In November 2018, the first ever UN Common Position on Drugs was adopted by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination of the UN. Representing 31 agencies, the aim of the Common Position is to guide approaches across the UN system and step up efforts to ensure that no one is left behind. The agreement is between the Secretariats of the UN Agencies – Member States were not involved in negotiating the Common position. On 4 December, the EU Delegation and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN in Geneva co-organised an event which showcased the work of the UN Agencies on drugs, in particular since the adoption of the Common Position.
This briefing was well-attended by numerous, including high-level, participants and was a follow up to an event organised by the EU Delegation in Vienna on 16 October at the margins of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. A third mission briefing is foreseen in New York in the coming months.
In their opening remarks, EU Ambassador Walter Stevens and Mexican Ambassador Socorro Flores both recalled that "as firm believers in multilateralism, we support a consolidated common UN approach." Several UN agencies, including United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and World Health Organisation (WHO) presented how they work individually and collectively on this important topic. They all underlined that we are facing a very complex issue that touches not just on health, but also on human rights and laws, thus requiring an inter-sectoral approach of conflicting, and even competing, policies to address it.
Five key elements were developed by the panellists. First of all, there is a need to tackle the health, social and economic aspects of drug use to put an end to the stigma that drug users are negatively perceived. It is of high importance to put people's rights and health at the heart of the issue in order to ensure their dignity and respect of their human rights in all drug-related policies. Furthermore, representatives of UNODC and OHCHR called for a proportionate response of criminal justice systems to the production and trafficking of drugs by determining where law enforcement activities are the most effective with the aim to reduce crime. They also called for alternative convictions and punishments for these offences, including decriminalisation of drug use, and the end of the capital sentence. These issues will be further discussed during the UN Crime Congress which will be held in Kyoto, Japan, in April 2020. Finally, and this might be the most important takeaway of that meeting, most of the stakeholders present joined to affirm that as we now have a common position on drugs, it is time to put the accent on its implementation. Some participants also called for continued discussion, especially in the Human Rights Council.
Presentations were followed by very positive interventions from the floor made by Member States, International Organisations including UNAIDS, as well as civil society. The Common Position is seen as an example of multilateralism in action where the UN and its agencies speak with one voice and demonstrate functional inter-agency cooperation.
Overall, the briefing was an opportunity to present the knowledge acquired and produced by the UN system over the last 10 years on drug-related matters in view of mainstreaming discussions on this interdisciplinary subject and reach decision-makers as well as the wider public. We are now looking forward to the event in New York which will take place early next year and demonstrate that, indeed, the EU is building bridges in Vienna, Geneva and New York by supporting inter-UN agencies work.
UN Common Position on Drugs
EU Response to Drugs