Vienna (Austria), 23 September 2022 — From 21 to 22 September 2022, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held its thematic discussions on the implementation of all international drug policy commitments, following up to the 2019 Ministerial Declaration.
This year’s discussions focused on the need for drug policies to be in line with both international drug control conventions and human rights obligations - a challenge identified by United Nations (UN) Member States in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration.
The fundamental goal of the international drug control conventions is to protect the health and welfare of humankind, with the intention to make essential medications available for the relief of pain and the alleviation of suffering, while protecting the people, particularly the most vulnerable, from the potentially dangerous effects of controlled substances. Drug policies which are inconsistent with the conventions or human rights obligations will lead to people suffering and being left behind - undermining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which seeks to improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.
The intersessional meeting was chaired and moderated by the Chair of the CND at its sixty-fifth session, H.E. Mr. Ghislain D’Hoop of Belgium, and was kicked off with a high-level opening involving the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms. Ghada Waly, the President of the Human Rights Council, H.E. Mr. Federico Villegas of Argentina, and the President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Ms. Jagjit Pavadia. Their participation underscored the importance of positioning human rights at the centre of the drug policy debate. Addressing the meeting, Ms. Waly noted: “Drug control obligations and human rights obligations are compatible, complementary, and mutually reinforcing. What Member States need to strive for, is to live up to those obligations in a coherent manner that never loses sight of the ultimate goal.”
The meeting was held in a hybrid format – combining in-person participation at the Vienna International Centre and online participation – to facilitate participation from experts and relevant stakeholders across the globe. There were around 700 registered participants, with the meeting also webcast to a global audience. Over the course of both days, presentations were made by around 40 experts from Member States, United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society, signifying the relevance of the topic and its unifying nature. Notably, the meeting showcased inter-agency collaboration across the United Nations system, with participation from an array of United Nations entities, including UNODC, the World Health Organization and its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, the International Narcotics Control Board, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme.
The Chief of the Research and Trend Analysis Branch of UNODC, Dr. Angela Me, delivered introductory presentations ahead of the discussions on both days, outlining global developments and trends relating to the challenge. This was followed by a keynote introduction delivered by the Chief of the Drugs, Laboratory and Scientific Services Branch of UNODC, Dr. Justice Tettey, on the first day, and the Chief of the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Section of UNODC, Ms. Valerie Lebaux, on the second day.
Experts addressed a wide range of issues, including, among others, access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes; protection of health through substance scheduling; protection of children and young people from substance use; prevention and treatment of drug use; alternatives to conviction and punishment; alternative development; and the importance of international cooperation in addressing drug-related crime.
The meeting was closed by the CND Chair and the Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs of UNODC, Mr. John Brandolino, who both applauded the level of engagement and quality of discussions. He encouraged stakeholders to continue to connect on the challenge, accelerate the implementation of all international drug policy commitments and ensure that no one will be left behind.
The CND is the policymaking body of the United Nations with principal responsibility for drug-related matters, and a governing body of UNODC. The Commission is the forum for Member States to exchange knowledge and good practices in addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem.