Since 1996, the TNI Drugs & Democracy programme has been analysing the trends in the illegal drugs market and in drug policies globally. The programme has gained a reputation worldwide as one of the leading international drug policy research institutes and as a serious critical watchdog of UN drug control institutions, in particular the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Globally, illicit drug policy is largely based on two central policy objectives. The first is to reduce the demand for illegal drugs mainly through criminalisation, drug prevention and treatment, and the second is to reduce the supply of illegal drugs primarily through law enforcement initiatives.
Due to its prevalence of use, MDMA is a significant public health issue. The Council believes that criminal justice measures will only have limited effect and strongly advises the promulgation of public health messages. It is of vital importance that issues of classification do not detract from messages concerning public health.
Conflicting views and policies 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.
The Bush administration is quietly extending a policy that undermines the global battle against AIDS. "The State Department's new leadership needs to end this bullying flat-earthism. It won't help President Bush's current effort to relaunch his image among allies. And it's almost certain to kill people."
"We respectfully urge you to support syringe exchange, opiate substitution treatment and other harm reduction approaches demonstrated to reduce HIV risk; to affirm the human rights of drug users to health and health services; and to reject efforts to overrule science and tie the hands of those working on the front lines."
In this open letter to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, 334 organisations express their concern about U.S. efforts to force a UNODC retreat from support of syringe exchange and other measures proven to contain the spread of HIV among drug users.
In a confidential and authoritative memorandum to the INCB, UNODC legal experts argue that most harm reduction measures are in fact acceptable under the conventions. According to the Legal Affairs Section "it could easily be argued that the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction provide a clear mandate for the institution of harm reduction policies that, respecting cultural and gender differences, provide for a more supportive environment for drug users."
The French news agency AFP recently reported the discovery of a new species of coca plant. According to the report, which was repeated by various media around the world, a coca plant was found in Colombia's Sierra Nevada that had a high cocaine content and a higher level of purity, and which was also resistant to the effects of aerial spraying. We would like to respond to the confusion and false impressions that this report could cause.
The third meeting of the Informal Dialogue on Drug Policy in Latin America took place in Quito and was organized with the support of the Ministry of Internal and External Security and the Ministry of Government of Ecuador. It focused on the evaluation of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2008 and 2009, and the high level meeting of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND) in March 2009. The dialogue had four sessions: (1) From the Andean Initiative to Plan Colombia (1989-2005); (2) Perspectives for Latin America in the 2008 – 2009 UNGASS review; (3) Criminal justice, the prison system and drugs: a human rights perspectives; (4) Proposals and strategies for the 2008-2009 reflection period and for the UNGASS review.
In a new report released in February 2008 by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), the INCB comes in for some heavy criticism for being overly secretive, closed to external dialogue with civil society, and out of kilter with similar agencies in other UN programmes. IHRA also debunks the INCB’s defence that it is ‘unique in international relations’.
A report published in March 2007 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Open Society Institute Public Health Program, strongly criticises the INCB. It accuses the Board of becoming 'an obstacle to effective programs to prevent and treat HIV and chemical dependence'. “Nearly one in three HIV infections outside Africa is among people who inject drugs. The International Narcotics Control Board could and should be playing a key role in stopping this injection-driven HIV epidemic — but it’s not,” said Joanne Csete, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and co-author of the report.
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.
The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – of which TNI is a member – published a second version of its Advocacy Guide that provides an update on the emerging process for the review of global policies on controlled drugs being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. It describes the latest situation on the planning for the review, and sets out the IDPC position on which issues need to be addressed in the review, and how these issues may be tackled in order to achieve a constructive outcome.