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.

  • 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)

  • Canada on drugs at the UN: Standing up for a long-overdue policy shift

    Canada’s statement read like a checklist of progressive drug policy positions
    The Hill Times (Canada)
    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    The applause persisted until the chair of the session eventually gavelled it to an end. The occasion? Canada’s statement at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, where countries were negotiating the text of a declaration to be adopted at the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on drugs (UNGASS) in New York. Sadly, at the CND, a faction of states ensured that the document fails to respond to the current realities of the “the world drug problem.” Hence, it was important that Canada’s applause-worthy statement read like a checklist of progressive drug policy positions, reflecting many points Canadian civil society groups have been advocating for years.

  • UNGASS 2016: Watershed event or wasted opportunity?

    Drug policy changes collide with UN bureaucracy
    Martin Jelsma
    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    At about two o'clock in the morning on March 23rd, after tense negotiations in Vienna, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) reached a disappointing compromise. The hard-bargained draft of the outcome document of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs taking place in New York from 19-21 April was adopted by ‘consensus’. Although its key features are by no means a surprise the draft is disappointing nonetheless.

  • Illicit drugs are not the only problem

    It’s outdated drug policy that needs fixing
    Fernando Henrique Cardoso
    The Huffington Post (US)
    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Next week the United Nations is convening the largest gathering on drug policy that the world has seen in two decades. It was the brainchild of three Latin American presidents — from Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico — who wanted to end decades of poorly conceived and executed counter-narcotics programs. Their hope was that the General Assembly Special Session, or UNGASS, would stimulate new thinking on ways to reverse the political, social and economic wreckage of a failed war on drugs.

  • Panama Papers demonstrate need to reopen UNGASS 2016 outcome document

    Recommendations to counter money laundering are inadequate
    Tom Blickman
    Friday, April 8, 2016

    The Panama Papers, a massive leak of confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama that helped wealthy clients and money launderers for drug trafficking organisations set up anonymous shell companies in tax havens, should open the outcome document of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016) on the world drug problem, that will take place on April 19-21 in New York.

  • The UN’s war on drugs is a failure

    Is it time for a different approach?
    The Observer (UK)
    Sunday, April 3, 2016

    A policy of prohibition has put the drugs trade in the hands of criminals and led to suffering for millions. 2008 was the year that the world didn’t eliminate the illicit drugs problem. This quixotic goal had been set a decade earlier at a United Nations general assembly special session when, under the vainglorious slogan “We can do it”, the supranational body pledged that, by 2008, the world would be “drug free”. As the UN prepares to host another special session on drugs in New York, the failure of the 1998 assembly to realise the goal is recorded in the vast amounts of money, resources, time and blood that have been expended in pursuing the apparently impossible.

  • TNI at CND 2016: reports from Vienna

    Agreeing on an outcome document to be approved by the UN General Assembly at the 2016 UNGASS

    The Transnational Institute (TNI) attended the 59th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna from the 14-22nd March. The CND negotiated the outcome document to be approved at the 2016 UNGASS on the world drug problem, to be held on April 19-21 in New York. This storify features tweets, blogs and news from the event. (See also: The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?)

  • Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?

    Held this April, will the United Nations General Assembly Special Session be the turning point for the international drug control system?
    Ann Fordham Martin Jelsma
    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    In April 2016, the UN will dedicate, for the third time in its history, a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to discuss global drug policy. The UNGASS has the potential to be a ground-breaking moment that could change the course of the international drug control system. However, political divisions and entrenched institutional dynamics have dampened hopes that it will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.

  • The United Nations is supposed to be negotiating a solution to the ‘world drug problem’, and it’s not going well

    The UNGASS is now perilously close to representing a serious systemic failure of the UN system
    Open Democracy (US)
    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    This April, the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs will convene in New York – seen by many as a possible breaking point for the global drug control system, and the first session to be held on this theme for two decades. The UNGASS is happening two years early, because the governments of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala have called for it in advance. The UNGASS is expected to be a crucial moment in which dissenting countries could break the UN consensus over the ‘war on drugs’ and the model of prohibition, proposing alternative approaches towards harm reduction and decriminalisation instead. (See also: The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?)

  • The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?

    Civil Society Statement

    Drug policy expertise and impacted communities from around the world express serious concerns about the preparations and already-drafted outcomes for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the “world drug problem”. We call upon member states – especially those who have been shut out of the Vienna-based negotiations – to challenge the current draft of the UNGASS Outcome Document, to ensure the debate on its contents is not closed in Vienna, and to prepare statements expressing their disappointment and dissent at the UNGASS in April.


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