6 points for a better drug-policy making, outlined in our Official Statement at the 4th Civil Society Hearing…

I’m in Vienna now at the 58th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Pubudu has put together a great overview of what we in IOGT International are doing in Vienna, even sharing some of our brand new material.

In my blog, I want to share with you the statement I presented today on behalf of the Member Organisations of IOGT International. I had the privilege and honour to participate in the Fourth Civil Society Hearing, which took place on today, between 2.45 to 6 p.m.  This Hearing focused on civil society participation in the UNGASS 2016 preparatory process. Among others, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov and H.E. Ambassador Khaled A. Shamaa (Chair, UNGASS Board), and Mr. Michael Botticelli, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, USA delivered remarks on the occasion.

You can see the full list of speakers, including Esbjörn and myself, here. Even Pubudu was invited in short notice to share his statement on expectations concerning the UNGASS 2016 process.

IOGT International Statement on Expectations For UNGASS 2016 (check against delivery)                                                                  

“Dear Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon everyone.

It is an honor to address you today and it is a privilege I highly appreciate to be part of this important discussion.

IOGT International Member Organizations – 121 NGOs from 54 countries – work with all aspects of drug-related harm; they do advocacy, prevention and treatment and social work programs on grass-roots, national, regional and global level. It is my distinct honor to share with you today the 6 priorities of our Member Organizations concerning UNGASS 2016:

1)    A Child-centered approach

The primacy and universality of the Best Interest principle stipulated by the CRC means that general drug policy-making shall be child-centered – as opposed to adult-centered or user-centered.

We expect the UNGASS 2016 process to serve for empowering governments to create an enabling environment for protecting children from drug use. For this to happen the most conducive policy goal is to ensure a drug free society.

We urge governments to live up to the CRC and make the Best Interest of the child a primary consideration in all policy making that affects children, even in areas which at first might seem to have nothing to do with children.

2)    Putting development perspective at the core

Development perspectives deserve far greater prominence in global drug policy discussions. For far too long global drug-policy discussions, including the UNGASS 2016 process, have inadequately considered the conditions and needs of populations in developing countries. Those discussions have often been dominated by Western experts, focused on Western solutions to Western problems. The resulting dialogue has little to do with drug use issues in the global south.

We expect the UNGASS 2016 process to serve for underpinning the urgency of protection of societies in the global south from drug-related harm. This is uniquely important because experience shows that substance use, whether alcohol or other drugs, has stronger negative consequences for poor and marginalized people than for those in more affluent groups.

We urge governments to put a high priority on assuring that substance use in developing countries does not increase to the levels that exist in Western countries and that the corresponding harms from substance use do not reach similar high levels.

3)    A public health approach

Drug use is not only a health issue that can cause severe consequences for individuals; it is also an important matter of public health. The overall positive health benefits of population-based approaches far exceed those that are available only from clinical interventions on the individual level.

We expect Public health-oriented policies to be highlighted as they serve both to define and understand the structural causes of drug use within a society and help to determine interventions that can reduce drug-related harm at the population level.

We urge governments to address risk factors on a population level and thus to dramatically improve both the health of individuals and populations.

4)    Prevention first

Preventing problems from occurring or expanding represents by far the best approach to reducing drug-related harm. The “Prevention-first” approach holds four major benefits:

  • It is the most cost-effective, the most sustainable, the most people-empowering, and the most humane policy option, particularly in the context of protecting and assuring the best interests of the world’s children.

We expect the UNGASS 2016 process to serve as capacity-building facilitator for States Parties with regard to the fact that the UN Drug Conventions and the CRC do provide substantial guidance and latitude for countries seeking to design broad, balanced and humane drug policies that are consistent with the principles of Human Rights.

We urge governments to follow UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy 2009, which has determined prevention as the first priority for child protection.

5)    Civil Society Engagement

Tackling the world’s drug problem requires strong international collaboration.

We expect the UNGASS 2016 process to establish mechanisms that stimulate the exchange of prevention methodologies and practices among countries and regions, including broad participation from civil society.

We urge Member States to support a transparent process of civil society participation throughout the course of the UNGASS 2016 process and we highlight the need tor allocating more resources to UNODC, in order to ensure broader participation of civil society organization with vast know-how but with fewer economic resources.

6)    Hearing the silent majority

The World Drug Report 2014 estimates that approximately 95% of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 did not use any illicit drugs in 2012. This global reality reflects that a large majority of humans reject the risks associated with drug use.

We expect the UNGASS 2016 process to take into consideration not just the interests of those that are extremely well-financed and extremely loud and aggressive, but to ensure that the rights, needs and interests of the global, silent majority to live free from drug-related harm are well taken care of.

The silent majority, especially children and women as well as developing societies certainly have a right to it.

I thank you for your attention and for consideration of these points.”


Sources and evidence for our positions:

Dahlgren & Stere (2012) The Protection of Children from Illicit Drugs – A Minimum Human Rights Standard. A Child- centered vs. a User-centered Drug Policy
Download as PDF here.

Dahlgren & Stere (2010) The right of children to be protected from Narcotic drugs and Psychotropic substances. A Human Right/ International law perspective.
Download as PDF here.

Start with prevention – the most effective way to reduce drug harm (2015) Booklet by FORUT – Campaign for Develop- ment and Solidarity
Download as PDF here.

Download our material for free:

You can download the IOGT International Statement on Expectations For UNGASS 2016

IOGT International Narcotic Drugs Policy

IOGT International Booklet on Illicit Drugs & Child Rights: “WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE CHILDREN IS GOOD FOR THE WORLD. A Child Rights-centered approach to prevention of drug-related harm”