Lennice’s NGO Blog:
Lennice Werth firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Beginning of Blog
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2009 16:18:15 -0400
Hotel Danube March 10 2009
International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
IDPC held a preparatory meeting and reception the day before official High Level talks began. A full room, maybe 125 people, listened to
IDPC's Mike Trace and asked questions related to strategy for drug policy reform. It was great to be treated to a lot of advice from a UN
One item of concern was the speech to be delivered by the Queen of Sweden at the opening of the session. Would she support the Beyond
2008 Non Governmental Organization resolution or not? We were told she would but this just didn't seem likely. North American, European and
other drug policy status quo proponents had held a meeting last September to produce a mindless defense of current, retrograde policy.
Their meeting was held in Stockholm and hosted by the Swedish Queen, but in the end her organization, Mentor, had not signed on to it.
After the meeting in a large room, we broke up into regional meetings. The North American group decided to attempt to meet with the official
USA delegation. In fact, Daniel from the Open Society Institute, made a call right there, got in touch with the delegation and meeting was
set up with them right there and then. An idea for a candle light vigil for drug war victims was floated, but
had to be abandoned latter due to difficulties with cumbersome UN
We all agreed on some main points to stress with the delegation:
1) We can not let politics trump science.
2)The U.S. needs to comply with the parts of the treaty that stress
human rights and access to essential medicine.
3)Over incarceration must be addressed.
The need to be consistent about human rights was discussed at length.
After the meeting broke up there was an elegant reception held for the activists and big wigs of international drug policy, many of whom
showed up despite it being held by the reform contingent, sign of the times.
Subject: March 11th
Opening of the High Level segment
Because protocols of royalty required it, Queen Sylvia was scheduled to speak before the official opening of the session, therefore she was among the very first speakers of the day.
She supported the Beyond 2008 Resolution spoke of the importance of harm reduction and human rights. At this moment it was assured that the Stockholm resolution would be relegated to the margins.
Then the the agenda was adopted and organizational matters were agreed to, opening the way to the general debate of the high level segment which officially began.
This consisted of each countries' delegation having time for a brief statement. Mike Trace had explained at the briefing on the previous day that the selection of who would speak was very political. Because the President of Bolivia had come himself rather than depending on his Ambassador to make a statement, he had one of the very first speaking slots.
When Evo Morales took the podium he made a strong statement regarding the long held belief of medicinal and cultural value of the coca leaf. He said this natural product is not a narcotic drug. Then in a surprise move, he held a leaf up, he said his country does not recognize the part of the single convention treaty that prohibits coca, then he put the leaf in his mouth and chewed it. Pulling another leaf from his pocket, he defiantly reiterated his country's rejection of the treaty that mandates coca's illegality.
Later, President Morales spoke at a "side event," sponsored by Queen Sylvia and her NGO Mentor Foundation and the Vienna NGO committee, titled NGO contributions to the High Level Segment , in which alternatives to current policy were discussed. He elaborated on his nations intention to produce and market tea and medicine made from coca.
Morales left the event after that day, but for the entire duration of the two week event, his chief Ambassador was a constant presence reminding everyone of the high priority Bolivia was placing on these talks.
That side event also featured Queen Sylvia who reiterated her support for the Beyond 2008 resolution. The Queen was a very gracious lady. I had an opportunity to speak with her after the event.
Other side events that day were the Joint Action: Programe on Drug dependance & care organized by UNODC/ Health and human Development and A new role for law enforcement put on by Drug Scope & IDPC. The latter was held twice during the two week period. Wednesday, March 11th & Thursday March 19th. Billed as sessions that bring together law enforcement to come up with new strategies and tactics that focus on minimizing harmful
consequences of drug markets and unintended consequences of enforcement.
The IDPC held these two sessions to explain objectives and future plans for this project, but comments and questions tended toward pointing out the troubles and negative fallout of current policy. Over incarceration, difficulty due to inadequate treatment opportunities, and militarization of drug law enforcement were brought up during question and answer segment.
Subject: March 12th
The official meetings on this day were "15 years of Opportunities and challenges- countries of the Mekong Sub region and UDOC. This ministerial consultation focused on crop substitution.
Also, presentation of the African Union Plan of Action on Drug control and crime prevention 2007-2012.
West African states are concerned about trafficing of cocaine for the European market. They say this region is "under attack from narco traffickers."
The full report on this meeting may be viewed here:
A side event from IDPC titled "Undoing a decade of neglect. International drug policy and access to essential medicine featured talks from Sujan of Youth RISE, Craig McClure (IAS) and Rebecca Schleifer of HRW.
