Blog of CND 2013

A summary of this year's United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs 2013.

How was the EU represented at this year's CND?

The EU representatives were visible this year, both in terms of discussions and also in their attendance at side events. In terms of when the EU representatives and the Irish Presidency of the EU took the floor, there was a stronger emphasis on what the EU approach was and what it meant, with a focus on evidence, on human rights and concern for both society and the individual. Throughout the proceedings, the EU was thanked many times on its' international work in the field of drug supply and demand reduction.

How were NGO's represented at this year's CND?

Whilst NGO's remained visible in terms of side events and speeches during some of the plenaries, it was very clear that the NGO base was smaller in number than it had been last year due to tighter financial conditions. Indeed, many NGO's could only stay for two days this year due to funding and as usual, UK-based civil society organisations funded through the drug reform grant available from the Open Society Institute were more numerous than any other groups or grass-roots organisations. Resourcing for NGO's to participate in the UNCND has been discussed in the past as a barrier to participation.

15th March 2013

In the closing session of the CND, NGO's spoke out against the use of the death penalty and for engagement in the 2014 and 2016 High Level Reviews. The main discussion was about the CND acting as the main preparatory body ahead of the 2016 Review.

14th March 2013

Side Event: Presentation of the EU Illicit Drugs Market Study

This presentation was delivered by the Trimbos Institute, Netherlands who had carried out the work in collaboration with RAND. Interestingly, the report found that studies are very frequently overestimating the cannabis market in Europe, as researchers wrongly assume that "last month users" will use frequently and during the next month, which was found to be untrue in the research carried out by Trimbos. Rather, the market could be valued at somewhere around €7-10billion euros in Europe, compared to previous estimates of €15-€35billion

Side Event: Tambling Indonesian Nature Conservation Based Post-Rehabilitation Programme

This morning began with a presentation of Tambling Nature Conservation Based Post-Rehab Programme. The post-treatment programme is part of efforts to develop its range of government-provided drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation services across the Indonesian island chain. Six times a year, the TWNC becomes home for around 30 ex-users, over a two-month period. Most are selected from among the 1,000 patients who undergo detoxification and treatment annually in the Lido treatment centre near to Jakarta.

Lido provides a 6-month treatment/rehabilitation programme which is then followed - for some - by the 2-month conservation-based rehabilitation programme either in Tambling, or one of the other similar facilities at Baddoka, Sebaru Island, or at Wakatobi Island (in South Sulawesi). Eventually they are trained to find work in the commercial sector.

EURAD's Secretary General Fay Watson and EURAD's Board Member Elisa Rubini, were both lucky enough to have won a trip to the community this summer, as part of a competition held at this year's CND. Both Fay and Elisa will travel to Tambling this summer for a study visit of the drug rehabilitation community.

13th March 2013

Side Event: Alternatives to Incarceration: Providing Health-Based Services for Drug Dependents in The Criminal Justice Setting

This event looked at the innovative use of drug courts for better individual and societal outcomes, as opposed to the criminal justice setting itself. Presentations were made from judges who had established drug courts not only in America but also in Belgium, Europe, where this approach has not been so widely used. The drug courts assess the individual needs of the person who has committed a drug-related crime and tries to take steps to help the person tackle their relationship with drugs and crime. More information on drug courts can be found here at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals website.

Side Event: Access To Internationally Controlled Drugs for Medical Purposes: Meeting a Global Challenge

This event explored access to essential pain relief such as morphine. Throughout the presentation, there was a clear north-south divide in terms of access to opiods such as morphine for end of life care. It was made clear that the UN Conventions do not restrict access to such medications and the need for such supplies were seen as imperative. The UNODC, WHO and the Union for International Cancer Control have developed plans for a join initiative to enhance access to internationally controlled drugs for the relief of pain while prevention diversion and abuse.

