Statement delivered at the 62nd CND Session under agenda item 11. Follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem held in 2016, including the seven thematic areas of the outcome document of the special session | Delivered by Ann Fordham, Executive Director, IDPC
Madam Chair, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the floor. I am making this statement on behalf of the International Drug Policy Consortium – a global network of more than 180 NGOs that come together to promote drug policies based on human rights, human security, social inclusion and public health. The majority of our members are working at the national level and many are representatives of the most affected communities.
The 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document represents a forward-looking framework that provides a strong basis for the coming decade, especially given it 7-themed broad structure.
We have previously noted the important progress in the UNGASS Outcome document, which includes a greater focus on implementing health and development orientated drug control in full compliance with human rights obligations, including the principle of proportionality. In particular, the thematic chapter on improving access to controlled medicines for medical purposes is especially critical. The mention of specific life-saving harm reduction interventions such as needle and syringe programmes and medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence as well as the provision of naloxone to reduce preventable deaths from overdose additionally represents significant progress. The emphasis in the UNGASS Outcome document on aligning drug control objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals is also key given the global commitment to “Leave no one behind”.
We also welcomed the emphasis on improved UN system-wide coherence on drug policy and better cooperation between the relevant UN entities. Towards this end we welcome both the UN common position developed under the auspices of the Chief Executive Board for Coordination at the request of the Secretary General and adopted through extensive consultation among over 30 UN entities as well as the policy document, of the UN system coordination Task Team on the Implementation of the UN System Common Position on drug-related matters presented last week called “What we have learned over the last ten years: A summary of knowledge acquired and produced by the UN system on drug-related matters”. Mechanisms for collaboration, coordination and information sharing between UN entities is essential for progress. In this regard, the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use which brings together UN entities, donor governments together with civil society, community representatives and the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria represents an innovative initiative to progress and improve the HIV response for people who inject drugs.
In terms of the operational implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, much work remains to be done, although we recognise that several countries have already made some progress in this regard.
In the ministerial declaration adopted last week, member states noted “with concern persistent and emerging challenges related to the world drug problem” including a robust and diversifying illicit drug market, the dire lack of availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, including for the relief of pain and palliative care, and that drug treatment and health services continue to fall short of meeting needs, and deaths related to drug use have increased; and that the rate of transmission of HIV, the hepatitis C virus and other blood-borne diseases associated with drug use remains high in many countries.
The inconvenient truth is that unless there is a significant shift and genuine re-orientation of drug policies, in ten years’ time, these persistent and emerging challenges will only have grown and become even more intractable.
The policy brief from the UN Task Team makes this point in no uncertain terms:
‘Punitive drug policies continue to be used in some communities, despite being ineffective in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing non-medical drug use and supply, and continue to undermine the human rights and well-being of persons who use drugs, as well as of their families and communities.’
The global community cannot afford another decade of failure to meet the stated goals of achieving “a drug-free society.” As IDPC highlighted in our ‘Shadow Report’ released ahead of last week’s ministerial segment, in which we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the last decade of drug control, the pursuit of such goals are not ‘aspirational’. The pursuit of such goals is devastating for communities worldwide and has resulted in devastating and widespread violations of human rights that have been highlighted by many speakers here at this CND and by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, as well as four Special Procedure Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council in the past few days.
However, as last week’s ministerial declaration commits member states to striving towards ‘all aspirational goals’ this means that member states can choose to prioritise the goals included in the UNGASS Outcome Document and the SDGs, which are explicitly mentioned in the UNGASS outcome document. Towards this end for the “single track” approach, member states should ensure that future discussions on drug policy are framed under the 7-themes of the UNGASS.
In closing, we strongly recommend ending punitive approaches towards vulnerable groups and individuals – as is recommended in the UN common position, the task team brief and by the latest UNAIDS report ‘Health, rights and drugs: harm reduction, decriminalization and zero discrimination for people who use drugs’.
Ending punitive approaches towards those most vulnerable will require that global drug control going forward puts people and communities at the centre, and seeks to improve their living conditions, address their situations of vulnerability and protect their human rights, in line with the SDG vision of ‘leaving no one behind’. For the coming decade this is critical as many lives depend on it.
Thank you for your consideration and your continued commitment to the meaningful participation of civil society.