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

Monday 12th March 2012

Morning Plenary

The session this morning was opened by Yury Fedotov the Executive Director of UNODC, who re-iterated the need to tackle the world drug problem, a problem which he stated not only kills millions across the globe but which also jeopordises governments and fuels terrorism. One of Fedotov's messages this morning was that "we must restore the real balance" of drug policies and make "integration, health and rehabilitation" core parts of our strategies. He also stressed the need for farmers in drug producing countries to have access to alternative development opportunities and regretted that these opportunities were not being made available in the majority of cases. He also referred to the 3000 social workers who the UNODC have helped to train in relation to their family prevention programmes and the 11,000 health professionals trained through their treatment programmes, over the last 3 years, to which he referred to as the practical aspects of the UNODC's commitments.

Finally, he called upon member states to achieve unity and harmony when tackling the drug problem (which was later to become a theme in many of the plenary discussions).

Regional groups where then invited to take the floor. The Group 77 of China opened by reaffirming its' commitment to the UN Drug Conventions, which they referred to as "important tools, providing a framework in combatting the world drug problem". The main points raised by the Group 77 of China were: a) The role of alternative development in combatting poverty and social marginalisation b) Concern that no update on ketamine has been undertaken to allow ketamine to be listed under the UN Conventions c) Balance between demand and supply d) The role of drug courriers (particularly women) and e) The need for the UNODC to have adequate funding for their activities.

The African Group also opened its' statement by reaffirming its commitment to the UN Conventions and stressing the impact on Africa, as it's role as a transit country, namely an escalation of drug dependence as well as money laundering. The group reaffirmed its' own commitment to working on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. The group also stressed its' support for alternative development measures as well as the need for shared intelligence, which should be part of shared responsibility across member states. Like the Group 77 for China, the African Group also called for adequate funding for UNODC activities.

The Group of Asian Nations opened by sharing its' opinion that "no strategy can succeed without shared responsibility in full consistency with the UN Charters and Conventions". They also expressed concerns about the lack of action on ketamine, the role of transit states, the need for alternative development, the use of courriers as well as the need to tackle the route cause of the drug problem. Again re-iterating what was another common theme, the group requested adequate funding for the UNODC activities.

The Group from Latin America opened by saying that they understood, "the only way to make signficant progress is to take consistent, concerted actions". However, unlike other delegations, the group shifted focus placing more emphasis on the need to tackle drug use in consuming countries and referred to non-interference in member states.

The European Union's presentation was vaguer in tone than the previous ones but with reference to human rights and evaluation. Four of the draft resolutions had been tabled by EU Member States and the delegation requested the support from other Member States on these particular issues (resolutions discussed below).

The floor was then opened to high ranking officials from various Member States.

Bolivia's President Morales, took to the floor, in a presentation which was aimed at saying that Bolivia wanted accession to the UN Convention 1961 but with a reservation for the production of the coca leaf for chewing purposes. He called it an historical error that this reservation had not been done at the time that Bolivia had ratified the convention. His talk seemed at odds with previous opening remarks calling for a joint approach by governments and he went on to talk about the use of coca for coca tea and coca marmalade. 

The floor then went to Anti-Drugs Minister of Afghanistan who spoke particularly about poppy cultivation in Afghanisatan, spoke of the world Food Zone Programme and the need for continued investment in alternative development.

The former Brazilian prime minister then took to floor, in a talk which drew reference to the problems of drug problems at the country's borders but called for continued optimism.

Draft Resolutions

In all, there were 12 draft recommendations tabled for adoption, among them recommendations on promoting female oriented strategies, alternatives to sentencing, responding to new psychoactive substances and alternative development. The sessions allow member states the opportunity to intervene and change the wording of the draft recommendations. These sessions are open to NGO's as observers.

Today, the draft resolutions on new psychoactive substances and the re-integration of people released from prison were considered. Although many of the changes of the recommendations are related to meaning or scope, one important inclusion to the psychoactive substance one was the inclusion of "where appropriate, criminal justice measures" to paragraph 5. This may be an important measure in terms of tackling the trafficking and production of new psychoactive substances, which are often created specifically to simply mimic the effects of controlled substances but which at the moment may be in some sort of regulatory grey zone, depending on what actions your country has taken so far. We are also pleased to see the resolution on the "Reintegration of persons released from prison who have renounced drug abuse" as this resolution calls upon governments to introduce pre-release programmes and the development of programmes to help formerly drug dependent people released from prison to find employment, continue rehabilitation and adapt to active life.

Side Events

EURAD attended side events on the themes of Drug Driving and the Rights of the Child To Be Protected from Illicit Drugs.

Informal Dialogue between the Chair of the CND and NGO's

We are grateful to the Vienna NGO Committee in arranging informal diaolgue sessions for NGO's, which affords the opportunity to ask questions, as NGO's do not have the opportunity to do this in the main plenaries, as the focus is on inter-governmental debate. Much of the discussion which took place was related to NGO engagement with the CND.

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