Morning Plenary (GHB Rescheduled)

WHO recommends GHB rescheduled from schedule 4 to 2 in the 1971 convention. Under UN conventions, GHB was placed in schedule 4, the expert committee found evidence of dependence and withdrawal.

Used as a medicine in only a small number some countries for a number of rare medical conditions. It is used in the production in a wide variety of industrial products.

There were 41 votes in favour, no abstentions and only Austria voted against the proposal.

GHB successfully rescheduled.

10.15am, NGO Session with UNODC Director

Discussions between Mr Fedetov and NGO's focused on upscaling drug prevention measures, responding to HIV outbreaks and on tackling cannabis.

12th March 2013

6pm, Mozart Room, CADCA Reception

CADCA hosted a reception for delegates after today's conference, where they introduced the work they had been undertaking on drug courts and community prevention work on a local level.

1.15-2.45pm, Mozart Room, IDPC Side Event on Cannabis Reform

The IDPC hosted an event which explored the formulation of the drug conventions and how cannabis came to be included, followed by discussion. Some of the points which were discussed included how the drug conventions could be re-written according to the outcome of recent events in Colorado and Washington, whilst Amanda Fielding from the Beckley Foundation commented that her foundation had already prepared text for re-writing the conventions.

9am - 11am, M1, Drug Prevention Roundtable

At the same time as EURAD was helping to host the over subscribed side effect on cannabis, EURAD's Secretary General, Fay Watson, was in the Drug Prevention Roundtable where member states were reporting on their programmes. During this session, we were the only NGO invited to speak (this time on behalf of our partner and member, San Patrignano) where we delivered a speech on the lack of implementation of effective, evidence-based drug prevention measures. Using data from a recent EMCDDA study, which showed that member states were not implementing evidence based measures for at risk individuals, Fay Watson stated that "there is much that still can and should be done under the current legal framework" in the context of a more comprehensive approach which includes effective drug demand reduction measures.

9am, Conference Room M7. How cannabis negatively can negatively effect young people: A review of the scientific evidence

San Patrignano, EURAD, WFAD and ECAD hosted a well attended side event on cannabis related harm. Speakers were professor Robin Murray (UK), professor Daniela Parolaro (IT) and professor Kevin Sabet (US). The panel was moderated by Elisa Rubini (San Patrignano).

Professor Murray pointed out that studies indicate a doubling of risk of psychosis in frequent users. He also said that 15% of schizophrenia cases in the UK are cannabis related. The increasing potency of cannabis (skunk) was a particular cause for concern. When asked why the increase in cannabis use does not show up in population level schizophrenia prevalence, professor Murray argued that data on schizophrenia in most countries are unreliable, that other risk factors have been reduced in the last couple of decades, and that indeed where there are reliable data, prevalence rates have gone up, although this cannot be attributed solely to cannabis.

Professor Parolaro focused particularly on adolescence as a vulnerable period for THC exposure. This is a period when brain maturation takes place, and the body’s own endocannabinoid system plays an important role in this proscess. She argued that the intake of exogenous THC potentially disturbs these processes and affects brain function and behaviour later.

Professor Sabet pointed out that the likely result of regulation would be an increase in drug use, particularly among young people. The risk of addiction to cannabis for adolescents is similar to that of alcohol. Sabet was particularly concerned about the commercialisation of cannabis that is already evident in connection with medical marijuana. He drew comparisons to the tobacco industry and argued that there is a real risk of a cannabis industry in the US that will spin out of control. Sabet argued that decision makers often are faced with a false dichotomy between legalisation and incarceration. A recent initiative – project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) - aims to carve out a third way forward that protects public health while also reducing the negative effects of control policies.

11th March 2013

2.45pm, M3, Civil Society Hearing

Deputy Executive Director, Sandeep Chawla, opens the Civil Society Hearing by stressing the achievement of the Beyond 2008 contribution by civil society organisations.

