Public Statement by the Global Commission on Drug Policy on UNGASS 2016


NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–April 21, 2016. The Global Commission on Drug Policy is profoundly disappointed with the adopted outcome document agreed at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on “the world drug problem”. The document does not acknowledge the comprehensive failure of the current drug control regime to reduce drug supply and demand.

Nor does the outcome document account for the damaging effects of outdated policies on violence and corruption as well as on population health, human rights and wellbeing. By reaffirming that the three international conventions are the “cornerstone of global drug policy”, the document sustains an unacceptable and outdated legal status quo.

UNGASS has not seriously addressed the critical flaws of international drug policy. It does not call for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of drug users. It does not urge states to abolish capital punishment for drug-related offences. It does not call on the World Health Organization (WHO) to revisit the scheduling system of drugs. It does not advocate for harm reduction and treatment strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness. Finally it does not offer proposals to regulate drugs and put governments – rather than criminals – in control.

Equally important, the outcome document fails to recognize the considerable support for change demonstrated by many governments and civil society groups during UNGASS. It also excludes any mention of the many positive drug policy reforms already underway around the world. In fact many federal, state and city governments are adopting progressive legislation and testing new approaches.

In order to achieve meaningful reforms to global drug policy the UN and member states must address the contradiction between the restrictions imposed by the international narcotics conventions and the necessity of governments and societies to regulate drugs. Several countries and some U.S. states are exploring regulation in a more humane and evidence-based manner. These approaches should be encouraged despite the restrictive language of the UN drug conventions.

It is vital that the tensions between the letter of the conventions and ongoing initiatives on the ground are resolved. There will be another international opportunity to do so in 2019 when the UN Plan of Action that calls for a “drug free world” will be reviewed. The Global Commission urges governments and civil societies to continue moving forward and adopting drug policy reforms that are tailored to people’s needs and rights. We encourage and support them in their efforts to fundamentally realign drug policy so that health, citizen safety and human rights are paramount.

Quotes from Global Drug Policy Commissioners:

“UNGASS was flawed from the start”, according to entrepreneur and Global Commissioner Sir Richard Branson. “The process was a closed-door affair and excluded important voices from across the UN and civil society”.

“The criminalization of drugs has generated negative consequences for governments and communities around the world” according to Former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker. “Criminalization has unintentionally stimulated a massive illegal drug market that is corrupting public authorities globally.”

“Criminal sanctions against drug users have proven irrational, ineffective and harmful”, argues former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Global Commissioner Louise Arbour. “It is high time to address, prevent and treat drug abuse through proper regulation and not blind prohibition.”

“The gap between the conventions and the positive developments on the ground in the United States, Canada, Uruguay and elsewhere is impossible to ignore”, says Former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK and Global Commissioner Nick Clegg. “The UNGASS declaration is divorced from reality.”

“There is a profound contradiction between the imposition of prohibitionist approaches to drugs and evidence-based public health and social policies”, says former president of Switzerland and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Ruth Dreifuss. “The only way to resolve this tension is by modifying the international narcotics conventions and the national laws inspired by them.”

“The very bad news about UNGASS is that its official declaration reinforces the 1961, 1971 and 1988 Conventions as the cornerstone of the international drug control system”, argues former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo. “The good news, however, is that many heads of state and government representatives declared the exact opposite during the conference. Instead of sticking to the status quo, they expressed their commitment to reforming domestic policies to better serve the interests of their peoples. If governments honor the commitment to a people-centered drug policy we may finally envision a day when wrongheaded half-century old policies emphasizing prohibition and law enforcement will be rightfully confined to the dustbin of history.”

“Much more attention needs to be paid to the role of mayors and local community leaders, especially in countries with very punitive national drug regimes,” said former mayor of Prague Pavel Bém. “In many countries, local decision makers are the only advocates of cost effective public health interventions, like needle exchange schemes or drug consumption room.”

“It is disgraceful that hundreds of thousands of people will become infected with HIV and hepatitis through unsafe drug injection this year”, says Global Commissioner Michel Kazatchkine. “They may die from these diseases even though we have the tools and medicines at our disposal to prevent and treat these infections.”

Video of today’s press conference can be viewed at: