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.

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By 1st March 2016, 15 UN entities had contributed documents to thepreparatory deliberations, which have been uploaded onto theofficial UNGASS website. This briefing paper examines several of the most prominent themes toemerge from the contributions of these UN entities, and their progressor otherwise into the UNGASS debates and the draft UNGASS OutcomeDocument. As UNDP observes in its submission, ‘UNGASS 2016, and preparations thereto... provide an important opportunity to widen the discussion to include UN organisations that approach issues of drugs and crime from health, sustainable development, human rights and peace building perspectives, and ultimately, to promote system-wide coherence with respect to global drug control strategies’.

The international drug control system in Vienna – comprising the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), UNODC and the INCB – is often accused of operating in isolation, and sometimes at cross purposes to, other parts of the UN system, such as the health and human rights entities based in Geneva. In the contribution of the UNU, it is pointed out that the CND must consult beyond the Vienna drug control complex, criminal justice ministries, law enforcement and drug control agencies, and reach out to health ministries, agriculture and economic development ministries, and multilateral and regional financial institutions.

The engagement of UN bodies from across sectors therefore represents an explicit objective of the Special Session, and a key part of the change that the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and other civil society organisations are looking for from the 2016 UNGASS, as their contribution expands and diversifies the perspectives brought to bear upon the fundamentally cross-cutting issue of drugs. This briefing paper examines several of the most prominent themes to emerge from the contributions of the 15 UN entities to have responded so far, and their progress or otherwise into the UNGASS debates and the draft UNGASS Outcome Document.