Sharon Stancliff, from the Harm Reduction Coalition provides a presentation on the availability and distribution of naloxone. She emphasizes the role civil society has played in its distribution since the 1980's, where for example, Italy started to use it over the counter in pharmacies to reduce overdoses. She notes that there has not been a lot of research on what happens when you put naloxone into the community but refers to a 2013 study shown in the BMJ, which resulted in a 46% lower death rate.

The next section of the hearing is related to civil society engagement, particularly in the formulation and implmentation of drug policy. Sandeep Chawla, called the word "appropriate" in the Political Declaration of 2009 as fancy bureaucratic footwork. He queries who plays the role of "God" in terms of drug policy, and says that the UN cannot adjudicate. He highlights that some individuals are more powerful than others and tend to get their way. He notes the real politics of the world, the UN is trying to bridge the real political situation faced by member states and the philosophical, ideals which the civil society organisations may represent. He refers to the 3 pillars of the United Nations, (development, security and human rights) and highlights that the UN tries to adhere to these three pillars in all of their work, including drugs. Yet in reality, they handed over the responsibility for drugs policy to enforcement, rather than public health and that we need to bring public health back to central stage.

He spoke directly to NGO's saying that they play the watchdog function, holding international communities and governments accountable for what is and what is not being done and which causes . What NGO's should not be doing, however, is "shooting the messenger" and he concluded that NGO's should not expect the UN to do things, which member states should be doing.

Michael Conroy, Ireland, provided a presentation of local engagement with NGO's.

Many of the questions addressed how best to engage civil society organisations in drug policy, in the 2016 Review and whether it is ever inappropriate to engage civil society. Michael Conroy referred to the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs presentation at the recent EU HDG meeting, with EURAD presented at, as a method of engaging but he also suggested that there is a challenge to bring views together, when there are multiple and varying views from civil society. Sandeep Chawla noted that a process like Beyond 2008 may be useful for the 2016 Review.

Stig-Erik Sorheim, Actis and current President of EURAD, spoke of his experience in civil society engagement in Norway, where civil society engagement is pretty much institutionalised. He spoke of how civil society organisations had been pioneers in drug prevention, treatment and among the first to address the needs of people affected by drugs, as well as families. He discussed the sometimes uneven relationship between civil society organisations and government agencies but highlighted the service NGO's can do for governments, in terms of bringing forth public opinion as well as in the delivery of services.

A report of this session will be prepared for distribution afterwards.

1.45pm, M2, Side Event on Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

New Zealand and UK give a presentation on tackling psychoactive substances. Daniel Greaves, the UK National Drugs Coordinator, gives an overview of how the UK is responding to psychoactive substances. Overview of sample collection, laboratory testing through their forensic warning system  but no information being given about how they are reducing demand for the use of the drugs. The US representative then talks of the public health problem they have had with NPS's particularly synthetic cannabinoids over the last two years in the States.

11.40am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, Bolivia

President Morales says this is his third time here and he is presenting a different way to tackle drugs. He expresses his respect to the 169 countries who supported the re-accession of Bolivia with an exception for coca leaf chewing. Indigenous people in Bolivia do not have cocaine as part of their culture, this is not what they are advocating.  This does not mean the legalisation of drugs. He criticizes the conventions and says that international conventions have failed. He says the Bolivian approach will not give a free hand to cocaine production after stating that Afghanistan is under American occupation. He states that peasant farmers control coca crops and people are allowed 40m2 plot for production in Bolivia. He says they have no US presence and states that they are doing better with regional assistance from Brazil (for helicopter support) and Argentina (for alternative development support).  There have been deaths, there has been violence to eradicate cocaine production.

