January 31 marked the close of the 18-month period during which countries could submit objections to Bolivia’s proposal to remove from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs the obligation to abolish the practice of coca chewing.

A total of eighteen countries formally notified the UN Secretary General that they could not accept the proposed amendment: the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Russian Federation, Japan, Singapore, Slovakia, Estonia, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine.

The U.S. convened a group of ‘friends of the convention’ to rally against what they perceived to be an undermining of the ‘integrity’ of the treaty and its guiding principle to limit the trade and use of narcotic drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC or the Council) will have to decide how to proceed, most likely during its substantive session in Geneva this July.

This briefing paper analyses the reasons behind the proposed amendment and the opposing arguments that have been brought forward, and outlines the various options to be considered as the fate of Bolivia’s proposal is determined. Simply rejecting the amendment will not make the issue disappear.