Weaknesses in the UN drug control system have often been identified, related to the functioning of the key organs UNODC, INCB, and the CND; related to collaboration with the wider UN system (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, etc.) and related to the outdated character of several treaty provisions. What has been attempted to date to achieve more structural reform? Are existing evaluation mechanisms capable of bringing the need for reform to the table? How could a neutral and evidence-based role of UNODC as a centre of expertise be strengthened? How can these issues be related to the UN call for more ‘system-wide coherence’ and ‘delivery as one’?

  • UNODC rewrites history to hide failure

    In the new 2008 World Drug Report the UNODC is trying to hide failures behind a bad history lesson. Instead of a clear acknowledgement that the 10-year UNGASS targets have not been met – on the contrary, global production of cocaine and heroin has increased – the WDR decided to go back 100 years into history claiming success in comparison with Chinese opium production and use in the early 20th century. Twisted logic is used to fabricate comparisons with higher production last century.

    Read the Press release
    See also: Rewriting history. A response to the 2008 World Drug Report, TNI Drug Policy Briefing nr. 26, June 2008

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  • The current state of drug policy debate

    Martin Jelsma, from the Transnational Institute, prepared an analysis for the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, explaining the drug policy situation in the European Union and the current state of debate in the United Nations agenda. The commission is an initiative born of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from Brazil, César Gaviria, from Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo, from Mexico, to respond to concerns related to the problems of drug consumption and traffic in Latin America. The idea to constitute a commission capable of consolidating a debate concerning this problematic also responds to the necessity of reviewing the world drug policies in the scope of the United Nations, which began in March 2008.

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  • The UNGASS Evaluation Evaluated

    Dave Bewley-Taylor Tom Blickman
    International Drug Policy Consortium Briefing Nr. 1
    May 2006

    At the 49th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), held in Vienna in March 2006, a draft resolution was tabled by the European Union (EU) to guide the process of evaluation of the implementation of political declaration and action plans of the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2008. This briefing describes the fortunes of the resolution and its proposals to strengthen the upcoming UNGASS evaluation process. It explores how the resolution’s aims for more objective and transparent assessment were ultimately watered down. This was a result not only of opposition from states wary of transparency, objectivity and a possible re-evaluation of some current UN policies, but also the EU’s own approach to operating at the CND.

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  • The UN Drug Control Debate

    Current Dilemmas and Prospects for 2008
    Martin Jelsma
    Presentation at the 48th ICAA Conference on Dependencies
    Budapest, October 24, 2005

    The 48th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), 7-11 March 2005 in Vienna, was plagued by controversy about the legitimacy of harm reduction policies. Ending in stalemate, guidance for UNODC to operate in this field remains ambiguous. In June, at the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB), a consensus was reached regarding a mandate for UNAIDS to be involved in needle exchange programmes and other harm reduction activities among injecting drug users. What options are available to clarify UNODC’s mandate in this area and more in general to achieve a breakthrough in policy dilemmas that surfaced recent years at the UN level. 

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  • The UN and Harm Reduction - Revisited

    An unauthorised report on the outcomes of the 48th CND session
    Martin Jelsma
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 13
    April 2005

    The US pressure on the UNODC to withdraw support from needle exchange and other harm reduction approaches backfired at the 48th session of the CND in March 2005. Delegates from around the globe stood up to defend the overwhelming evidence that harm reduction measures are effective against the spread of HIV/AIDS. In this briefing TNI analyses the proceedings and results of the CND meeting in Vienna in March 2005, and outlines several options for follow-up and recommends next steps to take.

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  • The United Nations and Harm Reduction

    Martin Jelsma
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 12
    March 2005

    In March 2005 the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will meet in Vienna. The confrontation between zero-tolerance ideologists and harm reduction pragmatists will be fiercer than ever before. The US government – the biggest donor of UNODC – threatened to cut funding to UNODC unless the agency assured that it would abstain from any support for harm reduction, including needle exchange programmes and substitution treatment. Conflicting views within the UN system on harm reduction have become a major concern. Consistency in messages is crucial especially where it concerns joint global programmes such as the efforts to slow down the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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  • Cracks in the Vienna Consensus

    The UN Drug Control Debate
    Martin Jelsma Pien Metaal
    WOLA Drug War Monitor
    January 2004

    Numerous UN conferences and summits have been devoted to negotiating a harmonized global approach to illicit drugs. Yet more and more cracks are beginning to appear in the supposedly universal model which is based on a highly fragile consensus. The failure to counter the ever-growing problems related to the use of illicit drugs has led countries to question current policies and to experiment with approaches less driven by the US-inspired ideology of "zero tolerance" and more rooted in pragmatism. This has led to increasing acceptance of the concept of harm reduction for consumers, where drug use is treated as a public health rather than a law enforcement problem. On the production side, discussion centers on the need to secure alternative livelihoods for involved farmer communities and how to most effectively promote alternative development.

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  • Global Trends. Lessons from Vienna

    Martin Jelsma
    Presented at the Social Forum in Cartagena (Colombia)
    June 20, 2003

    Martin Jelsma analysed the 2003 UNGASS mid-term review and drew some important conclusions for the 10-year review in 2008: "Alliances have to be constructed rooted in pragmatic approaches and in solidarity with the victims of this War on Drugs on both sides of the spectrum, be they in the North or in the South, consumers or producers. The concepts of ‘co-responsibility’ and a ‘balanced approach’ between demand and supply sides have to be redefined. Only if such a coalition of like-minded countries could be brought together, and act in a coordinated manner to explore more pragmatica drug policies for both the demand and the supply sides, the UN level might become a useful forum. Only then, a stronger political alliance can enforce a more open-minded debate about current anti-drug strategies and challenge the US hegemony and discourse in this field."

     

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  • Drugs in the UN system

    The unwritten history of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs
    Martin Jelsma
    International Journal of Drug Policy (Volume 14, Issue 2)
    Special Issue on the UNGASS Mid-term Review
    April 2003

    The "international community" presented an apparent unanimity in its endorsement of prohibitive drug control at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in 1998. The reality is that there is a longstanding conflict within the UN system between nations wanting to maintain the prohibition regime and those hoping for a more pragmatic approach.

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  • Change of Course

    An Agenda for Vienna
    Martin Jelsma
    TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Papers 6
    March 2003

    By 1998, when the United Nations convened a special General Assembly on drugs, there was already overwhelming evidence that the current approach to global drugs control had failed miserably, given the continuing rise in consumption and production. However, the evidence was ignored and no evaluation of what was wrong with current drug policy took place. Instead, as a New York Times editorial noted, unrealistic pledges were recycled, this time aiming at eliminating all drug production by the year 2008. In mid-April this year, the mid-term review of the goals and targets set by the special session on drugs is to take place in Vienna.

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