In March 2008, a two-year long 'period of global reflection' on the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem started. What have been the results? What space was there be for civil society to participate in the different stages of the process? What were the key issues on the table? What kind of improvements in the functioning of the UN drug control system have been achieved?
The most recent UNGASS took place in 2016. To follow the preparations and proceedings check the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) special webpage.

  • New agreement brings no end to war on drugs in ASEAN

    A global meeting on drugs failed to deliver a highly anticipated shift from a punitive approach to narcotics, disappointing Myanmar advocacy groups
    The Myanmar Times (Myanmar)
    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    The outcome of the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs in New York resulted in an outcome document that brings little new to the table. Nang Pann Ei, a coordinator of the Drug Policy Advocacy Groups, called the UNGASS meeting significant because Myanmar civil society was able to speak up for opium farmers facing the constant threat of crop eradication. But she voiced disappointment about the resulting policy document, saying it has "some serious gaps". "It did not mention harm reduction specifically, and decriminalisation of drug use and abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offenses was not mentioned," she said.

  • Rethinking the global war on drugs

    World leaders met at the UN in a special session to discuss saner ways to fight the drug trade. They did not get very far toward a shift in approach
    The New York Times (US)
    Monday, April 25, 2016

    The U.S. is in the untenable position of violating the existing treaties — now that four states have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. The Canadian government announced that it will introduce a bill next spring to decriminalize the sale of marijuana. Mexican leaders announced that their country intends to legalize medical marijuana and loosen restrictions on the amount of drugs people can possess for personal use. These new policies could render the existing drug treaties obsolete. Clearly, those accords need to be updated, heeding the experiences and lessons learned by the nations that have paid the highest price in the drug war.

  • Mexico's president proposes legalising medical marijuana

    Enrique Peña Nieto says laws would stop "criminalising consumption"
    The Guardian (UK)
    Friday, April 22, 2016

    Following his statement at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in which he called for more prevention, partial decriminalization and a public health approach, Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto has announced plans to introduced laws to legalise medical marijuana and increase the quantity anyone can carry and consume for recreational purposes from five grams to 28 grams. His plan would also free some prisoners convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. The initiative, which will now go to the senate for debate, signals a shift for Peña Nieto, who says he has never smoked marijuana and has openly opposed its legalisation.

  • Global Commission slams UNGASS 2016 outcome that strains the credibility of international law

    By ignoring the available science and examples of best practice on drug policy and harm reduction, the UN will become increasingly irrelevant
    The Influence (US)
    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    At a packed press conference in Manhattan, a formidable panel – including former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland, a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, a former UK deputy prime minister and entrepreneur Richard Branson – declared itself "profoundly disappointed" by the failure of the UNGASS 2016 outcome document to produce substantive change. The nine panelists represented half of the membership of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a body which unites international leaders to advocate for wide-ranging drug policy reform. (See also: Decriminalize all drugs, business and world leaders tell UN)

  • Jamaica dropped the mic on 4/20 and told the UN to get its act together on weed

    Jamaica is disappointed that the document does not allow countries sufficient flexibility to design our domestic policies to fit national circumstances
    Vice (US)
    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    On 4/20, the unofficial holiday celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts around the world, Jamaica called for the UN to review the status of cannabis, questioning why the drug is still legally considered as dangerous as heroin under international law. Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith said that scheduling cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical use — a status that dates back to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — is outdated and out of touch.

  • TNI at UNGASS 2016: reports from New York

    Reform-minded states and civil society need to build something better from the ashes of this UNGASS

    The Transnational Institute (TNI) attended the 30th session of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in New York from the 19-21st April 2016. The General Assembl approved an outcome document. Global drug policy could have seen major changes at the UNGASS, but political divisions and entrenched institutional dynamics dampened hopes that it will mark the beginning of the end of the war on drugs. This storify features tweets, blogs and news from the event.

  • Cannabis and the Conventions: UNGASS and Beyond

    Cannabis is clearly the elephant in the room at UNGASS

    With an increasing number of jurisdictions enacting or contemplating reforms creating legal access to cannabis for purposes other than exclusively "medical and scientific," tensions regarding the drug conventions and evolving law and practice in Member States continue to grow. How might the UN system address these growing tensions in ways that acknowledge the policy shifts underway and explore options that reinforce the UN pillars of human rights, development, peace and security, and the rule of law?

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  • Colombian president: persisting with prohibitionist drug policies is 'insane'

    Juan Manuel Santos expressed dismay at UN decision to continue supporting criminalisation of drug use: ‘The old way of doing things is the wrong way’
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, has said it is "insane" to keep approaching the global narcotics problem with the same failed policies of the past and called on drug war hawks to understand that "the old way of doing things is the wrong way". Speaking after a United Nations policy summit voted to maintain its support for prohibitionist drug policies, Santos said: "Let me be clear with them: the prohibitionist approach has been a failure." (See also: As Colombia’s leader, I know we must rethink the drugs war | Diplomacy or denialism? The language that the UNGASS Outcome Document overlooked)

  • Remarks Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

    United Nations Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016)
    Round Table Three: Cross-cutting issues: drugs and human rights, youth, women, children and communities
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    "When drugs are decriminalised and health care, including harm reduction, is available, which is the case in a number of Member States, drug dependent persons are less likely to resort to criminal behaviour to get funds to support their drug dependence. They can obtain opioid substitution therapy where controlled substances would be applied under medical supervision. We would have liked accordingly to see a clear reference to the right to health as provided by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."

  • Russia's 'cold turkey' approach highlights global divide over drug treatment at UN

    Russian representative suggests methadone and heroin are the ‘same narcotic drug’ as outside experts condemn country’s take on treatment
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    As international leaders debated global drug law at the United Nations, a bizarre panel on heroin treatment showed just how divided countries are over how to treat addicts. The panel, sponsored by the Russian Federation, began with an international group of scientists and diplomats explaining the importance of evidence-based drug treatment, before a Russian doctor veered into addiction science denialism. "We prefer to treat people in a drug-free setting," Dr Oxana Guseva, a medical representative of the Russian Federation, told the Guardian afterward, "because methadone is the same narcotic drug as heroin." (See also: Russia, science, and the global war on drugs)

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