Varias redes de ONG que han estado trabajando en actividades relacionadas con la UNGASS desde que esta se acordó en 2013 se reunieron en Nueva York para discutir estrategias a seguir. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

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By Steve Rolles, Transform

UN forums in recent years have witnessed more and more governments expressing their frustrations with the failing global war on drugs.

This failure goes way beyond just the goals of drug control systems to reduce illicit drug production and use. The key driver of calls for change has been the catastrophic negative impacts of the war on drugs on public health, human rights, development and security. The combination of problems related to the violent illegal trade (which are fuelled by prohibition), militarised enforcement, and mass criminalisation and over incarceration have pushed the debate past a tipping point – governments and civil society groups alike have had enough, and are finally taking decisive action.

The intensity of drug market-related violence and insecurity in Latin America has been a critical factor.  It has reached such a crisis point that in 2012 a group of heads of state – from Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala – called for the UN General Assembly to convene a Special Session which resulted in UNGASS 2016.

Special Sessions of the General Assembly are called to review and debate a specific issue – in this case the “world drugs problem”. The last UNGASS on drugs took place in 1998, and whilst it was also instigated by Mexico with a more forward-looking mandate, it was effectively derailed by more conservative drug-war advocates and culminated in a pointless restatement of existing structures and a commitment to create a “drug-free world” by 2008.

Various NGO networks – notably the International Drug Policy Consortium and a coalition of harm reduction groups coordinated by Harm Reduction International – have been planning UNGASS-related activities since it was agreed in 2013. Lining up with these efforts are the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s 2014 reform manifesto (which targets UNGASS) and a range of other projects being instigated by NGOs, affected populations and activist groups. These include Support Don’t Punish, the Count the Costs initiative,the Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity, and INPUD’s Drug War Peace initiative. At a meeting earlier this month in New York, 30 representatives of these NGOs and networks met to coordinate activities and strategise on how to maximise impacts of the emerging coalition. Everyone invited – including a range of representatives from Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America – chose to attend a self-funded meeting, reflecting the obvious appetite for meaningful engagement with this UNGASS, and the need for strategic coordination.

Whilst there was evidently a range of agendas, interests and priorities amongst the many groups represented, there was also a clear reform platform that emerged, as well as a common desire to ensure that, first and foremost, the various options for reform remain on the agenda of both the UNGASS itself, and the media and political debate around it.

The strategy meeting ran for two and a half days, and included guest speakers who had worked on previous UNGASS events (both drug-related and non-drug-related), as well as UN ambassadors of member states, who shared their political insights. There were a range of concrete outcomes and collaborative work streams established that will be followed up in the coming weeks and months, so check in with the NGOs linked above for updates. 

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