At its 2016 Annual General Meeting this week, the IDPC Board agreed some personnel changes, creating a new Board to take this remarkable network through its next phase of development.
We have recruited four new members, who will add a wide range of skills and perspectives to the Board. These individuals will serve for initial 3 year terms:
- Alison Holcomb, Director, Campaign for Smart Justice, ACLU
- Donald MacPherson, Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
- Kathryn Leafe, Executive Director, New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme
- Vicki Hanson, Analyst, Ministry of Finance, Jamaica
At the same time, Jim Fitzpatrick and myself are stepping down from the Board with immediate effect, and Ross Bell has announced his intention to end his term next year, after having overseen a smooth transition to the new Board as interim Chairman.
Jim stepped in to the Board when IDPC was first constituted as an independent entity, and has provided solid governance and strategic advice, and contributed a law enforcement perspective to our strategic discussions. I am personally grateful to him for his willingness to take on this task, and for his contribution to the smooth launch of the new legal structure.
As for myself, you will all know that I have been involved in IDPC from the start (more than 10 years ago), and so it is a big deal for me to say I will not be involved from now on. 12 years ago, after many years working in drug policy roles in governments and the UN, I was determined to improve the way in which NGO voices were heard in government drug policy debates, and the level of access and respect that they received from decision makers. Both of these things were at a low ebb at the time – with this important area of social policy dominated by suspicion, polarisation, and a lack of transparency. What was needed was a sophisticated and credible NGO platform – rooted in the expertise and perspectives of community level organisations, but able to speak and be listened to by the highest decision making authorities.
In those early planning meetings, those of us involved could never have envisaged what we were starting – IDPC has become a truly global, vibrant and professional initiative – the secretariat has produced an incredible volume of analysis, networking and advocacy on a small budget, and the membership of like minded organisations continues to increase and diversify in a way we could only have dreamed of when you could have got all of us in a London taxi.
There is still a lot wrong with drug policies at the international and country levels, and there are instances of backward stepping and complacency that will continue to depress and frustrate. But we know that the direction of travel is positive - away from repression and punishment, and towards more humane and effective approaches - and we know there is a mature and diverse reform movement that is well placed to contribute to move this process forward faster than would otherwise be possible. Indeed, it is heartening that many of the early concepts and principles espoused by IDPC (and before that, in documents published by its predecessors – The Beckley Foundation, and ‘Forward Thinking on Drugs’) are now to be found in the official policies and pronouncements of many governments and UN agencies.
This is a good time for me to move on – the recent UNGASS provides a significant milestone, and the IDPC governance and executive structure is well established and strong. Ann Fordham, and her wonderful team of staff and consultants, have worked wonders in building strong networks and work plans, and I want to register my thanks for their professionalism, hard work and dedication that has brought IDPC to this position of strength.
I don’t intend to leave the field of drug policy – I will continue to write, speak, and turn up to the odd meeting. I am particularly interested in how governments tackle the practical design and implementation challenges when pursuing reforms. You will not be surprised to hear that I have a couple of ideas for how these functions can best be developed, and will be working these up in the coming months. If you want to contact me on this or anything else, my IDPC email account will continue working for some months, or you can email me on email@example.com
It’s been great, and I’m very proud of my contribution. I look forward to the next 10 years of reforming and modernising drug policy, and hope to work with you again at some point.