Subject: March 13 Blog
United Nations Hight Level meetings on Drugs
March 13, 2009
This day was reserved for "informal consultations."
The US delegation agreed to meet with representatives from reform groups. Mike Krawitz was among those attending.
He was invited to attend a social function latter at the home of the US Ambassador that evening.
The European Reform group ENCOD held a press conference in a beautiful cafe near the city center. I Arrived with Freek Polak [ENCOD]. There were eventually about 20 to 30 people in the room. ENCOD had invited us and had announced it here:
Fredrick Polack (Freek,) a Psychitrist from the Netherlands - who is famous for dogging Antonio Costa with basic unanswered questions about drug prohibition - opened the conference by explaining the nature of the UN meetings.
We were extremely fortunate to have representatives from the producing areas such as Bolivia. Beatriz Negerty and Felix Barra spoke about the difficulties of living in native rural communities under attack by narco-cops and warriors.
Also addressing harms of drug policy, Andrea Rodriguez Salazar. *
From the States, Chris Conrad, MIkki Norris, myself and Terry Nelson from LEAP spoke. We sat before tables with white cloths and wireless microphones.
There were a number of journalists in the room. It started a little later than announced.
Chris Conrad spoke about the difficulties medical users and dispensaries have had with the federal law enforcement and how all is in flux due to the change in administrations. He also spoke about Obama's pick for Drug Czar and our guarded optimism there.
Mikki addressed human rights abuses and spoke about individual cases of injustice from the book Human Rights and the Drug War.
Terry Nelson spoke on the ineffectiveness of drug prohibition and how after a long career in law enforcement, he sees the futility of police efforts. He Talked about working in narcotics and at the boarder. He said he eventually realized that although drug addiction is very unfortunate, the war on drugs has numerous ill effects that could be cured through regulation.
I spoke about over incarceration and violence.
Several times, there was spontaneous applause. They all seemed to like it when I said the violent war had marched up from Columbia, through Mexico and had jumped the boarder to San Antonio. They clapped when I said that by the time it reaches Washington D.C., officials won't have anyone to blame but them selves.
We brought a large quantity of Drug War Facts , Human Rights and the Drug War books. I distributed documentation on a US court case regarding availability of cannabis for research and Trance Research Foundation's Recommendations for a Uniform Drug Policy - http://www.trancefoundation.org/drugpolicy.pdf
One of the journalists present had a show on Austrian public radio. He invited Mikki and Chris to speak and I was also able to tag along and speak during the radio interview.
We covered much of the same points as at the press conference, but also got a chance to speak extensively about addiction treatment, and lack of, prisoner health care and medical marijuana.
I was honored to be present for this event, there was a lot of excitement in the room about the possibilities for reform of drug laws.
Subject: Monday March 16th, 2009
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 15:38:29 -0400
March 16th, 2009
Vienna International Center
This next week of events the Commission on Narcotic Drugs begins with what is called The Normative Segment.
An opening statement celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Shanghai Conventions and treaty.
Most of this was self congratulatory, however in the published document, the following statement indicates the beginnings of some introspection regarding the unintended consequences of international drug policy:
"Today, the international drug control conventions enjoy near universal adherence with over 180 states parties. This
level of consensus is impressive given the highly contentious nature of the subject matter. Also, the international drug
control situation is in a constant state of evolution and, for this and other reasons, the international drug control system
is not without its critics. Fortunately, the multilateral system itself contains many fora through which member states can
effect change and adjustment. The system itself remains a work in progress, continually adapting to address changing
global circumstances. While this is a positive aspect of the system it has produced some unintended consequences.
The first and most significant of these is the creation of a lucrative and violent black market. Secondly, the focus on
law enforcement may have drawn away resources from health approaches to what, ultimately, is a public health
problem. Thirdly, enforcement efforts in one geographic area have often resulted in diversion of the problem into
other areas. Fourthly, pressure on the market for one par ticular substance has, on occasion, inadvertently promoted
the use of an alternate drug. Finally, use of the criminal justice system against drug consumers, who often come
from marginal groups, has in many instances increased their marginalisation, diminishing capacity to offer treatment to
those who need it most.
The entire document can be viewed here:
From this it can be observed that even though the harms of current policy are slowly being recognized by international policy makers, there is still an undue optimism about making current retrograde policy priorities work.
