This article covers the normal week of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs, including the launch of Drug Policy Futures.
28th March 2014
Launch of Drug Policy Futures
New Drug Policy Futures platform called for an end to a polarised drug debate at the United Nations during the 57th Commission of Narcotic Drugs. EURAD is one of the founders.
As the United Nation’s host the 2014 Commission of Narcotic Drugs last week in Vienna, a new drug policy platform, Drug Policy Futures, was formally launched. The public-health oriented platform, which was conceived by civil society delegates who attended last year’s United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs, aims to challenge the opinion that drug policy is a simple choice between a “war on drugs” or a legal market of substances which are harmful to health.
Rather, organisations such as Actis from Norway, one of the founders of Drug Policy Futures claim that drug policy today should better prevent initiation of drug use, respect human rights, strike a balance between supply and demand as well as ensuring that controlled drugs are available for legitimate scientific and medical purposes. Amongst these things, the platform also advocates for the flexibility that countries have already under the existing UN Drug Control Conventions, flexibility which is not always being used to its’ full extent.
Stig-Erik Sorheim, presenting Drug Policy Futures on Tuesday 18th March 2014
The launch of the new Drug Policy Futures platform comes at a time with dignitaries from all across the world are meeting at the United Nations in Vienna to attend a High Level Review of the world’s drug problem. Notable guests and participants include Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, the Chairperson of the 57 th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Ambassador Khaled Shamaa, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN in Vienna, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, and the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, and many other dignitaries.
On top of that, around 1,500 high-ranking individuals from Member States, inter-governmental organizations, civil society, and the media will be present. The Review is a major milestone in preparations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in 2016.
Stig-Erik Sorheim, Actis, Norway and Co-ordinator of Drug Policy Futures noted “Two years from now, the United Nations will carry out a review of global drug control and we must ensure the debate is informed by evidence from the public health and justice fields. It’s important that we don’t just hear from groups who seek to regulate drugs, who have not spelled out in any great detail what the public health consequences of such moves would be. At a time when drug use is fairly stable across Europe, we must make sure that NGO’s and civil society are mobilised to advocate for evidence-based strategies which promote public health, safety and the wellbeing of families, communities and society but which also ensure individuals with drug problems are provided with the best possible healthcare”.
Although it has only been launched formally this week, already over 35 NGO’s from across the globe have already officially signed up to the policy principles. Organisations interested in joining Drug Policy Futures to advocate for evidence-based strategies to promote public health can log onto www.drugpolicyfutures.org, where they can also sign up to the platform if they agree with the basic policy principles.
Statement submitted by Drug Policy Futures and IOGT International to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Fifty-seventh session, Plenary, Vienna 18 March 2014
Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
This week, as the United Nation’s Fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs taking place in Vienna, a new drug policy platform, Drug Policy Futures, today formally has been launched.
Drug Policy Futures is a new coalition of organizations including IOGT International, representing over 35 organisations from 21 countries and 5 continents. In addition, we have regional and global partners that represent a large number of organisations across the world.
Drug use is a risk factor for a wide range of negative outcomes including mental and other illnesses, school dropout and academic failure, road accidents, unemployment, low life-satisfaction and relationship problems. Drug use and other social and health problems are intertwined so that drug use is associated with and commonly exacerbates other problems.
The first task of a public health-oriented drug policy is to prevent drug-related problems from occurring. Environmental strategies that discourage drug use and reduce the availability of illegal drugs are a central element of prevention. Community-based strategies that promote drug-free environments and supportive social norms are shown to reduce the use of both legal and illegal substances. Environmental strategies should be supplemented by education and evidence-based prevention as well as more targeted interventions that reach high-risk groups and problem drug users.
Sven-Olav Carlsson and Stig-Erik Sorheim preparing to make joint statement at UN
Drug use is particularly harmful to youth. Drug use usually begins in adolescence, making youth the major target for prevention. Drug related harm affects all regions of the world.
Drug use does not only affect the drug user. Often, family and friends are the first to experience the problems caused by drug use. In addition drug use has serious consequences for society as a whole, e.g. in the workplace, schools, on the roads, in the criminal justice system and in the health and social services.
There is a need for a comprehensive approach to drug-related harm, with a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as control measures, health services, treatment and rehabilitation for users.
Drug problems are particularly intractable in the nexus of mental health problems, crime, deprivation and social exclusion. Problem drug users often need comprehensive services including health, housing, education and work. The essential point here is that drug addiction is not only a health problem nor only a crime problem.
IOGT International believe that recovery is the best way for individuals who have developed drug-related problems to minimize their risk of further consequences, to enable them to function effectively in society, to take part in education, work or other activities, to mend the relationships with their families and to empower them to take control of their own lives.
Alternative sanctions that require enforced abstinence, but also reduce the use of imprisonment for drug-related offenses should be developed, e.g. Drug Treatment Courts. Instead of being an obstacle to recovery, the criminal justice system should become a powerful engine of recovery. Alternative sanctions should empower people to become drug-free, crime-free and integrated members of society.
To promote public health and public safety it is essential that governments adhere to the three main drug control treaties of 1961, 1971, and 1988, as well as the Convention of the Rights of the Child. We believe that the UN drug treaties provide the best framework for reducing nonmedical drug use and its many negative consequences.
IOGT International urges all member states to recognize that these treaties create a solid foundation on which to build future drug policy innovations. Yes, we need alternatives, but we don’t need to create a public health and safety disaster through legalization. Indeed, we can do much, much better.