Segment 2: common United Nations system position on drug policy

11. In 2009, the international community agreed on a global strategy for addressing the world drug problem. With the adoption of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, Governments established 2019 as the target year for States to eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably the illicit cultivation, production, trafficking and use of drugs, as well as the diversion of precursors, and money-laundering. In 2016, the General Assembly held a special session on the world drug problem to review progress made in the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action and adopted resolution S-30/1, entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem”.

12. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council mandated to monitor the world drug situation, develop strategies on international drug control and recommend measures to address the world drug problem, will convene a two-day ministerial segment at its sixty-second session in March 2019 in Vienna to take stock of the implementation of drug control-related commitments.

13. To ensure a common United Nations system position on the matter at the ministerial segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, CEB held deliberations on drug policy, informed by the contents of a discussion paper prepared under the auspices of the High-level Committee on Programmes through a consultative process coordinated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The paper contained an overview of the world drug problem and an analysis of key issues emanating from the international policy discourse, as well as ideas and measures to assist CEB in articulating a common United Nations position, with a view to enhancing system-wide coordination and coherence in the lead-up to the 2019 ministerial segment.

14. CEB members benefitted from introductory presentations made by the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, in his capacity as Chair of the High-level Committee on Programmes, and the Executive Director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov.

15. In opening the discussion, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations system to the comprehensive and balanced implementation of the United Nations drug control conventions and the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, as an integral part of the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The United Nations system played an important role in supporting Governments in developing and pursuing evidence - based and rights-based, human-centred and integrated responses for addressing the world drug problem.

16. In presenting the discussion paper, Mr. Ryder outlined for consideration by CEB the proposed common position contained in the discussion paper, which included the following:

  • (a) Reaffirmed the United Nations system commitment to supporting the comprehensive implementation of agreed norms and commitments, including the drug control conventions and the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, anchored by the 2030 Agenda;
  • (b) Focused on mobilizing the system broadly in support of a comprehensive, balanced, integrated, evidence-based, human rights-based, development-oriented and sustainable approach;
  • (c) Affirmed the commitment to harnessing inter-agency synergies and outlined concrete areas for stepping up collaborative efforts;
  • (d) Emphasized the critical nature of evidence serving as the basis for effective policy decisions, and recognized the role the United Nations system could play as a knowledge broker in support of Member States;
  • (e) Proposed measures for enhancing system-wide coordination and collaboration in research, data collection and analysis.

17. Providing an overview of the current intergovernmental situation in the lead up to the ministerial segment, Mr. Fedotov noted that preparations were we ll under way and that Member States were expected to reaffirm their overall commitment to the existing drug control norms and framework.

18. Supplementing those substantive presentations, the Chief Information Technology Officer of the Office of Information and Communications Technology of the Secretariat, Atefeh Riazi, provided the Board with a briefing on public perceptions of the drug problem, based on sentiment analyses of social and news media content.

19. During the ensuing discussion, CEB members:

  • (a) Expressed their full support for the common position proposed in the discussion paper;
  • (b) Appreciated the excellent work done by the High-level Committee on Programmes, with UNODC playing a lead coordinating role, in reaching a convergence of views on a complex topic;
  • (c) Reaffirmed the importance of a human-centred and rights-based approach firmly anchored by the 2030 Agenda;
  • (d) Highlighted the critical importance of science-based and evidence-based policy decisions to realizing such an approach;
  • (e) Stressed, to that end, the importance of supporting Member States in enhancing national and regional capacities for building their evidence base and sharing proven best practices and lessons learned;
  • (f) Emphasized the importance of prevention and demand reduction, especially through education;
  • (g) Stressed the special needs and circumstances of women and the need to duly integrate a gender perspective into the way in which drug problems were addressed;
  • (h) Underscored the need for concrete actions to implement the common position and to operationalize its shared principles at all levels.


20. In closing, the Secretary-General underscored that the common position was not aimed at prescribing policies on drugs, but served as a useful internal tool for the United Nations system to speak with one voice and pursue coherent and coordinated efforts to address the drug problem. The United Nations system had a critical role to play as knowledge broker to help Member States in better assessing the risks and benefits of various approaches to drug problems and in pursuing science-based and evidence-based policy decisions for the effective implementation of comprehensive and integrated measures. The discussion concluded with CEB unanimously supporting the draft common position proposed in the discussion paper, including the shared principles and commitments for action across the United Nations system (see annex I).

21. As a next step, the Board decided that an inter-agency task team of interested United Nations system entities would be established, led by UNODC, within the framework of the Secretary-General’s Executive Committee. The team would seek to identify actions to translate the common position into practice and in particular ensure cooperation and coordination in research, data collection and analysis across the system in order to best support Member States in making informed and evidence-based policy decisions in tackling drug-related challenges.