Bangkok Dialogue

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Transnational Institute (TNI) and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) co-hosted the First Southeast Asian Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, 12-14 February 2009 in Bangkok. The dialogue – similar to TNI efforts in Europe and Latin America – brought together government officials, experts, NGOs and representatives of international agencies, to discuss dilemmas and possible improvements in drug policy making in the region. Participants in the Bangkok meeting were from Burma, Thailand, Laos, Yunnan (China) and Northeast India.

Martin Jelsma, one of the coordinators explains here the objectives and outcomes of the event:  

Informal Drug Policy Dialogues

An important method the drugs programme developed in 2004-2008 first in collaboration with the Andreas Papandreou Foundation (Greece) for Europe, and subsequently with the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA) for Latin America and with GTZ for Southeast Asia is to facilitate informal policy dialogues between policy officials, representatives of international institutions and non-governmental experts.

On average two-thirds of participants have a government background and the dialogue sessions are formally co-hosted by a Ministry, a role performed so far by Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, Swiss, Italian, German, Uruguayan, Mexican, Ecuadorian and Bolivian Ministries. Sessions are held under ‘Chatham House Rule’ (no one can be quoted) to allow for an atmosphere where participants can air personal thoughts, doubts and dilemmas.

The multiple functions of these meetings are: (a) to have a structured forum where policy officials can explore informally with colleagues from a range of countries the level of agreement and difference regarding drug policy questions high on the international agenda; (b) to have a space to discuss issues that are politically too controversial to already appear on the agenda of formal policy meetings; (c) to strategise and prepare for upcoming formal conferences, including fine-tuning specific proposals or drafts resolutions based on like-minded support as encountered during the informal dialogues; and (d) to compensate to some extent for the extremely poor civil society participation procedures of formal international drug policy making processes.

For more information on the dialogues and dialogue reports see: Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, at the TNI website.