Impressions from the Encod delegation at the UN CND in Vienna
13 march 2012
This report about the CND does not aim at completeness. For that, you should read, among others, the ngoblog written by people from Harm Reduction Int. and the reports of the HCLU.
This is more personal, so that you have an impression of what ENCODs representatives are doing at the CND. I start with Monday, then the other SC members will give their impressions.
Farid was first to arrive at the VIC (Vienna International Centre, that is the UN building, containing both UNODC UN Office on Drug and Crime and the Office on Atomic Energy etc.) and he phoned Boaz and me
that there was no hurry, because his name was not in the computer.
It took two hours to correct the administrative error that had been made, so we missed Evo Morales’ speech at the opening plenary. We heard that he spoke extensively about the Bolivian coca culture, and the historic mistake that was made (some 25 – 30 years ago) by a previous, American-oriented dictatorial government. He said that the coca culture was part of the Bolivian heritage, and of the social cohesion of the Bolivian people for centuries. This was obviously meant to influence the circa 200 member states (MS) that must decide on Bolivia’s request to be allowed back in the international drug treaties. When one third of the MS refuse, Bolivia cannot reaccess. Whether that would be bad, I doubt, but obviously Morales tried to bring the CND in the right mood to take his country back in.
At the end of this session, coca leafs were handed out at the exit of the meeting room.
Many people were interested in what Kerlikowske, the US drug czar, was going to say at the opening session, and I heard conflicting reports about it. Some said he spoke about mistakes the USA had made, and about changes, but others were disappointed, and heard no news.
At a lunch symposium offered by IDPC, International Drug Policy Consortium, about the Global Drug Policy, Mrs Ruth Dreyfuss, former president and minister of health of Switzerland, and a member of the Global Commission, spoke about the history of that project. She said clearly that the Global Commission advised countries to start experiments with legal regulation, of cannabis and of the other drugs, and find out what works – not to start regulating already.
The afternoon started with a so-called round table about ‘shared responsibility’. The text that I had sent in for ENCOD (and to you before the CND) in which I said that this concept is a cynical name for abdication of responsibility, was not selected by the VNGOC, Vienna NGO Committee, but two others were, one by a ‘drugfree’ group and one by IDPC.
Now that Guatemala officially announced their wish to discuss drug regulation, we wondered what the Bolivian representative would do at the CND. At this session he asked the other MS to allow Bolivia an alternative policy.
As the session rolled on, and dozens of MS spoke tediously about the importance of mutual responsibility, it became clear that time would be short, and near the end the chair decided to give the floor to the drugfree speaker. Then the last few MS could speak, and there was no more time for the other civil society group, IDPC.
Then I went to a session on the “Rights of the Child to Be Protected from Illicit Drugs”. This meeting strongly resembled a session at last year’s CND which was held only among the NGOs. I wrote about this in a mail about two weeks ago, that the ‘drugfree people’ believe that the Convention on the Rights of Children, CRC, can be their decisive tool to prevent legalisation, and to force the UN to keep strictly to a world without drugs. They already had some success in that because the word drugfree was used approvingly by a few speakers. I tried to spoil that by saying (again) that children had so easy access to drugs because of the existence of a huge black market, which is created by prohibition, and they came back at me with remarks such as: ‘Children get their first cigarettes and alcohol from parents and friends, so legalization clearly does not stop children from using.’ I think this line of argument will not serve our drugfree opponents much, except in that they may be successful in other demands connected to young people. For instance, higher punishments for parents who use in the presence of their children.
The last session I attended on Monday was an ‘Open Dialogue’ with the chairperson of the CND, Mrs. Carmen Bujan Freire of Spain. It was not really ‘open’ because VNGOC asked us to send in our questions beforehand. During the session it was allowed to add a little to this, but for new questions there was no more time.
However, two of the prepared questions were ok, they could have been from us. I don’t know (yet) who posed them. One wanted to know how exactly progress in demand reduction, harm reduction and supply reduction is measured. The other said that outside of the CND an intense debate is going on about alternative drug policies, and asked how these subjects could also be discussed at the CND, this year, or next year.
Boaz said that minority reports should be included in official UNODC publications. Farid wanted more attention for medical cannabis, and he also said that there should be room and time made available for discussion about alternative policies, if not next year, then certainly in 2014, when the CND will have the status of UNGASS, UN General Assembly Special Session.
To all this the answer was simply that the MS determine this (that is the officials who were present and said nothing), and not UNODC.
I want to say a few words already about a resolution of the USA “One hundredth anniversary of the Opium Convention”, which contains false and unacceptable statements. It is about the first convention of The Hague in 1912 and will be discussed during the coming days in the so-called Committee of the Whole.
It speaks of the “great progress made by the international community in international drug control efforts” and reaffirms the three conventions.
Of course, that would suit UNODC well in the present climate of demands for regulation (and for a debate about regulation). Also it mentions the ultimate goal of drug control: a drug free world. The Netherlands opposed this last try to reintroduce the drug free world, and this was succesful, but for the rest, this resolution was accepted by the Committee of the Whole, and will certainly also be accepted by the CND itself.