After a long gestation, the UN drug reform experiment suffered a miscarriage. It seems the UN is not the catalyst of change but its mirror. Reformers can learn many lessons - but can also be proud of their achievements.
Those who hoped this would be a watershed event must be feeling disappointed, after the closure of the UN General Assembly Special Session. As we reported earlier, the UNGASS adopted a weak and vague outcome document on the first day, in the opening plenary, without a debate. So the plenary debates and round-table discussions, which were supposed to shed new light on the world’s efforts to control drugs, were essentially no more than lip-service, and had no real impact on the system.
I have always been among the sceptics who didn’t believe that the UNGASS would bring much change, so this was not a real disappointment for me. I think drug policy reform has never come from the UN, and it never will. The UN is only a mirror that reflects the power structure of the world and what is happening at a national level. Its systemic inertia does not permit it to be the catalyst for change.
That said, it doesn’t mean that all advocacy efforts targeting the UN are necessarily meaningless. The UN is an important forum for power-play among world powers, and provides a platform for interaction between civil society and member states. What is more, it is a stage which NGOs can use, in order to highlight the flaws of the system in front of the watching eyes of the public. That’s why we, the Rights Reporter Foundation, attended the event and produced a movie about it.
Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.
Thumbnail: Youtube Drugreporter