Beyond 2008: a success story

A unified voice from civil society on the illicit and harmful use of drugs at the high-level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

11-12 March 2009

At the opening of the high-level segment of the fifty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden spoke about the crucial role of non-governmental organizations and their contributions through Beyond 2008. She said that "as is well known, it is only through an effective partnership between Member States, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UN organizations and NGOs that we can make a true difference in the lives of those affected by drug abuse". H.M. Queen Silvia speech (audio mp3)

On that occasion, the Chair of Beyond 2008, Michel Perron, presented the Beyond 2008 Declaration and three resolutions. Click here to access Michel Perron's interview on the role of NGOs at the session.

A side event entitled "NGO contributions to the high-level segment" was organized in honour of H.M. Queen Silvia and moderated by David Turner, Chair of the NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs. In his opening remarks, Sandeep Chawla, Director of the UNODC Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, said: "I am pleased that through the 'Beyond 2008' project the NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, together with the support of my team, has succeeded in bringing the voices of NGOs at this important summit".

Other NGO representatives spoke about the regional impact of Beyond 2008. Among them were Barnabe D'Souza, Shelter Don Bosco India; Roger Kasirye, Uganda Youth Developmenty Link; Carmen Fernandez, Centros Integracion Juvenil Mexico; Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Policy Foundation.


Enabling an NGO global forum to review progress on drug policy

7-9 July 2008

Beyond 2008, the global NGO forum reviewing of progress made since the twentieth special session of the General Assembly, on the world drug problem, was held from 7 to 9 July 2008 at the United Nations Office at Vienna. The event included an exhibition to highlight NGO work and achievements on drug control. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, opened the global NGO forum by saying that "although there are divergent views among NGOs, as there are among States, moving drug control beyond 2008 requires solidarity".

The three-day NGO forum was a unique and historic event. t gathered over 300 NGOs from across the world, and marked an important milestone of NGO participation in the formulation of international drug policy. A number of governmental representatives participated as observers, demonstrating a strong interest in the NGO deliberations on drugs. The forum ended with the adoption of a global declaration and three resolutions, which were presented at the intergovernmental expert working group on drug demand reduction held in Vienna from 15 to 17 September 2008. A number of recommendations were incorporated into the outcome document that will be submitted to the ministerial -level session of the Commission on arcotic Drugs, to be held in March 2009. The declaration highlights what has been achieved by NGOs, and identifies opportunities for future cooperation and collaboration between governments, non-governmental intergovernmental and civil society organizations in the period post 1998.

Three key themes that emerged from the deliberations were the following:

Shared responsibility and accountability. Governments, at all levels, need to leverage the experience, reach, professionalism and passion of NGOs. In the past five years, NGOs have become more focused, disciplined, interconnected and organized around how to take on this global problem. NGOs are well placed to contribute, but only if their experience, reach, impact and commitment is engaged. As Eva Tongue, Chairperson of the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, commented in her opening remarks, "Money alone is not enough. Governments need to recognize that the fieldwork done by NGOs is fundamental to success in all aspects of this matter."

Giving the most affected a voice. This is an issue that has to be addressed at the human level. The declaration and resolutions represent many different voices - individuals, families, and communities - from around the globe. This voice needs to be heard because it brings a fundamental understanding on how to achieve demonstrable progress to reduce the illicit and harmful use of drugs and its adverse health, social and economic consequences.

Beyond 2008 has created a call for action. The declaration and resolutions are just the start. It is a commitment by all participants to build on what was achieved here in Vienna as they return to their work and engage with their governments.

In his closing remarks, Michel Perron, Chairman of the Beyond 2008 Steering Committee and CEO of the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, reminded delegates that, "As we go back to our communities and responsibilities, let us go knowing that our commitment to consensus over the past three days has created the opportunity for civil society to have a substantive voice here in Vienna."

Substantive documents of the "Beyond 2008" NGO forum:

(Spanish) (French) (Russian) (Arabic) (Chinese)


Overview of the goals and principles that guided the "Beyond 2008" NGO forum

"Beyond 2008" was an international NGO initiative led by the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, in partnership with UNODC, with the support of the European Commission and other donors. It focused its deliberations on three key objectives:

1. To highlight, through an NGO questionnaire that has been posted online in the six official languages of the United Nations, tangible NGO achievements in the field of drug control with particular emphasis on contributions to the action plan adopted in 1998 at the twentieth special session of the General Assembly, such as achievement in policy, community engagement, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social integration.

2. To review best practices related to collaborative mechanisms among NGOs, governments and United Nations entities in various fields, and to propose new and/or improved ways of working with the UNODC and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

3. To identify key principles within the international drug conventions and highlight how those principles affect the way drug policy is applied locally on day-to-day basis, and then adopt a series of high order principles, drawn from the Conventions and theirs commentaries.

Nine regional consultations were held to elicit the experience and ideas of a representative sample of NGOs in North Africa and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America, South Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and Western Europe. The work of these consultations culminated with the "Beyond 2008" global forum (see information and draft agenda - pdf format) that took place in Vienna from 7 to 9 July 2008, when civil society organizations from around the world finalized the 10-year review of the goals set by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, and made recommendations at the 2009 high-level segment of the fifty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on how to make further progress in tackling the world's drug problems.

"Beyond 2008" represented a focused and serious effort to provide the Commission on Narcotic Drugs with unique and forward-looking recommendations from NGOs across the globe who saw the review as critically important to global drug policy stewardship. The initial results of more than 450 completed questionnaires were combined with the findings of the regional consultations and presented in a conference room paper that was distributed at the fifty-first session of the Commission in March 2008. For more on "Beyond 2008", please download this informational leaflet (pdf), which includes basic information in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Launch of the "Beyond 2008" project

The NGO forum that took place on 13 March 2007 during the fiftieth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs marked the start of this project undertaken by the Vienna NGO Committee in partnership with UNODC, to provide a voice to the NGO community in reflecting on its own achievements at the 10-year review of progress made since the General Assembly held its twentieth special session, on the world drug problem.

Eighteen lead NGOs representing six regions (North Africa and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean) presented their work on drugs in their respective region.

"Civil society does not speak with one voice but it certainly constitutes one of the most integral partners in improving the health and the well-being of individuals across the globe. There are many points of consensus among us and it is our intention to mine those for the benefit of all," said Michel Perron, Chief Executive of the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, who led this initiative on behalf of the Vienna NGO Committee.

The Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, opened the forum. In his closing remarks to delegates of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, he said: "I was particularly impressed [...] There was lively debate, in a balanced way that enabled all viewpoints to be expressed. Representations from all five continents made it a truly global event".

UNODC strengthening collaboration with NGOs on drug control:

the initial steps to enable the project "Beyond 2008"

A memorandum of understanding signed by UNODC and the Vienna NGO Committee on 5 February 2007 acknowledged the key role of NGOs in effective drug control.

Funding from Canada, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission, enables NGOs from developing countries to take part in "Beyond 2008" and thereby contribute to UNODC's drug control efforts.