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Pike, Brigid (2013) Towards UNGASS 2016. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 47, Autumn 2013, p. 13.

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Towards UNGASS 2016 

UNGASS 2016 is a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, scheduled for early 2016, at which member states, including Ireland, will assess ‘the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem, within the framework of the three international drug control conventions’ (A/RES/67/193). The last UNGASS on drugs, in 1998, adopted a plan to make the world ‘drug-free’ by 2008. This column reports on policy initiatives, research, reviews, conferences and debates launched by member states and civil society organisations that are relevant to UNGASS 2016.1
In May 2013 the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, comprising 30 Canadian NGOs who came together in 2009 to advocate for improvements in Canada’s approach to drug policy,published Getting to tomorrow: a report on Canadian drug policy.The authors call for ‘a radical new direction – a course that will put the protection of public health and safety, social justice and equity at the forefront of Canada’s strategy’. They identify four broad areas where improvements should be made: (1) modernise Canada’s legislative, policy and regulatory frameworks that address psychoactive substances, replacing  the national anti-drug strategy with one focused on health and human rights, the decriminalisation of all drugs for personal use and the creation of a regulatory system for adult cannabis use; (2) support and expand efforts to implement evidence- based approaches to eliminate stigma and discrimination, and social and health inequities that affect people who use drugs; (3) support the scaling-up of health and social services at the provincial level that engage people with drug problems and support their efforts to change, and support work to reduce the harms of substance use; and (4) improve the collection of data on substance use and its effects across jurisdictions. www.drugpolicy.ca/progress/getting-to-tomorrow/ 
In May 2013 the Organisation of American States (OAS), comprising 35 states in North and South America, published a 400-page report on the drug problem in the Americas. The objective was to collect ‘empirical evidence without prejudice’ and to explore possible future scenarios while not ‘defending any position, neither legalisation, nor regulation, nor war at any cost’. The report is in two main parts. The drug problem in the Americas examines the entire process of drugs in the region, the only part of the world in which all of its stages are present in a dominant way: cultivation, production, distribution and the final sale of controlled substances. Scenarios for the drug problem in the Americas 2013–2025 explores the paths that the drug phenomenon could take in the hemisphere in the coming years. Three of the four scenarios describe different future alternatives:(1) Together, shifting from repressive approaches to ones that privilege citizen security and focusing on institution-building; (2) Pathways, experimenting with different approaches to regulating illicit drugs, and (3) Resilience, strengthening communities’ capacity to respond to the problem. The fourth scenario, Disruption, outlines what could happen if states are incapable in the short run of reaching a shared vision that allows them to join forces to address the problem. The report presents four broad conclusions:
1.     options for dealing with the drug problem must take into account each country’s particular situation;
2.     countries with fewer resources and less institutional strength have more difficulty dealing with the impact of drug trafficking;
3.     the drug phenomenon requires a public health approach; and
4.     the approach to the problem must be multifaceted, flexible, and allow countries to collectively explore policy options on drugs, taking into consideration the needs, behaviours and particular traditions of each.
In June 2013 the Global Commission on Drug Policy published The negative impact of the war on drugs on public health: the hidden hepatitis C epidemic. The report finds that of the 16 million people who inject drugs around the world, an estimated 10 million are living with hepatitis C. The report recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of hepatitis C infection and other drug war harms. www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/hepatitis/ 
In July 2013 the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program, launched in 2008 and funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations,published Coffee shops and compromise: separated illicit drug markets in the Netherlands. A central element of modern Dutch drug policy has been the legal and practical separation of cannabis – judged to pose ‘acceptable’ risks to consumers and society – from hard drugs associated with unacceptable risk. The report describes the policy’s positive impact on patterns of drug use and in reducing drug-related harms. It also examines the policy’s negative effects, including public nuisance complaints and tensions arising from the supply of what is still an illegal substance. The report shows how, with its regulated approach to ‘coffee shops’, the Netherlands has been able to use regulatory mechanisms to address these problems. The authors conclude that, if there is one lesson to take away from the Dutch experience, it is that when taking steps toward regulating cannabis or other psychoactive substances, these should include the whole supply chain, from production to consumption. www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/coffee-shops-and-compromise-separated-illicit-drug-markets-netherlands  
1.  While every effort will be made to describe in this column a broad range of initiatives, from a variety jurisdictions and civil society organisations, it will not be possible to provide  comprehensive coverage .
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
October 2013
Page Range
p. 13
Health Research Board
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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