
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