Executive Secretary of the Five Federations of Lowland Peasants in Bolivia and President of the Andean Confederation of Coca Leaf Producers.
Meant to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) New York, June 8-10, 1998
The Andean Council of Coca Leaf Growers (CAPHC), which groups together men and women coca growers from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, met in Puno May 17-18, 1998, to analyze the situation of our people, put a distance between ourselves and the anti-drug policies currently being implemented and propose alternatives that need to be put in practice at the grassroots, demanded from the Andean governments in office today and proposed to the international community.
Drugs control is one of the most controversial issues of the late twentieth century. US-led efforts to wage a ‘war on drugs' have focused on wiping out production in developing countries, rather than tackling the demand for drugs in rich countries. Over time, eradication strategies have become increasingly militarised, and have led to human rights abuses and environmental degaradation. And the war has failed. The amount of drugs produced and drugs-linked crops cultivated have not decreased.
This briefing is published in the run-up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, to be held in New York in June 1998. The UNGASS provides a rare opportunity to re-think current drugs efforts. Member states are being asked to endorse a plan, known as SCOPE, for the eradication of drugs-linked crops by 2008. Is SCOPE viable? And what impact would it have on poor farmers who grow drugs-linked crops to survive?
The United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) is rallying support for the UN General Assembly Special Session to Counter the World Drug Problem Together (UNGASS). The UNDCP hopes the meeting will raise the profile of drugs issues and place the agency at the centre of a revitalised global approach to drugs. At the meeting, a series of declarations and action plans on a variety of issues will be tabled. Tackling drugs problems, however, involves more than words. What matters most is how such ideas will be put into action.
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".
Martin Jelsma is a political scientist who has specialised in Latin America and international drugs policy. In 2005, he received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship, which stated that Jelsma "is increasingly recognized as one of, if not the, outstanding strategists in terms of how international institutions deal with drugs and drug policy."...
Tom Blickman is a Senior Project Officer at the Transnational Institute (TNI), based in Amsterdam. Since 1997, he has been working for TNI's Drugs & Democracy Programme, specializing in international drug control policy and the UN conventions, drug markets, alternative development, money laundering and organised crime. Tom is a regular speaker at international policy conferences and advises...
Pien Metaal is a researcher with TNI. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science and International Relations from University of Amsterdam. She has been a member of the Transnational Institute's Drugs and Democracy team since 2002, though her participation with the Programme dates further back....
Ernestien Jensema (1971) is a social anthropologist who has been working as a researcher and project coordinator with the Drugs & Democracy Programme of TNI since 2008. She focuses on issues related to the UN drug control system and the Drugs and Democracy Programme’s Asia project....
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.
Alternative Development programmes, aimed at encouraging peasants to switch from growing illicit drugs-related crops, play an important role in UN drug control strategies. The record of success, however, is a questionable one. Decades of efforts to reduce global drug supply using a combination of developmental and repressive means, managed to shift production from one country to another, but have failed in terms of global impact.
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.
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.
Meetings 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.
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.
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."
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.