Encod has sent a delegation to the 54th. session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Here is a second impression
24 March 2011
At 11.00 the “Informal Dialogue” with UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov started. The successor to Costa gave a friendly and relaxed impression. Most of the questions were not difficult, and when he admitted not yet to be in the know of every aspect, two of his main functionaries were ready to take over from him.
Many people had let me know that they expected some sort of difficult question from me, and I decided only to ask him, after a few sentences about the history of my unproductive contacts with Costa, whether he was willing to pick up what Costa had promised but failed to deliver: provide us with a discussion paper.
We need to know what Mr. Fedotov and UNODC thinks about the fact that in a number of countries, decriminalization of cannabis, or of all drugs, for personal possession has not led to increasing use, and sometimes this approach has even reduced levels of use. While chairman Michel Perron did his duty by telling me to finish my question, because we only had a few minutes left, I succeeded in adding that we were in Vienna, the city of Karl Popper, the scientist and philosopher who formulated the famous falsification paradigm: a theory cannot be proven to be right, but it can be falsified by one instance when it is proven to wrong.
Fedotov said that he had listened carefully to all the statements made during the opening sessions by the member states, and had not heard any support for my claim (that an increasing number of people find that we should have regulation or decriminalization instead of prohibition). He could have stopped there, but he added that he did not know about the promise of a discussion paper and volunteered that he would like to produce one. And after that, he wanted to start a discussion with civil society on that subject. He said that Mr. Gilberto Gerra, one of his top aides, would be charged with this. This was an unexpected but very satisfying outcome for us, although we’ll have to wait and see what will come out of it.
For complete coverage of what happens at the regular CND meetings, the two simultaneous plenary sessions and other sessions, see www.cndblog.org .
This is a rather ambitious project undertaken by IHRA (International Harm Reduction Association) and IDPC (International Drug Policy Consortium). My question to Mr. Fedotov and his reaction are described as follows:
Reports from the informal dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director: the issue of rejuvenation of the drug control conventions
Question: In some countries where drugs have been decriminalised, drug use has not increased. This is a clear disproval of the theory of drug prohibition, the basis of the whole UN drug control system. What is the position of UNODC’s on the growing idea that the theory of drug prohibition has been disproved?
Response: I have no heard anything of the sort from member states. On the contrary, they wish to focus on demand. But I am prepared to work on this issue, prepare a discussion paper and discuss it with you. Mr. Gerra knows a lot on the issue.
One other issue of importance was the question posed by Mat Southwell of INPUD, why representatives of drug users were not involved in these deliberations more often and more intensely. At first, Fedotov did not answer this question in the list of questions he did give a reaction to, and only after an indignant call from Mat did Fedotov excuse himself and pick up this question as well. What he said was less satisfactory: he referred this to the national level, and said it was up to the member states to include persons from user organizations in their delegations. He did not say it clearly, but my understanding of this was that the differences of opinion between the member states on this subject are too big.
During a luncheon symposium Transform presented their new campaign “Count the Costs”, a well prepared and ongoing project in which the whole range of “unintended consequences” (as former Executive Director Costa called them in one of his last speeches) will be described and weighed against what is claimed to be the positive results of drug prohibition. Keep track of this on the Transform website.
The day was concluded by a meeting of the VNGOC, Vienna NGO Committee, the link between UNODC and the NGO’s that are active in this field. Not much of importance happened here, except for an effort of one of the “Drug Free people” to get a proposal accepted that every group in the VNGOC should formally state that they adhere to the International Drug Conventions. I was the first to react to this: “We support the UN, but we do not support the largest part of the content of the drug treaties. We want them changed as soon as possible.” Michael Krawitz (Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access) then said that it was reasonable to ask from an organization that wants to be active in the UN, that it subscribes to the UN Charter, but no more than that, and with that there was general agreement.
One thing that is becoming clear in this year’s CND is that what happens at the official meeting is becoming less and less relevant. It is above all the side events that are well attended, and where lively discussions are taking place. The CND meetings themselves are endless repetitions of the same mantras. It is the contribution of non-governmental organizations that brings fresh air in the way that drug policies are conceived. When I first came here in 1994 critical NGOs were seen as weirdos, without any exception. Today, it is most of all the governments that insist on maintaining prohibition that fall out of the main picture.
Harm reduction, legal reform etc. is becoming mainstream. Just the Single Convention cannot be touched upon yet. However, this situation can not last much longer.
I only had opportunities to speak to a few delegations. We discussed the situation of the Bolivian amendment to the Single Convention with the Bolivian delegation. It seems that the government of Evo Moprales is ready to denounce the Single Convention and then re-suscribe it but with a reservation to the articles referring to traditional coca consumption, just as we described before.
We also spoke to the Uruguayan delegation, who confirmed that a law proposal is likely to be approved that will decriminalise home production of marijuana for own use.
And we spoke to the EMCDDA on the subject of drugs and driving. They confirmed that measures to apply zero tolerance to THC does in driving ability tests do not have any scientific basis, and mentioned scientific research showing that low cocaine doses actually improves the ability to drive. I hope to find the exact data of this research in the coming days.
I spent most of the day distributing the announcement of the farewell cermony to the Single Convention which we will organise tomorrow. The announcement together with a letter of motivation were distributed to 120 government delegations.
In between we heard terrible testimonies on places where the war on drugs is still in its most barbaric phase. From Mexico of course, where 35.000 people have been killed in the drug war in 4 years. A fact that is being justified by Mexican government by saying that most of these people are criminals (..). From Georgia, where people who look as if they are under the influence can be arrested and when their blood tests positive, can be thrown in jail for having used an illegal drug.
A positive note in the end. From Morocco we are receiving credible signs that Chakib El Khayari will be released in the coming weeks. Today he was transferred to another prison closer to where his family is living.