After many years of preparation, the UNGASS was finally held from 19 – 21 April 2016 at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) brought together representatives of the Member states of the United Nations to evaluate and debate the central aspects of drug policies.The main outcome was the adoption of the final document entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem,” containing operational recommendations to address and counter the world drug problem.
One of the greatest achievements of UNGASS 2016 is that this process represented a further shift towards a more health oriented approach to drug issues. There is also greater emphasis on access to essential medications and all the debates have included the need to protect the rights of children, the proportionality of sentences and the gender perspective.
Even though we have much work left to do in the areas of prevention, education, treatment, recovery and reintegration good things from UNGASS are that prevention, recovery and alternative development got a good place in the outcome document. From the three, alternative development is the one which has escalated most in the last few years.
The main disappointment from many organisations and NGOs as well as many countries is that progress could not be made on the elimination of the death penalty for drug offences. By unanimous agreement (except for the countries that apply it), continued application of the death penalty was condemned, but this element was unfortunately not included in the final document. We hoped the UNGASS would go further in this regard but the issue was vetoed-blocked by several countries which meant that no progress was made.
The words harm reduction didn’t make it into the final outcome document but individual harm reduction interventions were specifically mentioned. This indicates that member states support harm reduction interventions in their own regard but don’t support harm reduction as an overarching philosophy for drug policy.
Summaries and statements
The formal sessions, which consisted of the plenary session and the five interactive round tables, were held with representatives of UN Member States of the United Nations, and international and civil society organizations. In the words of Yury Fedetov, UNODC Director, civil society is a vital partner in all our efforts to counter the global drug problem.
List of full statements delivered by Member States during the UNGASS general debate as well as webcasts on demand are available here.
-Tuesday 19th: Roundtable 1 Demand reduction and related measures, including prevention and treatment, as well as health-related issues; and ensuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing their diversion (“drugs and health”)
-Wednesday 20th: Roundtable 2 Supply reduction and related measures; responses to drug-related crime; and countering money-laundering and promoting judicial cooperation (“drugs and crime”)
-Wednesday 20th: Roundtable 3 Cross-cutting issues: drugs and human rights, youth, women, children and communities
-Thursday 21st: Roundtable 4 on Cross-cutting issues: new challenges, threats and realities in preventing and addressing the world drug problem in compliance with relevant international law, including the three drug control conventions; strengthening the principle of common and shared responsibility and international cooperation
-Thursday 21st: Roundtable 5 Alternative development; regional, interregional and international cooperation on development-oriented balanced drug control policy; addressing socioeconomic issues.
The outcome document is just a document – the success of the UNGASS process will be seen only in the programmes and activities that are funded and implemented as a consequence of it.
EURAD would like to thank all our affiliates and our civil society partners who have worked side by side in the different countries, committees and work groups to make it possible for civil society to be present at the UNGASS.
Next big review will be in 2019
By Mulka Nisic