11.30am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, EU

The Irish Presidency speak on behalf of the EU and EEA countries and accession countries. They highlight the work of the EU Drug Strategy and Action Plans. The broad EU principles to drugs aims to protect the wellbeing of society and the individual and to take a balanced, evidence-based approach to the drugs phenomenon. It is based on EU law, respect for human dignity, equality, solidarity and human rights. Furthermore, we respect fully the UN Drug Conventions and EU Fundamental Rights. We attach great importance to the implementation of these treaties. The EU have proposed draft resolutions on HIV, drug profiling and enhancing international collaboration, promoting the development of authorisation systems for non-controlled drugs. They hope for co-sponsorship on these draft recommendations and welcome the continued support of technical activities of the UNODC.

11.16am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, Group of Latin America and Carribean States

Call on member states to support sub-regional UNODC programmes. They reiterate their efforts to confront in a comprehensive manner, supply reduction and demand reduction and implementation of the UN drug control conventions. Committed to the crucial operational aspects of the conventions, including drug diversion. In regard to coca leaf chewing, they approved Bolivia's re-accession process, thereby the ban is lifted on the traditional use of the coca leaf in Bolivia. GRULAC reaffirms the fundamental role of prevention and control of illicit crops, including alternative development. GRULAC welcomes the Peru 2012 conference on alternative development and welcomes Peru/Thailand's proposals. Committed to dismantling drug trafficking networks and hope that this round table provides results to strenghten the international drug control regime. Common and shared responsibility must be the basis of our effort to tackle the world drug problem and this must lead to concerted action on both supply and demand reduction. The world drug problem effects all countries, and the use affects individuals and on the other hand, production feeds organised criminal groups, creating millions in illicit resources and in this regard, so it is fundamental to strengthen collaboration with production and transit countries. These efforts must be accompanied by the support of the international community. Based on Article 10 of the 1988 Convention, the group urgently calls on support for transit states and consumer countries have a responsibility to these countries.

11.10am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, Central Asia Group

The High Level Review is an opportunity to reiterate their committment to tackling the drugs problem. The group supports Thailand and Peru's Lima Declaration on Alternative Development but expresses concern on new psychoactive substances and would like to draw attention to the INCB Report, where it says member states needs to deal with this threat. The group notes with regret that the WHO concluded that international control of ketamine is not really required.

11am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, Group of African States

The group wishes to share their concerns about African states becoming transit states through transatlantic flights. The continent is being used more and more of an international "cross roads" for drug trafficking and this is undermining their efforts to meet the Millenium Goals. The group reiterates the need for adequate data collection on the extent and patterns of drug abuse. Technical assistance is needed to assist African states to help combat the drug problem. The group calls for appropriate measures on ketamine and tramadol, including measures to tackle the trade and distribution of these substances.

10.47am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, The Group of 77 and China

Highlight committment to the Drug Control Conventions. Expresses concerns about production of non-controlled substances and the need to strengthen international collaboration in this regard. They also highlighted the need to address the use of drug mules, particularly women involved in the trafficking of drugs. Finally, they called on countries to help tackle transit states and to help tackle the diversion of non-controlled substances (including drug precursors). The group notes with regret that ketamine has not been brought under international control and calls on urgent action on this substance. Wish for CND to be the preparatory body for the 2016 Review.

10.40am, Committee of the Whole Conference Room, Welcome Speech

This year's UNCND has just begun, with Fedetov highlighting the importance of this year's meeting, in terms of preparing for next year's High Level meeting and ahead of the 2016 Review.

In his opening speech, Fedetov thanks countries for continued support of the UNODC but says that we need to ask ourselves tough questions, about whether we are tackling the world drug problem. Whilst there has been declines in cocaine and opium production is now localised in one main country, he explained that these trends are offset by new trends of drug use.

If we are determined to really confront the drug problem, he explained that there needs to be more emphasis on the importance on drug demand reduction. He emphasized that we need to reduce the health and social consequences of drug use.

During 2012, there has been progress, in terms of HIV but the issue remains unresolved. There is a lack of access to services and he said he was fully committed to meeting the UN targets and that we all know what needs to be done.

"All of our activities needs to reinforced by a sense of shared responsibility, which we must never allow to be vacant"