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  1. New Report Offers Strategies for Regulating Cannabis in Ways that Uphold and Modernize International Law

    16 June 2016
    Press release

    As an increasing number of jurisdictions consider whether and how to legalize and regulate access to cannabis, tensions are growing between these initiatives and countries’ obligations under the UN drug control conventions. A groundbreaking new report produced by a coalition of legal and drug policy experts offers strategies for countries exploring regulatory approaches to cannabis to do so in ways that ensure that their domestic reforms align with their international legal obligations.

  2. Cracks in the Vienna Consensus

    • Martin Jelsma, Pien Metaal
    01 January 2004

    Numerous UN conferences and summits have been devoted to negotiating a harmonized global approach to illicit drugs. Yet more and more cracks are beginning to appear in the supposedly universal model which is based on a highly fragile consensus. The failure to counter the ever-growing problems related to the use of illicit drugs has led countries to question current policies and to experiment with approaches less driven by the US-inspired ideology of "zero tolerance" and more rooted in pragmatism. This has led to increasing acceptance of the concept of harm reduction for consumers, where drug use is treated as a public health rather than a law enforcement problem. On the production side, discussion centers on the need to secure alternative livelihoods for involved farmer communities and how to most effectively promote alternative development.

     

  3. Cannabis Regulation and the UN Treaties

    18 April 2016
    Policy briefing

    As jurisdictions enact reforms creating legal access to cannabis for purposes other than exclusively “medical and scientific,” tensions surrounding the existing UN drug treaties and evolving law and practice in Member States continue to grow. How might governments and the UN system address these growing tensions in ways that acknowledge the policy shifts underway and help to modernize the drug treaty regime itself, and thereby reinforce the UN pillars of human rights, development, peace and security, and the rule of law?

  4. A call to reprioritise metrics to evaluate illicit drug policy

    02 April 2016
    In the media

    The Lancet - On April 19–21, 2016, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) will convene to chart a course for the future to tackle the world's drugs problem. The 2016 UNGASS represents a rare opportunity to reassess the global approach to drugs and to move towards drug policies that more effectively address the three UN pillars of peace and security, human development, and human rights. We believe that we need a new consensus that includes a commitment to revise the range of indicators used to assess and improve drug policy effectiveness.

  5. Moeizame veranderingen na de War on Drugs

    20 April 2016
    In the media

    Volkskrant - De Verenigde Naties houden voor het eerst in twintig jaar een conferentie over drugs, op verzoek van drie Latijns-Amerikaanse landen die vinden dat het tijd wordt een alternatief te zoeken voor de War on Drugs.

  6. Storify : TNI at UNGASS 2016

    08 April 2016
    Infograph
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    The Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme

    • Cindy S.J. Fazey
    01 April 2003

    publicationMeetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) are no forum for debate and change. The author, a former senior officer of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), shows how CND meetings are manipulated in the interests of 17 developed countries that largely fund UNDCP – the CND’s ‘civil service’. However, these major donors are not united on policy or on how to apply the UN drug Conventions, so CND decisions reflect the lowest level of disagreement, with major splits on policy ignored.

    application-pdfDownload the publication (PDF)

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

    08 December 2015
    Policy issue

    Several countries have recently expressed support for the idea to use the mechanism of an expert advisory group again for the UNGASS in 2016

  9. brookings-paper

    Marijuana legalization is an opportunity to modernize international drug treaties

    • Wells Bennett, John Walsh
    14 October 2014

    Two U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, and more may follow; the Obama administration has conditionally accepted these experiments. Such actions are in obvious tension with three international treaties that together commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to recreational marijuana. The administration asserts that its policy complies with the treaties because they leave room for flexibility and prosecutorial discretion.