An example of the ever expanding schedule of drugs and pseudo drugs can be seen in the following quote from the president of the Commission on Narcotic drugs from 2007:
"Estimates of national legitimate needs for precursors is an important tool for national authorities to determine, at an early stage, the legitimacy of shipments of precursor chemicals and to prevent the diversion of such chemicals. Therefore, the Board has responded to the request of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and has published information available to it on some countries' annual legitimate needs for chemicals, which can be used in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). The publication will provide the authorities in exporting countries with at least an indication of the legitimate requirements of importing countries. The Board thanks the Governments of the 80 countries and territories that have submitted such data and encourages all countries and territories that have not yet provided the requested information to do so and to contribute to this important initiative. The Board invites Governments to review their needs and advise it of any amendments that are necessary.
The Board convened its advisory expert group in 2006. On the basis of the review conducted by the advisory expert group, the Board has recommended the transfer of phenylacetic acid from Table II to Table I of the 1988 Convention to the Secretary-General. The Board also reviewed and updated the limited international special surveillance list of non-scheduled substances. Furthermore, in response to Commission on Narcotic Drugs resolution 49/7, entitled "Promoting a consistent approach to the treatment of safrole-rich oils", the Board has formulated the following definition; "safrole/safrole-rich oils are any mixtures or natural products containing safrole present in such a way that it can be used or recovered by readily applicable means".
This document from 2007, a moment ago in international law development, can be viewed in its entirety here:
Phenylacetic acid is a sweet smelling substance used in perfume.
The International drug control community seems eager to expand its scope and authority where so-called precursors are concerned. The delegations of the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom had a disagreement regarding the wording on preventing the movement of precursors and money laundering. This appeared to be connected to opium production in Afghanistan. Russia claimed that an agreement had been made, but UK said no. Russia said there are more than one route, a northern route and a southern route though which precursors can be moved into this producing region. Iran also objected to wording proposed by the UK.
On the more positive side the IDPC held a form for the Beckley Foundation to present their findings on Cannabis. Lady Amanda Neidpath and Jeremy Sare presented. Beckley conducted an exhaustive review of the effects of cannabis prohibition on culture and law among other things, there report states:
The situation has however, been fundamentally transformed over the last half-century since its prohibition, due to cannabis having become firmly established as part of the youth culture, particularly in developed countries. Large illicit markets have emerged to supply the demand. The strenuous efforts to enforce prohibition through policing and quasi-military operations against illicit growing and sale have failed. Meanwhile, the efforts in themselves create substantial anguish and social harms. In the United States, for example, approximately three-quarters of a million citizens are arrested every year for cannabis possession, and in certain producer/transit countries, such as Mexico, the War on Drugs, of which Cannabis is a component, has led to a virtual state of war near the US border.
The entire report is on line here:
Later, IDPC hosted a discussion of the need for essential drugs and balancing that with sufficient control. Speakers Willem Schoten (WHO), Diederick Loman(Human Rights Watch,) DanielaMosoiu(Hospice Casa Speantei,) Allyn Taylor(Georgetown University,) Franco Cavlli (InternationalUnion Against Cancer,) and Henry Ddungu (African Pallitive Care Association,) were scheduled to speak.
There exists today an abysmal situation in which people in developing countries have little or no access to opioid pain medication. There are even stories of surgeries on individuals who are fully conscious and unmedicated. Naturally, under these conditions some needed surgeries are not performed.
Also, many women die after childbirth due to postpartum bleeding that could be prevented by scheduled drugs which are not readily available due to the stigma of the schedule.
Subject: March 17th
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 22:25:58 -0400
March 17, 2009
Vienna International Center
The Thematic debate on tools for enhancing drug control and international cooperation was continued. The subject of data collection and regional cross boarder cooperation including data sharing was reviewed and draft resolutions were considered.
The debate was on the security council's resolution regarding precursor traffic. There was more back and forth between the Russian Federation and the UK . Despite the chair reminding both parties that the paragraph on this is bracketed (will not be included until agreement is reached on wording,) the contentious discussion continued.
UK proposed pulling the wording on precursors and placing it in the preamble but Iran dissented and brought the cost of incarceration up.
This gives us a clue as to where the disputed trade routs are and who is responsible for the law enforcement activities to police them.
There was also a side event on synthetic drug precursors chemical control, sponsored by the permanent mission of the United States.
UNODC's Laboratory and Scientific Section had a talk on its Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) programme for developing the capacity to generate evidence as a foundation for policy.
A side event hosted by Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue on "The war against drugs: the reality from the Andes and pointers to a new policy regime."
This is an international affairs "think tank, " that looks at the developing relationship between Venezuela and Iran, not the US for leadership as they recognize new a matrix of power globally.
