The 2019 Commission on Narcotic Drugs and its Ministerial Segment: Report of Proceedings


The 2019 Commission on Narcotic Drugs and its Ministerial Segment: Report of Proceedings

5 June 2019

By Dave Bewley-Taylor and Christopher Hallam

The 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (Commission or CND) and its Ministerial Segment took place in Vienna between 14 and 22 March 2019. Protracted and sometimes conflicted discussions led up to the event, held ten years on from the Political Declaration and Plan of Action of 2009, which had passed with little sign of success. In the words of the 2018 World Drug Report, ‘Both the range of drugs and drug markets are expanding and diversifying as never before’.

The global situation has produced a range of often profoundly different policy responses by member states, which can loosely be characterised as heading in two directions: one dominated by law enforcement measures, the second accepting the reality of the market and seeking to manage its harmful effects. The decision of Canada to introduce a legally regulated market for cannabis has prompted a strident response by the Russian Federation, which repeatedly attacked the Canadian move during the CND. These contrasting views were reflected continually in the country statements of the Ministerial Segment, and in later CND sessions. The Ministerial Declaration itself reiterated some of the themes of the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document, while reflecting these policy tensions between member states. Amongst the most significant components of the Ministerial Declaration is the apparently unprecedented acknowledgement of the ‘persistent and emerging challenges’ faced by the international drug control regime.

There were eight draft resolutions proposed at the Committee of the Whole (CoW). The most controversial of these, stemming as it did from the tensions surrounding cannabis regulation policy, was that of the Russian Federation, finally entitled ‘Supporting the International Narcotics Control Board in fulfilling its treaty-mandated functions in cooperation with Member States and in collaboration with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the World Health Organization’ (Resolution L3). The Russian resolution was intended to support and enhance the role of the INCB in its role of policing compliance with the international drug control conventions, and in particular in responding to cannabis legalisation, which preoccupied Russia throughout the Commission. In the event, the resolution was negotiated through intensive debates at the CoW and in informal meetings, the ultimate version being less strident than the original. Other resolutions, including some important ones on hepatitis C (the very first CND resolution on this topic) and HIV prevention among women who use drugs, are detailed below.

In addition, there were a number of decisions made at the 62nd CND regarding the scheduling of substances under the drug control conventions, with CND members voting on scheduling recommendations from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD; on drugs and medicines) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB; on precursors). They included four fentanyls now included under Schedule 1 of the 1961 Single Convention, five synthetic cannabinoids now included under Schedule 2 of the 1971 Psychotropic Convention, and three precursors now included under Table 1 of the 1988 Trafficking Convention. The Commission, however, postponed voting on recommendations made by the ECDD in relation to cannabis.

The CND was marked by vibrant civil society engagement, with almost 500 civil society delegates attending, several countries including civil society representatives on their country delegations, over 40 side events co-organised with civil society organisations, and civil society delegates delivering statements at the plenary. This represents a continued growth of civil society engagement in the Commission’s activities – despite stronger-thanusual tensions with UN building security staff. The now-familiar ‘informal dialogues’ took place, with discussion between civil society and the CND Chair, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (Office or UNODC) and the President of the INCB.

Previous reports in this series: