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.

  • Three leaders from Latin America call for decriminalizing drug use

    Diplomats attending the UN special session on drugs next month must confront the obvious failure of most existing drug laws
    Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo
    Los Angeles Times (US)
    Friday, March 11, 2016

    Outdated drug policies around the world have resulted in soaring drug-related violence, overstretched criminal justice systems, runaway corruption and mangled democratic institutions. After reviewing the evidence, consulting drug policy experts and examining our own failures on this front while in office, we came to an unavoidable conclusion: The “war on drugs” is an unmitigated disaster. (See also: Public Statement on the UNGASS 2016 process and draft outcome document, by Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP)

  • Striving for system-wide coherence

    An analysis of the official contributions of United Nations entities for the UNGASS on drugs
    Christopher Hallam
    IDPC Brief
    March 2016

    In April 2016, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) will convene its 30th Special Session (or ‘UNGASS’) – and the third to focus on the ‘world drug problem’. The General Assembly has called for an ‘inclusive preparatory process that includes extensive substantive consultations, allowing organs, entities and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, relevant international and regional organizations, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to fully contribute to the process’. Through the United Nations System Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, UN entities were invited to make submissions on how the international drug control system impacts upon their respective mandates and the coherence of the UN more broadly.

    application-pdfDownload the brief (PDF - outside link)

  • UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy

    Martin Jelsma
    Journal of Drug Policy Analysis
    March 2016

    This paper explores key lessons from the 1990 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug Abuse (UNGASS 1990) and the 1998 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 1998), and tracks subsequent policy events and trends. It discusses the wide array of increasing tensions and cracks in the “Vienna consensus,” as well as systemic challenges and recent treaty breaches.

    Download the article (PDF)

  • UNGASS 2016: What prospect for change?

    Don’t even expect to see a consensus around those two words ‘harm’ and ‘reduction’
    Matters of Substance (New Zealand)
    February 2016

    With the UN’s drug control policy setting bathed in opaque diplomatic light, civil society advocates are left looking for the subtleties of language and tone to spot any sign of change. The NGOs closest to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world’s drug problem in April aren’t expecting dramatic changes, but they do see things moving in the right direction. “We’re not going to have the end of prohibition in April, the treaties are not going to be torn up and started afresh in April. There are still a lot of repressive voices in there."

  • Elite ‘African Group’ in Vienna undermines AU drug policy

    A small group of African countries in Vienna submited their own document on drug policy to the UN, despite a more enlightened African Union position
    The South African Health News Service
    Sunday, February 7, 2016

    South Africa’s mission in Vienna submitted a minority reactionary “African Group” (AG) position on drug policy to the United Nations, despite the African Union's more progressive “Common African Position” (CAP). The AG position supports stronger control over ketamine, used as an anaesthetic in places without electricity or oxygen supplies. The AG document also does not mention “harm reduction”, focusing only on punishment for supply and use illegal drugs. (See: The AU Common African Position and the Africa Group’s Submitted Position)

  • The Heemskerk Declaration

    Final declaration of the Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants
    Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants (GFPPP)
    January 21, 2016

    In a global meeting small scale farmers of cannabis, coca and opium from 14 countries discussed their contribution to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). The UNGASS will discuss all aspects of global drug control policies, including the worldwide ban on the cultivation of coca, poppy and cannabis, an issue the Global Farmers Forum demands that their voices be heard and taken into account.

  • UNGASS 2016: Change to global drug policy unlikely

    Unless consideration is given to redefining the underlying goal of world drug policies, there will be no change in the prospects for reducing the harmful effects of drugs
    The Huffington Post (Australia)
    Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Next year's United Nation's General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem is, by UN standards, set to be controversial. But it is unlikely to be the game changer in global drug policy that some are seeking. The one simple truism of the drug policy debate is that there are no simple solutions, nor much consensus. Solutions become even more difficult to find if you're focused on the wrong goals. The current global drug policy goals – the elimination of the use and trade of illicit narcotics – outlined in the UN's Political Declaration and drug control conventions don't address the ground truth of the global drug problem.

  • As UNGASS approaches, yet another devastating UN critique of the drug war is published

    Steve Rolles (Transform)
    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    A significant positive outcome has already emerged from next year’s UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in the form of much more direct engagement in key drug policy issues from a range of UN agencies - beyond the prohibitionist silo of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Civil society organisations have, for years, been attempting to highlight the negative impacts of the international drug control system on issues relating to the core UN pillars of human rights, development, and peace and security.

  • Supporting the process towards UNGASS 2016

    The Cartagena Dialogue – organized by four governments and four civil society organizations, with the participation of 79 official and non-governmental delegates from three continents – was designed to strengthen the UNGASS 2016 process by identifying key ideas that help to review drug policies and by making steps to coordinate inter-regional efforts on the preparation, negotiation of the Outcome Document and on the UNGASS itself in April 2016.

    Download the report (PDF)

  • UNGASS 2016: Background memo on the proposal to establish an expert advisory group

    Several countries have recently expressed support for the idea to use the mechanism of an expert advisory group again for the UNGASS in 2016
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    November 2015

    Significant changes in the global drug policy landscape are shaping up in the UNGASS 2016 preparations, in the direction of more humane and proportional responses based on health, human rights and development principles. But few countries are willing to openly acknowledge the existence of structural deficiencies with regard to UN system-wide coherence, the institutional architecture and the legal treaty framework. In spite of more and more cracks in the Vienna consensus and treaty breaches in the area of cannabis policies, questioning the basic principles of the international drug control system is still largely a political taboo.

    application-pdfDownload the memo (PDF)

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