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.
Background memo for the UNGASS 10-year review
Weaknesses in the United Nations drug control system have often been identified, related to the functioning of the key organs – the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) –, related to collaboration with the wider UN system – the World Health Organistaion (WHO), UNAIDS, UN Development Programme (UNDP), etc. – and related to the outdated character of several treaty provisions.READ MORE...
The 2007 CND preparing the UNGASS 10-year review
The 50th Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), held in Vienna from 12-16 March 2007 was the last such event before the watershed year of 2008, when the international community will review progress against the objectives set at the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), held in New York in 1998. The key decision that had to be taken at the 2007 CND was the timing and procedure for the UNGASS review.READ MORE...
Dave Bewley-Taylor Tom BlickmanInternational Drug Policy Consortium Briefing Nr. 1
At the 49th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), held in Vienna in March 2006, a draft resolution was tabled by the European Union (EU) to guide the process of evaluation of the implementation of political declaration and action plans of the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2008. This briefing describes the fortunes of the resolution and its proposals to strengthen the upcoming UNGASS evaluation process. It explores how the resolution’s aims for more objective and transparent assessment were ultimately watered down. This was a result not only of opposition from states wary of transparency, objectivity and a possible re-evaluation of some current UN policies, but also the EU’s own approach to operating at the CND.
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Martin JelsmaPresented at the Social Forum in Cartagena (Colombia)
June 20, 2003
Martin Jelsma analysed the 2003 UNGASS mid-term review and drew some important conclusions for the 10-year review in 2008: "Alliances have to be constructed rooted in pragmatic approaches and in solidarity with the victims of this War on Drugs on both sides of the spectrum, be they in the North or in the South, consumers or producers. The concepts of ‘co-responsibility’ and a ‘balanced approach’ between demand and supply sides have to be redefined. Only if such a coalition of like-minded countries could be brought together, and act in a coordinated manner to explore more pragmatica drug policies for both the demand and the supply sides, the UN level might become a useful forum. Only then, a stronger political alliance can enforce a more open-minded debate about current anti-drug strategies and challenge the US hegemony and discourse in this field."
The 2003 UNGASS mid-term reviewTNI Press Release
April 17, 2003
In a first analysis of the outcomes of the 2003 UNGASS mid-term review in April 2003, TNI concluded that the outcomes were very disappointing. The absence of significant progress over the past five years had not led to self-reflection and evaluation. The goals and targets of the UNGASS were simply re-affirmed. Most countries concentrated on a stock taking halfway of the implemented measures, without an honest analysis of the impact. The result is a distorted picture of virtual progress in order to justify to stay on the same course. The illusion is kept alive that reality will somehow fall into line with wishful thinking.READ MORE...
The unwritten history of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugsMartin JelsmaInternational Journal of Drug Policy (Volume 14, Issue 2)
Special Issue on the UNGASS Mid-term Review
The "international community" presented an apparent unanimity in its endorsement of prohibitive drug control at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in 1998. The reality is that there is a longstanding conflict within the UN system between nations wanting to maintain the prohibition regime and those hoping for a more pragmatic approach.
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An Agenda for ViennaMartin JelsmaTNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Papers 6
By 1998, when the United Nations convened a special General Assembly on drugs, there was already overwhelming evidence that the current approach to global drugs control had failed miserably, given the continuing rise in consumption and production. However, the evidence was ignored and no evaluation of what was wrong with current drug policy took place. Instead, as a New York Times editorial noted, unrealistic pledges were recycled, this time aiming at eliminating all drug production by the year 2008. In mid-April this year, the mid-term review of the goals and targets set by the special session on drugs is to take place in Vienna.
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Revising and Integrating Policies at National and International LevelMartin JelsmaPresentation at the Wilton Park Conference: Drug Policies and Their Impact
March 27, 2002
Allow countries and regions more space for policy reform using and stretching the margins of the conventions. Strengthen alliances of like-minded nations to support one another and effectively coordinate efforts at the UN level through informal consultations and strategy meetings. Any crack in the global prohibition regime would not plunge the world into chaos immediately. We should not press for a new global straitjacket but for a model that respects cultural differences. We have to open up the debate about the wisdom of the conventions as they stand.
Tom BlickmanTNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 1
The Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), Pino Arlacchi, will resign mid-2002. Mr. Arlacchi's position became untenable when the UN Inspector General's Office issued two very critical reports investigating allegations of mismanagement, nepotism and possible fraud. While press coverage focused on the scandals within ODCCP, little attention was given to the negative legacy of Mr. Arlacchi on the direction of international drug control policy itself.
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Martin JelsmaTNI Briefing
United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS)
New York, 8-10 June 1998
The "United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem" held from 8 to 10 June in New York, did not bring any surprises. The drug summit adopted a global strategy to reduce illicit drug supply and demand by 2008. In the General Assembly room, it was an uninterrupted three day sequence of political speeches. All countries could give their own emphasis to the agenda items and present in seven minutes their own more general view on the drugs issue and their policies to deal with it. But, all in all, it has been a lost opportunity, no evaluation of current drug policies took place whatsoever, it was devoted to (as a New York Times editorial phrased it) "recycling unrealistic pledges".READ MORE...
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