The ‘General Assembly’ is the principle policy-making organ of the United Nations (UN), and the only one in which all 193 UN member states have equal representation. At the request of member states, it convenes UN General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on specific issues. There was an UNGASS on drugs in 1998 at which member states agreed on a Political Declaration on Global Drug Control. Ten years later, member states met in Vienna to discuss progress made and to agree on a new Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.
The next UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) was due to be held in 2019 – the target date set out in the 2009 Political Declaration and Action Plan for the achievement of a significant reduction in or the elimination of the demand and supply of drugs. However in September 2012, the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico called on the UN to host an international conference on drug policy reform. Subsequently, a provision was included in an annual omnibus resolution on drug policy – sponsored by Mexico, and co-sponsored by 95 other countries – to bring forward this global drug policy summit meeting to 2016.
The UNGASS on drugs is aimed at providing an objective and open assessment of international drug control. It will be held from 19th to 21st April 2016 in New York.
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Logistical information and attendance
ECOSOC accredited NGOsRepresentatives of NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council who have a valid UN grounds pass DO NOT require a Special Event Pass to access the UN compound on 18, 19 or 20 April 2016. Due to enhanced security procedures, representatives of NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC, including those with a valid UN grounds pass, DO require a Special Event Pass only on 21 April 2016. Non-accredited NGOsRepresentatives of NGOS that are not in consultative status with the ECOSOC and who have pre-registered, require a Special Event Pass for the entire period of the UNGASS, 19-21 April 2016. Special Event Passes will be distributed daily. On 19, 20 and 21 April, representatives are requested to collect their Special Event Pass between 8:00 am - 10:00 am at 801 Second Avenue – ground level (43rd Street). UN and Civil Society Task Force Staff will be present each day to distribute your pass for the meeting. Please ensure that you bring along a copy of your confirmation email and valid photo identification. Given the limited capacity of seats in each room, passes between plenary and the round tables will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Representatives are encouraged to attend the many side events taking place during UNGASS.
Relevant information on the UNGASS
All the relevant information about the UNGASS, including the agenda, information for participants, is posted on the official UNGASS website – please check it out regularly as more information becomes available. The final programme of the UNGASS is available here.
We also encourage you to visit the IDPC website:
- webpage on the UNGASS
- resources on the UNGASS (including explainers, toolkits and webinars)
- latest publications, events and news on the UNGASS
The UNGASS will be webcast live and will later be available in the UN WebTV archive.
To keep up-to-date with all the events happening at and around the UNGASS, download the (unofficial) UNGASS event app, developed by the Museum of Drug Policy, and follow the CND Blog!
The UNGASS will start on Tuesday 19th April with an opening segment, followed by a general debate, that will include statements by the regional groups, member states, observer states, international organisations and NGOs. In parallel, interactive roundtables will be held on the following topics:
- Tuesday 19th, 15:00 to 18:00: Roundtable 1 on demand reduction and related measures
- Wednesday 20th, 10:00 to 13:00: Roundtable 2 on supply reduction and related measures
- Wednesday 20th, 15:00 to 18:00: Roundtable 3 on drugs and human rights
- Thursday 21st, 10:00 to 13:00: Roundtable 4 on new challenges, threats and realities
- Thursday 21st, 15:00 to 18:00: Roundtable 5 on alternative development.
Each roundtable will include five panellists nominated by the regional groups and one panellist nominated by the Civil Society Task Force, as well as up to two representatives of the UN system. A summary of the roundtables will be drafted by the chairs of each roundtable and presented in plenary.
If you would like to make an intervention from the floor in any of these roundtables, you are encouraged to inform the General Assembly Affairs Branch by email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNGASS Agenda: Click to read the programme for the UNGASS
UNGASS outcome document
The UNGASS outcome document was negotiated over the past few months, and finalised at the 59h Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna last month – with the objective of adopting the final document at the UNGASS on the morning of Tuesday 19thApril, at the end of the opening segment. IDPC and partners released "Diplomacy or denialism? The language that the UNGASS Outcome Document overlooked" - which highlights just a small selection of the strong, progressive and evidence-based language on issues that are overlooked or insufficiently reflected in the Outcome Document.
