While the overall trend in civil society engagement around the drugs issue at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has been towards greater inclusion and participation in recent years, there have been some troubling developments as of late: members of civil society have been excluded from the meetings leading to one of the most politically controversial and consequential votes at the CND in the last years, namely the deliberations around the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on rescheduling cannabis. This has been accomplished through the use of a newly-branded format of meetings, so-called ‘topical meetings’, the first of which was held in June 2020. The only difference in this new format of meetings from the usual ‘intersessional’ format seems to be that civil society has been excluded.

In following this path, the CND has departed from its own recent practices and political commitments regarding civil society participation. This concerning development is already resulting in a less fruitful and genuine debate, and must be remedied for the upcoming meetings set for August and September.