CSTF panellists at the Briefing in Vienna
Vienna, 24 September 2015 - The Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem in 2016 organised a briefing for Member States. The meeting offered an excellent opportunity for an open and frank exchange between civil society and Member States, underpinning the inclusive nature of the UNGASS 2016 preparatory process.
In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the UNGASS Board, H.E. Ambassador Khaled Shamaa strongly encouraged input from civil society: "I welcome very much the contributions that you are making, that is not the end of it, you will continue to provide us with inputs, with recommendations, with ideas, and that is something that Member States need to take into account in developing their positions presented to the negotiation platform as such".
Ms. Sheila P. Vakharia, Assistant Professor, Long Island University and Ms. Linda Nilsson, CSTF Representative for Global Voice Prevention, introduced the preliminary results of the CSTF Global Civil Society Drug Survey. The survey was widely circulated and answers were received in 11 languages, including all six United Nations (UN) official languages. The initial results presented are based on input received in English, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Turkish and Vietnamese. The input in the other languages is still to be analysed. These results provided an overview of the work of NGOs active in the drug field, areas of expertise, key priorities and concerns to be addressed, as well as best practices. In their conclusion, the researchers recognised that there will not be a consensus position from civil society. It was emphasized that the results of the survey were meant to feed into the debate among policy-makers at the UN in the preparatory process of UNGASS and beyond.
Three CSTF representatives presented views on civil society engagement in the UNGASS preparatory process in their respective regions through video messages. Mr. Pablo Cymerman, CSTF Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean (Intercambios Asociación Civil), pointed out that "change is needed and possible". Ms. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, CSTF Representative for South-East and East Asia (Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives), urged to "decriminalize drug use and increase investment in drug addiction treatment and prevention". Mr. Pubudu Sumanasekara, CSTF Representative for South Asia (Alcohol and Drug Information Centre Sri Lanka), highlighted that "the Civil Society Survey is a very good landmark in the UNGASS process". The three CSTF representatives voiced their commitment for a pro-active engagement of civil society in the UNGASS 2016 preparatory process.
An update on ongoing CSTF national consultations taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Kenya - September-October 2015) was presented. The results of these consultations will also inform the debate of Member States in preparation for UNGASS 2016.
During the lively questions and answers session, the involvement of CSTF regional representatives in events organised by Member States at national level was praised. Overall commitment and support for the activities of the CSTF was voiced. Further substantive input and operational recommendations from civil society in the UNGASS 2016 preparatory process were encouraged.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Esbjörn Hörnberg, Chairperson of the CSTF and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, thanked those present for their active engagement and invited Member States to support financially the work of the CSTF in preparation of and at the UNGASS in 2016.