Sunday, March 23, 2008

More reflections on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have produced a set of short films that discuss some of the issues raised by the UNODC director's speech at this months UN Commission on Narcotic drugs in Vienna. The general reaction, that I shared from my experiences at the event, is that whilst there was some positive rhetoric in his words, suggesting that some of the messages from the NGO community are being heard (in particular the need for human rights observance in drug law enforcement and a move away from some of the more obviously excessive and failed elements of the 'drug war') there was a vital need to see these good intentions translated into action and more effective and de-politicised monitoring systems. Litttle or no evidence of this was forthcoming in the speeches or elsewhere.

Some of the director's unscripted remarks have also prompted concerns that the engagement with Civil Society is tokenism, essentially a PR attempt to gloss over the continuation of the failed punitive approach of past decades, remaining heavily skewed towards military and police enforcement and supply reduction. Even if this is not the case there is still a huge distance to travel before the appalling failings of global prohibition can be corrected and a more just, humane and effective drug policy built on public health principles and effective legal regulation can be put in place. For the small progress that is being achieved tempering some drug war extremes there remains precious little engagement with the debate around modernising the UN drug control systems and related legislation.

There was similarly a familiar degree of sophistry when it cames to claims for the success of the UN global drug strategy. Like our very own Home Office the UNODC parades process successes and cherry picked, mis-contextualised and misleading data as success whilst failing to acknowledge long term systematic failings against meaningful indicators (often including its own). 1998's fantasy aspirations for a 'drug free world' have evaporated, to be replaced by claims that 'containing the problem' is success - when not even this modest claim, on even cursory inspection of their own dubious literature, has been achieved. Some of these issues are discussed in the drugreporter blog entry here, and in this second short film of interviews with various NGO representatives on the subject...

The International Drug Policy Consortium will be producing a detailed report on the CND in the next few days, including text of the various NGO contributions.

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