Update from Day Two of the 55th UN Commission of Narcotic Drugs

Tuesday 13th March 2012

Role of Civil Society engagement

Today opened with Vienna NGO Committee's 1st Informal Civil Society Hearing with the Chair of the CND, Executive Director of UNODC and Member State Sponsors. This was an opportunity to enhance dialogue between member states and the 110 civil society organisations who are in attendance. Much of the initial debate was on how civil society can be best engaged, not only in drug policy but in implementing policies also.

Ambassador Lukeking, the permanent represenative of Germany to the United Nations, said that "what NGO's bring to the table is expertise and a long standing spirit in the fight against drugs" as well as making "a contribution in very practical terms", not only in the field of demand reduction, but also through supply reduction, for example by helping to facilitate alternative development.

Michael Perron, chair of the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, went on to speak about how civil society should be engaged and the need for "an established structure which allows for constructive dialogue…you can’t just do it willy-nilly and hope for the best”.

Mobilising for the prevention of drug use: The Development of International Prevention Standards and the Youth Initiative

The afternoon saw EURAD attend a side event on drug prevention, which Dr Gilberto Gerra, Chief of the UNODC Drug Prevention and Health Branch, opened by saying that the draft resolution in the CND on prevention and the development of international prevention standards have created a momentum for drug prevention which must be taken advantage of.

Dr Zili Sloboda, of the Research and Development Center, JBS International, spoke of the need for prevention to be seen as a part of a comprehensive drug policy and not as a strategy of it's own, saying that if you "want to reduce substance misuse, you need not only to do prevention but also reduce existing cases". What was highlighted by Dr Sloboda was that through the development of the International Prevention Standards, they looked at a range of evidence based measures not only across the lifespan but also in a range of settings, such as family based approaches. In regard to why they looked across the entire lifespan (rather than just at youth) she added that, "we can all be vulnerable to substance use at different times of our lives". In terms of effectiveness, Sloboda emphasized the great advances in prevention science which have taken place over the last 20 years and showed that within the standards they have produced, they will also include a table of prioritisation, so that those governments with limited resources can see exactly what types of investment would give them a better return on investment.

UNODC Youth Initiative

The official launch of the UNODC Youth Initiative took place with young people from a wide range of countries including Brazil, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, Serbia, Thailand and Uganda. The representatives from the Youth Initative spoke of their willingness to become involved in drug prevention. After tweeting one of their quotes on EURADnews, it was interesting that I immediately got a negative response from someone saying "Perhaps you should respect young people, instead of using them for your ideal"....I thought this was interesting...I'm sure they wouldn't have made the same comment about the students at sensible drug policy but I guess that's another story! Looking at how young people are engaged in policy debates is necessary and it is equally necessary to ensure that a variety of young people's voices are heard, instead of making vague assumptions about what 'all' young people supposedly want.

Civil Society as a force to promote and benefit from the development of standards on drug use prevention

Jeff Lee attended for Mentor and spoke about the role of the NGO, using the Partners in Prevention Project in East Africa as an example of developing quality practice with a focus on organizational and human resource capacity development.

Alternative Development

Peru spoke of its' success in eradicating coca crops in the area of San Martin, from 59,000 hectares in 2000 to around 2000 hectares last year. They spoke about how this had been accompanied by substitute crops and explained that they had seen an increase of 7% in coffee exportation rates. They have also seen sales rise in alternative crops from 21 million dollars in 2000 to 140 million dollars in 2011.

They also spoke of the unique challenges they face with the implementation of their comprehensive drug strategy, such as the availability of drug treatment services in small rural villages across Peru, links to organised crime and lack of ownership of land as being issues to overcome. However what was clear was their message that "without a reduction of illicit crops, there cannot be success". Collaboration with Peru's border countries was highlighted and it was positive to hear from the Ambassador of Ecuador that this collaboration was being further strengthened. The need for collaborative, complementary and consistent action by member states has really been a key theme which keeps re-occuring throughout the CND.

In the evening, the Princess of Thailand hosted a reception, inaugurating the exhibition on Sustainable Alternative Development Projects in Thailand. Through Alternative Development measures, Thailand has been able to virtually eliminate poppy opium cultivation. You can find out more about the principles and practicalities of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation by clicking on the link. If you are at the CND, you will find the mission from delegation at the VIC Rotunda throughout this week.

Draft Resolutions

Today discussions on draft resolutions on female oriented drug strategies were discussed. In the discussion, Norway wanted a greater emphasis of HIV, asking for it to be named explicitly in the title of the final document, however there were concerns that this would perhaps narrow the scope of the resolution. The information Norway referred to as women having an unfair distribution of HIV was discussed by other delegations, who noted that this unfair burden appeared to have more to do with caring duties involved. The groups from Chile and Brazil were particularly keen for childcare to be added to the resolution.

There are also resolutions on celebrating the 100 anniversary of the opium convention (where there are discussions about broad interpretation of human rights) as well as on import and export authorisation systems.

To read Day One's Blog, go here.