The emphasis here is on sustainable policy that is sensitive to human rights, emerging democracy and peace building coalitions.
Other side events included a forum on "How large is the world drug problem, do we know?" put on by the Statistics and Survey section of UNDOC and two presentations on controlling drug sales (UN/UNIDO) and promoting education, prevention and treatment in cyberspace (Vienna NGO Committee.)
Subject: March 18th
Vienna International Center
The Normative segment of the Ministerial talks were continued on topics of drug demand reduction, traffic and supply along with the ever continuing consideration of draft resolutions.
The Drug Free America Foundation held a discussion titled "Reviewing our progress: Global Success In reducing Drug Use."
Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the International Narcotics Control Board. He was critical of drug law reform efforts and advocated a culture of disapproval.
He said young people are brilliant at grabbing the wrong argument. He sees young people as a resource to be used, and said DARE has changed and is not subject to the previous criticism.
Young people are not the only people to abuse drugs, some older folks use after experiencing loss.
Ghodse said quoted the Economist in saying that ,"we have to convince people not to use." Medical arguments don't sway, and he said to show pictures of meth users bad teeth to discourage use.
Other speakers included Peter Stoker, UK , Mike Sabin, New Zealand,Andrea Barthwell, USA, Per Johanssoin, Sweden and David Evans, USA. Mr Evans addressed the role of interdiction technology.
Lastly Monica Barzanti and Monica Luppi presented a short program on the San Patrignano theripudic community. A short film showed an idilic in patient community that is free for all who come. Medical, dental and other care is provided.
<<>>Subject: March 19
March 19, 2009
Vienna International Center
This is the beginning of the "Operational Segment," of the talks, which is the final wrap up of meetings in which administrative and budgetary questions, policy directives and strengthening the machinery of UN drug control are considered.
At the same time final consideration of draft resolutions from the normative segment are hammered out for final approval. This is far from a painless process.
The conflicts include disagreement over wording regarding access to controlled drugs between UK and Egypt, with the Egyptian representative declaring that, "these are narcotic drugs not medication." Germany offered a work out that was acceptable to both parties.
An expert working group was proposed to work on the issue of medical access, but disagreement erupted over the size and authority of the group. Comments from the German delegation clarified that the intergovernmental expert group would not clash with the jurisdiction of the INCB. INCB would not lose control, still the USA and Egypt disagreed and complaints about data rise from the discussion. US representatives were adamant about the difficulty of getting good data and complain that only 1/2 of the member states submit such information.
After chastising the those expressing reluctance to sign on to the proposed wording for failing to have informal consultations in advance the chair allowed a 5 minute break to work through the issue of a working group of experts on medical access. The huge room broke up , with a large group forming around the US delegation's seat. Egypt's and Germany's representatives and some others huddled with US representative. A short time latter there is a resolution and compromise wording is offered and accepted on the expert group on medical access. In a side conversation with David Turner of the Vienna NGO committee, he gave June Sivilli credit, he praised he passion and diplomacy and said she, "got this to happen."
The next item was cyber crime and its connection to money laundering. The Nigerian representative made objections that reflected their sensitivity to cyber crime issues.
The next resolution was with regard to funding. Apparently a 56 million dollar effort in Afghanistan is unfunded. Also, the West African region complained about lack of funding for law enforcement.
The topic of a global survey of the market bin cannabis seeds was requested by Azerbaijan and Japan. Nigeria objected saying that this already being done. Information from previous surveys were compiled in Morocco. After a great deal of talk it is agreed that while regular support is not necessary, some help will be required to study the cannabis seed market. A cost of 9 million dollars was stated and agreed to.
The IDPC held another meeting on the new role for law enforcement and the tone of this talk was even more progressive than the one held during the previous week.
19th March, 2009
Vienna International Center
This, the second day of the "operational Segment," and the final day of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, included approval of a provisional agenda for the next session, other business, and adoption of the report for this session.
Other business turned out to be a push by thirty-some European and other countries to include mention of harm reduction in the report. While it ultimately failed to be included, it was seriously considered. That was very impressive given the powerful opposition, primarily from the Russian Federation.
One of the Russian Delegates spoke against the practice of needle exchange, saying that they did a study showing a three fold increase of blood borne disease for those participating in needle exchange programs. I asked her privately what the methodology of this study was and was informed that I would need permission to see the research, so much for peer review.
Finally these meetings were over and the results would seem unfortunate if not compared to the arrogant and absurd outcome of the 1998 session. When compared to that, these meetings were enlightened.
Contact: Lennice Werth
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