The 48th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), 7-11 March 2005 in Vienna, was plagued by controversy about the legitimacy of harm reduction policies. Ending in stalemate, guidance for UNODC to operate in this field remains ambiguous. In June, at the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB), a consensus was reached regarding a mandate for UNAIDS to be involved in needle exchange programmes and other harm reduction activities among injecting drug users. What options are available to clarify UNODC’s mandate in this area and more in general to achieve a breakthrough in policy dilemmas that surfaced recent years at the UN level.
In this briefing the Transnational Institute (TNI) analyses the proceedings and results of the CND meeting in Vienna, 7-11 March 2005, outlines several options for follow-up and recommends next steps to take.
The US pressure on the UNODC to withdraw support from needle exchange and other harm reduction approaches backfired at the 48th session of the CND in March 2005. Delegates from around the globe stood up to defend the overwhelming evidence that harm reduction measures are effective against the spread of HIV/AIDS. In this briefing TNIanalyses the proceedings and results of the CND meeting in Vienna in March 2005, and outlines several options for follow-up and recommends next steps to take.
Numerous UN conferences and summits have been devoted to negotiating a harmonized global approach to illicit drugs. Yet more and more cracks are now beginning to appear in the supposedly universal model which is, in reality, based on a highly fragile consensus.
Conflicting views within the UN system on harm reduction have become a major concern. Consistency in messages is crucial especially where it concerns joint global programmes such as the efforts to slow down the HIV/AIDS epidemic; efforts in which harm reduction practices like needle exchange and substitution treatment play a pivotal role.
Tensions in US-UNODC relations should be resolved by more sustainable funding mechanisms, not by bowing to Republican flat-earthism. It is time to be guided by the light of science, not by the darkness of ignorance and fear.
The UNGASS mid-term review in April 2003 will present Mr Costa with a high-level political opportunity to convince the world of his commitment to take UNDCP in a more rational direction, to say farewell to the years of crisis, to restore donor confidence and to open up the debate.
In 1992, the PSA launched the "WHO/UNICRI Cocaine Project", which according to a press release in March 1995 was the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken. The conclusions strongly conflicted with accepted paradigms so that almost as soon as the Briefing Kit started to circulate in the UN corridors, USA officials used their full weight to prevent the release of the study.Years of work and hundreds of pages of valuable facts and insights about coca and cocaine by more then 40 researchers were, in effect, "burned".
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) was held in New York on June 8-10, 1998. It was a disappointing event. No evaluation of current repressive
drug policies took place whatsoever. It was devoted to, as a New York Times editorial phrased it, "recycling unrealistic pledges".