  10. How well do international drug conventions protect public health?

    • Robin Room, Peter Reuter (RAND)
    07 January 2012

    The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 aimed to eliminate the illicit production and non-medical use of cannabis, cocaine, and opioids, an aim later extended to many pharmaceutical drugs. Over the past 50 years international drug treaties have neither prevented the globalisation of the illicit production and non-medical use of these drugs, nor, outside of developed countries, made these drugs adequately available for medical use.

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    Change of Course

    • Martin Jelsma
    01 March 2003

    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.

    Download the report (PDF)

  12. Towards revision of the UN drug control conventions

    • David Bewley-Taylor
    08 March 2012
    Policy briefing

    Recent years have seen a growing unwillingness among increasing numbers of States parties to fully adhere to a strictly prohibitionist reading of the UN drug control conventions; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

     

  13. Challenging the UN drug control conventions

    01 March 2003

    Increasing numbers of sovereign states are beginning to review their stance on the prohibition based UN drug control conventions. Recent years have seen nations implement, or seriously discuss, tolerant drug policies that exploit the latitude existing within the legal framework of the global drug control regime. With efforts to implement pragmatic approaches to drug use at the national level, however, comes the growing recognition that the flexibility of the conventions is not unlimited. It seems that the time is not too distant when further movement within states away from the prohibitive paradigm will only be possible through some sort of change in or defection from the regime.

  14. Regime change

    • Martin Jelsma, David Bewley-Taylor
    18 January 2012
    Policy issue

    March 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This legal instrument, the bedrock of the current United Nations based global drug control regime, is often viewed as merely a consolidating treaty bringing together the multilateral drug control agreements that preceded it; an erroneous position that does little to provide historical context for contemporary discussions surrounding revision of the international treaty system.

  15. US signals shift in international drug policy

    12 October 2014
    Other news

    In a press conference at the United Nations in New York on October 9, US official William Brownfield laid the groundwork for a new US approach to international drug policy, pointing to the changing political landscape on drug regulation in the Americas.

  16. State Department official calls for 'flexibility' on drug control treaties

    13 October 2014
    Other news

    Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield called for "flexible" interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City, citing marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

  17. UN Drug Conventions Reform

    24 February 2008
    Article

    TNI briefing for the 2003 UNGASS mid-term review

    March 2003

    The backbone of the United Nations drug control system consists of three UN Drug Conventions. The prohibition of potentially harmful substances has its origin in the desire to protect human well-being. However, the way in which the global regime was set up decades ago and the escalation of repression it has brought about since, has been an historical mistake increasing rather than diminishing the problems.  There is no point now in dreaming about how the world might have looked without it, or deluding ourselves that all the problems could be solved by scrapping the conventions. The challenge is to create the political space which would allow a reform process to move ahead. A process guided by pragmatism, open-mindedness and evaluation of practices on the basis of costs and benefits; providing leeway for experimentation and freedom to challenge the wisdom of the existing conventions.

     

  18. obama-yes-we-cannabis

    The US incapacity to enforce federal drug laws - and the global consequences

    Francisco Thoumi
    31 October 2013
    Other news

    The US drug policy is changing, pitting states against federal law. This essay explores this inner friction of contradictory drug legislation, and what it may mean for the international drug control regime, itself a result of US drug policy. (4,400 words)

  19. The Limits of Latitude

    • David Bewley-Taylor, Martin Jelsma
    13 March 2012
    Policy briefing

    A growing number of nations are developing policies that shift away from the prohibition-oriented failed approach to drugs control. Ultimately however nations will need to reform the overall UN based global drug control framework of which practically all nations are a part.

  20. Reforming the global drug-control system: The stakes for Washington

    Martin Jelsma
    27 June 2014
    Other news

    The extent to which the ongoing drug-control reforms across the Americas are pushing the boundaries of the global legal framework laid down in three UN drug-control conventions has become a delicate issue. The decriminalization of possession for personal use in several Latin American countries and the establishment of a supervised injection room in Vancouver, Canada have already triggered protracted legal disputes with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi-judicial organ for the conventions’ implementation.

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