In March 2008, a two-year long 'period of global reflection' on the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem started. What have been the results? What space was there be for civil society to participate in the different stages of the process? What were the key issues on the table? What kind of improvements in the functioning of the UN drug control system have been achieved?
The most recent UNGASS took place in 2016. To follow the preparations and proceedings check the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) special webpage.

  • Jamaica dropped the mic on 4/20 and told the UN to get its act together on weed

    Jamaica is disappointed that the document does not allow countries sufficient flexibility to design our domestic policies to fit national circumstances
    Vice (US)
    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    On 4/20, the unofficial holiday celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts around the world, Jamaica called for the UN to review the status of cannabis, questioning why the drug is still legally considered as dangerous as heroin under international law. Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith said that scheduling cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical use — a status that dates back to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — is outdated and out of touch.

  • TNI at UNGASS 2016: reports from New York

    Reform-minded states and civil society need to build something better from the ashes of this UNGASS

    The Transnational Institute (TNI) attended the 30th session of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in New York from the 19-21st April 2016. The General Assembl approved an outcome document. Global drug policy could have seen major changes at the UNGASS, but political divisions and entrenched institutional dynamics dampened hopes that it will mark the beginning of the end of the war on drugs. This storify features tweets, blogs and news from the event.

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  • Cannabis and the Conventions: UNGASS and Beyond

    Cannabis is clearly the elephant in the room at UNGASS

    With an increasing number of jurisdictions enacting or contemplating reforms creating legal access to cannabis for purposes other than exclusively "medical and scientific," tensions regarding the drug conventions and evolving law and practice in Member States continue to grow. How might the UN system address these growing tensions in ways that acknowledge the policy shifts underway and explore options that reinforce the UN pillars of human rights, development, peace and security, and the rule of law?

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  • Colombian president: persisting with prohibitionist drug policies is 'insane'

    Juan Manuel Santos expressed dismay at UN decision to continue supporting criminalisation of drug use: ‘The old way of doing things is the wrong way’
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, has said it is "insane" to keep approaching the global narcotics problem with the same failed policies of the past and called on drug war hawks to understand that "the old way of doing things is the wrong way". Speaking after a United Nations policy summit voted to maintain its support for prohibitionist drug policies, Santos said: "Let me be clear with them: the prohibitionist approach has been a failure." (See also: As Colombia’s leader, I know we must rethink the drugs war | Diplomacy or denialism? The language that the UNGASS Outcome Document overlooked)

  • Remarks Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

    United Nations Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016)
    Round Table Three: Cross-cutting issues: drugs and human rights, youth, women, children and communities
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    "When drugs are decriminalised and health care, including harm reduction, is available, which is the case in a number of Member States, drug dependent persons are less likely to resort to criminal behaviour to get funds to support their drug dependence. They can obtain opioid substitution therapy where controlled substances would be applied under medical supervision. We would have liked accordingly to see a clear reference to the right to health as provided by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."

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  • Russia's 'cold turkey' approach highlights global divide over drug treatment at UN

    Russian representative suggests methadone and heroin are the ‘same narcotic drug’ as outside experts condemn country’s take on treatment
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    As international leaders debated global drug law at the United Nations, a bizarre panel on heroin treatment showed just how divided countries are over how to treat addicts. The panel, sponsored by the Russian Federation, began with an international group of scientists and diplomats explaining the importance of evidence-based drug treatment, before a Russian doctor veered into addiction science denialism. "We prefer to treat people in a drug-free setting," Dr Oxana Guseva, a medical representative of the Russian Federation, told the Guardian afterward, "because methadone is the same narcotic drug as heroin." (See also: Russia, science, and the global war on drugs)

  • Weed and the UN: Why international drug laws won't stop legalization

    Cannabis is clearly the elephant in the room at UNGASS
    Vice (US)
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    Under the outcome document for UNGASS that was drafted by diplomats in Vienna and formally adopted at UN headquarters in New York, weed still remains strictly banned by the treaties that govern international law. The intransigence is a real problem that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of all types of international treaties. John Walsh, the senior associate for drug policy at the Washington Institute on Latin America (WOLA), is hosting one of two weed-focused "side events" scheduled at the UN. "Cannabis is clearly the elephant in the room at UNGASS," Walsh said. "It's there, it's huge, but no one wants to talk about it."

  • To win the war on drugs, stop brutalising farmers who grow them

    Reform of drug policy is essential to protect the rights of cultivating communities, and ensure they make a living from their land
    Pien Metaal
    The Guardian (UK)
    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    Reform of international drug control is urgently needed. The war on drugs has left a trail of suffering and criminality in its wake and has manifestly failed to achieve its objectives. The UN special session of the general assembly (UNGASS) presents an opportunity. Many reformers put drug users at the centre of changes to international drug policies, but the people growing the plants producing the substances they consume are often overlooked. Farmers’ livelihoods and communities are inherently linked to reform of international drug policies. For hundreds of thousands of farmers’ families, existing crop control laws and practices cause conflict and poverty. (See: Contributions of grower representatives at UNGASS)

  • UN backs prohibitionist drug policies despite call for more 'humane solution'

    Plan adopted at special session focuses on reform and cooperation between nations but maintains policies that criminalise non-medical or scientific drug use
    The Guardian (UK)
    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    The 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) has approved an agreement that leaves in place the prohibitionist policies banning narcotics use, despite growing international discontent with the "war on drugs" – and the concerns of the nations that called the meeting. "So far, the solutions [to control drugs and crime] implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient," Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto told the meeting. Within the General Assembly, the rift between countries interested in drug policy reform and those with repressive drug control regimes was evident.

  • Ahead of a key meeting, Russia is driving global drug policy into the ground

    The Russian government is out of step with the world on drug policy — and it’s working to perpetuate failed policies of the past
    The Huffington Post (US)
    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    As the first major global meeting on drug policy in two decades approaches, Russia is quietly emerging as a powerful force working to perpetuate the war on drugs in the face of growing weariness with the quagmire worldwide. Later in April, the United Nations will convene a special session on drug policy aimed at shaping the global approach in the decades to come. Key nations convened last month in Vienna to move the negotiations forward ahead of the gathering, and Russia threw up roadblocks at every opportunity. (See also: Just Say Nyet | Russian drug policies fuel Europe’s worst HIV pidemic)

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