Looking ahead to the 58th Commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna

Looking ahead to the 58th Commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna

What EURAD plans to deliver in Vienna this March as well as a snapshot of some of the hot topics on the table!

24th February 2014

Added by: Fay Watson

The 58th Session of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs (CND) will take place from 9th - 17th March 2015. As we come closer to the date, all the materials are slowly but surely being added to the United Nations's website, take a look here.

For NGO's as well as Member States, this year's CND is significant as much of the agenda will be taken up by planning for the 2016 UNGASS process and the last few days concerning the normal CND activities, such as decisions on the international scheduling of substances.

This year EURAD is involved with 4 side events, one alongside the United Nations on human rights, one alongside the World Health Organisation on public health, a third with our partners San Patrignano and our Recovered Users Network on recovery and a fourth alongside our partners Active-Europe on youth opinions. We will be accompanied in Vienna by our members from Actis (Norway), our vice-chair Martien Kooyman (The Netherlands), Celebrate Recovery (Bosnia and Herzegovina), San Patrignano (Italy), Monar (Poland), The Turkish Green Crescent Society (Turkey), Stijena (Croatia), Active Europe (Sweden), The Iceland Centre for Social Research and Analysis (Iceland), RIO (Norway) and RNS (Sweden).

Alongside the important planning of the UNGASS, one of the main topics of the normal CND segment will include the scheduling of 13 substances under the United Nations Drug Control Conventions.

Of these, 11 substances have been recommended for scheduling under the 1961 or 1971 convention by the World Health Organisation, whilst two have been recommended by Member States. Firstly, the UK has recommended mephedrone to be listed under the 1971 Convention, on the basis that "it has been associated with numerous deaths and has no recognised medical or scientific use", as presented by the Permanent Representative of the UK at yesterday's intersessional meeting of the CND. During yesterday's meeting, the representative of the UK notified the CND that the UK would agree to the listing of mephedrone under schedule 2, rather than schedule 1 as originally proposed. There was no opposition to the UK's proposal during the meeting.

However, it was the recommendation by China to schedule Ketamine which has really generated resistance. Yesterday the representative of China argued that they "cannot deal with the challenge of ketamine alone" on a national basis and that the phenonemon of ketamine as a substance to be abused is most severe in South Asia, but exists elsewhere worldwide. However, there was significant opposition to the proposal by Norway, France, The Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, the WHO itself who warned against the scheduling of ketamine, as well as several NGO's including International Red Cross. As the Norwegian Ambassador yesterday noted, the opposition to China's request is based on the concern that "scheduling may limit the very necessary use of ketamine for acute medical purposes in many of the world's poorest countries" (ketamine is used as a main anaesthetic in many African countries). The Norwegian Ambassador also drew reference to the problem that many of those most affected, particularly those in Africa, did not have a presence in Vienna and "needed a voice". Meanwhile, The Netherlands, who at the last meeting requested that the UN seek a legal opinion on the scheduling of a substance which had a clear medical benefit, yesterday expressed their unhappiness with the UN's legal opinion which had concluded that the "Commission of Narcotic Drugs could schedule a substance even if there is a recommendation not to by the WHO, provided that the Commission had taken into account all concerns which had been raised". The Netherlands however challenged this, quoting legal points of the convention. He added that "this is too important" to rush a decision on and that his "strong advice is to not vote on the matter".

Although EURAD has not been actively working on access to medicines, we carried out an opinion poll recently with our members and the majority of our members support advocacy attempts for the right to access adequate pain relief as well as palliative/end of life care.

It seems certain that further legal clarity will need to come forth in response to The Netherlands queries ahead of the CND in March.

EURAD will keep you up to date with negotiations during the CND - remember to follow us on twitter at EURADnews for continual updates!