On February 1 2010, Jonathan Lucas was appointed as the new Secretary of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB or Board) and chief of the INCB Secretariat. He starts with this new challenge the week after this year’s CND session taking place from 8-12 March. The Secretariat plays an important role in assisting the Board in the exercise of its treaty related functions and operates as an “administrative entity” of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna.
Mr Lucas succeeds Mr Koli Kouame who retired from the organization on 31 January having served as Secretary and chief for nearly six years. The IDPC offers its congratulations to Mr Lucas for his appointment to this prestigious post and, as we approach the first CND session to follow the High Level Segment (HLS) of the Commission last year, increasingly pivotal post. 12-months ago, member states met to evaluate the targets set at the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS). While intended to produce a unitary position on the direction of international drug control for the next decade or so, the HLS and resultant Political Declaration revealed a clear divide in state’s attitudes towards domestic drug control. On one side of the divide stand a growing number of nations that are choosing to adopt pragmatic evidence-based harm reduction policies, while on the other side stand countries continuing to put faith in a zero-tolerance approach that has failed to produce any significant and sustained result over the past decade. This mounting lack of consensus puts the INCB, and its Secretariat, in an increasingly important position within the UN drug control framework. As the watchdog of the drug control treaties, it is essential that the Board deals respectfully and sensitively with the deepening variance in interpretation of the treaties by their owners; the member states themselves.
In this advocacy note, the IDPC has identified key areas of concern that it would like to bring to the attention of the incoming Secretary. These include: the lack of objectivity on the INCB’s part regarding alternative drug policy choices from member states and its refusal to encourage open and constructive debate on drug policy between the Board, member states, relevant UN bodies, civil society and NGOs; the need for a balanced approach in the INCB’s work on drug policy; the need for a more diverse range of expertise in INCB membership; the lack of transparency for the Board’s operations; the need for increased engagement with civil society to ensure the fulfilment of the Board’s functions; and the need for a more pro-active attitude to monitor the functioning of the Board within its mandate, and to encourage a process of modernisation of its role in line with established UN practices.