By Jamie Bridge (IDPC), Christopher Hallam (IDPC), Marie Nougier (IDPC), Miguel Herrero Cangas (IDPC), Martin Jelsma (TNI), Tom Blickman (TNI), David Bewley-Taylor (GDPO) & Daisy Bowdery (IDPC)
Diplomatic processes at the United Nations (UN) are notoriously slow and difficult, perhaps increasingly so in a modern world of multi-polar geopolitics and tensions. This is certainly no different for the highly charged issue of international drug control. After the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the ‘world drug problem’ in New York in April 2016 – many stakeholders had come away with mixed feelings at best. Despite acknowledgements of the progress made in certain areas of the debate, and the rich content of some of the country and civil society statements, the UNGASS failed to deliver the ‘wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options’ that had been called for by the UN Secretary-General at the time, Ban Ki-Moon.
Three years later, member states met again – this time in Vienna – at a Ministerial Segment aimed to evaluate progress made since the adoption of the 2009 ‘Political Declaration and Plan of Action on international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem’, and to pave the way for the next decade of drug policy. The event resulted in a Ministerial Declaration that looked back at ongoing challenges, and proposed actions for the way forward.
In order to help digest and contextualise the UNGASS Outcome Document and the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, it is useful to take a broader look at how the agreed UN language on drug control has evolved and developed over the last quarter of a century. To this end, this paper explores a selection of key themes by analysing the consensus based language agreed by UN member states in:
- The ‘1990 Political Declaration and Global Programme of Action on international cooperation against illicit production, supply, demand, trafficking and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances’ – agreed at the first UNGASS on the topic of ‘drug abuse’.
- The 1993 General Assembly resolution entitled ‘Measures to strengthen international cooperation against the illicit production, sale, demand, traffic and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and related activities’ – agreed at a high-level meeting of the General Assembly as a follow-up to the 1990 Political Declaration.
- The 1998 Political Declaration – agreed at the 20th UNGASS on the ‘world drug problem’ – and the accompanying ‘Declaration on the Guiding Principles on Demand Reduction’. •
- The ‘2003 Joint Ministerial Statement and further measures to implement the action plans emanating from the twentieth special session of the General Assembly’ – agreed at the 46th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) after a mid-term review of the 1998 Political Declaration.
- The ‘2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem’ – agreed at the highlevel segment of the 52nd CND.
- The ‘2014 Joint Ministerial Statement on the implementation by member states of the political declaration and plan of action on international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem’ – agreed at the 57th CND after a mid-term review of the 2009 Political Declaration.
- The 2016 Outcome Document (UN General Assembly Resolution S30/1) entitled ‘Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem’ – agreed at the 30th UNGASS last April.
- The 2019 ‘Ministerial Declaration on strengthening actions at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of joint commitments to address and counter the world drug problem’.