Out of ideas and out of touch

United Nations drug policy review
International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
Press release
March 9, 2009

As political leaders from around the world gather in Vienna on 11-12 March to review the last decade of international drug control, and set a framework for the next ten years with the signing of a Political Declaration, any hopes for progress or a new pragmatism in approaches to the world drug problem are fading fast.

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The UN High-Level Meeting at the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) session is a culmination of a two-year review of progress against the objectives and commitments made by the UN General Assembly in 1998. It is now clear that the key objective of a decade ago - 'eradicating or significantly reducing…' the scale of global markets for illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis - has not been met. The market in illicit drugs has not been reduced and indeed, in many parts of the world, the market and the problems associated with it are spiralling out of control.

Unfortunately, the negotiations have produced a weak and incoherent Political Declaration that calls for more of the same ineffective and often counterproductive strategies, ensuring this opportunity for progress – this opportunity to save thousands of lives - will be lost.

While harm reduction approaches are accepted and promoted by the entire public health profession, all the multilateral bodies charged with fighting the global AIDS pandemic – UNAIDS, the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis – and all other UN agencies and Commissions, the CND, in a stubbornly isolationist move, has voted to exclude any mention of harm reduction from its declaration despite the evidence-based consensus. 

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs has shown itself to be out of step with the rest of the UN system, with professional and expert opinion, and with the reality experienced by millions of ordinary citizens around the world.

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