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.

  • Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?

    Held this April, will the United Nations General Assembly Special Session be the turning point for the international drug control system?
    Ann Fordham Martin Jelsma
    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    In April 2016, the UN will dedicate, for the third time in its history, a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to discuss global drug policy. The UNGASS has the potential to be a ground-breaking moment that could change the course of the international drug control system. However, political divisions and entrenched institutional dynamics have dampened hopes that it will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.

  • The United Nations is supposed to be negotiating a solution to the ‘world drug problem’, and it’s not going well

    The UNGASS is now perilously close to representing a serious systemic failure of the UN system
    Open Democracy (US)
    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    This April, the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs will convene in New York – seen by many as a possible breaking point for the global drug control system, and the first session to be held on this theme for two decades. The UNGASS is happening two years early, because the governments of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala have called for it in advance. The UNGASS is expected to be a crucial moment in which dissenting countries could break the UN consensus over the ‘war on drugs’ and the model of prohibition, proposing alternative approaches towards harm reduction and decriminalisation instead. (See also: The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?)

  • The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?

    Civil Society Statement

    Drug policy expertise and impacted communities from around the world express serious concerns about the preparations and already-drafted outcomes for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the “world drug problem”. We call upon member states – especially those who have been shut out of the Vienna-based negotiations – to challenge the current draft of the UNGASS Outcome Document, to ensure the debate on its contents is not closed in Vienna, and to prepare statements expressing their disappointment and dissent at the UNGASS in April.

  • Three leaders from Latin America call for decriminalizing drug use

    Diplomats attending the UN special session on drugs next month must confront the obvious failure of most existing drug laws
    Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo
    Los Angeles Times (US)
    Friday, March 11, 2016

    Outdated drug policies around the world have resulted in soaring drug-related violence, overstretched criminal justice systems, runaway corruption and mangled democratic institutions. After reviewing the evidence, consulting drug policy experts and examining our own failures on this front while in office, we came to an unavoidable conclusion: The “war on drugs” is an unmitigated disaster. (See also: Public Statement on the UNGASS 2016 process and draft outcome document, by Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP)

  • Striving for system-wide coherence

    An analysis of the official contributions of United Nations entities for the UNGASS on drugs
    Christopher Hallam
    IDPC Brief
    March 2016

    In April 2016, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) will convene its 30th Special Session (or ‘UNGASS’) – and the third to focus on the ‘world drug problem’. The General Assembly has called for an ‘inclusive preparatory process that includes extensive substantive consultations, allowing organs, entities and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, relevant international and regional organizations, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to fully contribute to the process’. Through the United Nations System Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, UN entities were invited to make submissions on how the international drug control system impacts upon their respective mandates and the coherence of the UN more broadly.

    application-pdfDownload the brief (PDF - outside link)

  • UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy

    Martin Jelsma
    Journal of Drug Policy Analysis
    March 2016

    This paper explores key lessons from the 1990 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug Abuse (UNGASS 1990) and the 1998 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 1998), and tracks subsequent policy events and trends. It discusses the wide array of increasing tensions and cracks in the “Vienna consensus,” as well as systemic challenges and recent treaty breaches.

    Download the article (PDF)

  • UNGASS 2016: What prospect for change?

    Don’t even expect to see a consensus around those two words ‘harm’ and ‘reduction’
    Matters of Substance (New Zealand)
    February 2016

    With the UN’s drug control policy setting bathed in opaque diplomatic light, civil society advocates are left looking for the subtleties of language and tone to spot any sign of change. The NGOs closest to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world’s drug problem in April aren’t expecting dramatic changes, but they do see things moving in the right direction. “We’re not going to have the end of prohibition in April, the treaties are not going to be torn up and started afresh in April. There are still a lot of repressive voices in there."

  • Elite ‘African Group’ in Vienna undermines AU drug policy

    A small group of African countries in Vienna submited their own document on drug policy to the UN, despite a more enlightened African Union position
    The South African Health News Service
    Sunday, February 7, 2016

    South Africa’s mission in Vienna submitted a minority reactionary “African Group” (AG) position on drug policy to the United Nations, despite the African Union's more progressive “Common African Position” (CAP). The AG position supports stronger control over ketamine, used as an anaesthetic in places without electricity or oxygen supplies. The AG document also does not mention “harm reduction”, focusing only on punishment for supply and use illegal drugs. (See: The AU Common African Position and the Africa Group’s Submitted Position)

  • The Heemskerk Declaration

    Final declaration of the Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants
    Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants (GFPPP)
    January 21, 2016

    In a global meeting small scale farmers of cannabis, coca and opium from 14 countries in Heemskerk, the Netherlands, discussed their contribution to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). The UNGASS will discuss all aspects of global drug control policies, including the worldwide ban on the cultivation of coca, poppy and cannabis, an issue the Global Farmers Forum demands that their voices be heard and taken into account.

    Download the declaration (PDF)

  • UNGASS 2016: Change to global drug policy unlikely

    Unless consideration is given to redefining the underlying goal of world drug policies, there will be no change in the prospects for reducing the harmful effects of drugs
    The Huffington Post (Australia)
    Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Next year's United Nation's General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem is, by UN standards, set to be controversial. But it is unlikely to be the game changer in global drug policy that some are seeking. The one simple truism of the drug policy debate is that there are no simple solutions, nor much consensus. Solutions become even more difficult to find if you're focused on the wrong goals. The current global drug policy goals – the elimination of the use and trade of illicit narcotics – outlined in the UN's Political Declaration and drug control conventions don't address the ground truth of the global drug problem.

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