Vienna Conference: UN Drug Control System in Crisis

Civil Society is taking the lead to reform the UN conventions system

(Vienna) - The UN drug control system is in crisis according to major NGOs and Civil Society in a meeting organized in parallel to the UN ministerial conference on drugs. The UN-managed "War on Drugs" has not only failed to stop the rise of drug use and death, but it is also preventing states to experiment and develop more effective policy.

Thanasis Apostolou, advisor to George Papandreou, the Greek foreign minister, stated at the Civil Society meeting that "Europe should dare to question the UN drug treaties." He continued: "They need to be revised to allow European nations and other countries to pursue their own initiatives without leaving any shadow of doubt of their legitimacy." But, countries which would like to advocate for change are being blackballed as "friends of drug traffickers", or "promoters of drugs use", according to NGO representatives present at the meeting.

The UN drug control system is a dinosaur and "has proved to be totally unable to make a move: it is part of the problem," says Vitalino Canas, Portuguese MP and former minister responsible for drug policy in Portugal. "Given the urgency of the drug policy issues, Civil Society cannot wait for the UN system to amend itself to provide an effective drug policy", continued Mr. Canas. The Senlis Council, a network of academic and policy experts, will organize in October in Lisbon, a major international conference for Civil Society and government representatives to start work on a new UN treaty system on drug policy. "We are utterly frustrated with these defective policies and this defective system, so we have to take matters into our own hands," Mr. Canas said during an announcement of the Lisbon meeting made today in Vienna.

At the same press conference Raymond Kendall, Honorary Secretary-General of Interpol, speaking for the Network of European Foundations' Comité des Sages, agreed that the situation with the failure of the drug war, and the lack of UN response required this unusual initiative.

"The current drug war policy is a failure, and in addition the UN Office on Drug and Crime itself is now part of the problem", said Mr. Kendall. "The UNODC system, and the current approaches of the International Narcotics Control Board, are blocking countries interested in new, more effective policies." He continued: "The treaty system must be dealt with. It should not be an obstacle to developing a new, more effective policy. For example, the treaties, according to the UN's own expert, are an obstacle to decriminalization for possession for personal use by an adult, which is being pursued by a number of European countries, for good reason."

Mr. Kendall continued: "The UN agency in charge of drug policy is just like the WTO before Seattle. The Comité des Sages is concerned with the complete lack of openness and responsiveness to Civil Society critiques and proposals. They continue this approach at their peril."


Gabriele Frisch, The Skills Group - Pro & Co

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