For an analysis of the negotiations process and the final iteration of the document, please see:
- The Commission on Narcotic Drugs on the final road to UNGASS 2016: Progress made, but a long way still to go
- CND 59 – An effort in self-preservation. A review of the Draft Resolution by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
- After CND, what hope remains for drug policy reform at UNGASS?
A Civil Society Forum will be organised on Monday 18th April from 10:00 to 13:00 in Conference Room 12.
The final programme of side events is available here. IDPC is involved in a series of side events:
Monday 18th April
- 8:30-9:30: Human rights impacts of drug policies (organised by the OHCHR and Penal Reform International, with the participation of IDPC)
- 10:00-11:00: Getting better results: Measuring drug policy outcomes within the wider UN system (organised by New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, the Global Drug Policy Observatory, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, IDPC and Transform)
Tuesday 19th April
- 17:30-18:30: Amphetamine-type stimulants: Working towards humane drug policies (organised by Inspire Project Under the Royal Initiative of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha of Thailand and IDPC)
- 17:30-18:30: A call for leadership: HIV, human rights and harm reduction (organised by Germany, Harm Reduction International, UNAIDS, UNODC, WHO, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Open Society Foundations, IDPC, the International AIDS Society and AIDS Fonds)
Wednesday 20th April
- 13:00-14:00: High-level panel discussion on alternative development and the sustainable development goals (organised by Thailand, with the participation of IDPC)
Events/activities outside of the UN Building
A series of special events, activities, gatherings and demonstrations are set to take place throughout the UNGASS week. For a full list and details of activities, visit the Stop The Harm website:
- 15-17 April 2016, Washington DC: SSDP2016: Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference
- 17-18 April 2016, New York: Cannabis Science and Policy Summit
- 18 April 2016, New York: Civil Society Forum
- 18 April 2016, 12:30, Foley Square, New York: Public Rally for drug policy reform (VOCAL-NY, SSDP, Caravan, Latino Justice, and others.)
- 18 April 2016, 14:00, United Nations, New York: Families Unite to Tell their Stories Rally (Anyone’s child, Transform, Moms United, and others.)
- 18 April 2016: 15:30-18:00, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza: UNGASS youth demosntration/SSDP art installation
- 18 April 2016: 18:00: Interfaith Service of Compassion, Care and Healing at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem
- 20 April 2016: 18:00: Viva Rio at Columbia University
Additional activities will be organised in the Museum of Drug Policy, a pop-up cultural hub that will include an immersive art experience and special live programming looking at the impact of current drug policies on people around the world - please register online to attend!
The Museum of Drug Policy will include opportunities for people to participate in the Support. Don’t Punish photo project – we hope many of you will join us there!
Press conference: Global Commission on Drug Policy
On Thursday, April 21, 8:30am EST, we invite you to watch a press conference where world leaders call for decriminalization and regulation of drugs during historic UN Special Session. Join former Presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland together with Sir Richard Branson, US Former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker and members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy as they call for reducing the harms caused by failed drug policy.
The press conference will be available here via LiveStream.
IDPC will be collaborating with NGO partners to blog live throughout the UNGASS on the CND Blog. The CND Blog is available both in English and Spanish and we encourage you all to visit it regularly! Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we will share information about the UNGASS throughout the week. If you are using social media, please use the hashtag #UNGASS2016.
Finally, to support media work around the UNGASS, StopTheHarm has put together a webpage gathering media resources, available here.
Contributions for the UNGASS
To read the contributions of UN agencies, UN member states and NGOs, please visit the UNGASS website. IDPC's contribution is available here.
Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.