The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem

Foto: Blick auf das Hauptquartier der UN

The 'United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem' took place in New York from 19 to 21 April 2016. So far, it was the second major UN conference on the drug problem. A declaration drafted by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March was to be adopted in the context of this conference.

In conjunction with the United Nations Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem of 2009, this declaration shall become a guideline of the international narcotic drugs policy of upcoming years and breathe new life into the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

What was the backdrop to the conference?

The global illicit drugs market is in motion. While the demand for heroin has declined in many countries, the manufacture of and the demand for methamphetamines is sharply increasing. Likewise, new psychoactive substances (NPS) which are not yet listed in the United Nations Conventions mentioned above are rapidly emerging. In addition, it is becoming ever more apparent that the present narcotic drugs policy, which in many countries is exclusively geared to the work of the police, can hardly meet the challenges. From a European point of view the 'fight against narcotic drugs' as promoted in previous international declarations proved to be of little success. Most states in Europe thus increasingly rely on health-oriented measures (harm reduction strategies, substitution etc.).

What was the negotiating stance of Germany and Europe?

The negotiations on the UNGASS final document started in Vienna in September 2015. The EU maintained a united negotiating stance in this respect. While in particular many African and Asian states sought to adhere to the traditional triad of supply reduction, demand reduction and international cooperation, Germany and its EU partners were able to enforce their demand for an opening of the document. As of now, it contains chapters on human rights, new challenges such as NPS and online trade as well as alternative development (AD). In her capacity as head of the German delegation, the Drug Commissioner particularly promoted a strengthening of health care in narcotic drugs policy in previous negotiations, following the conviction that addiction is a disease and consequently has to be treated as such. In addition, she particularly stressed the demand for proportionate punishment, the abolition of the death penalty and the strengthening of alternative development.

Why did the Drug Commissioner of the Federal Government participate in the Special Session of the General Assembly? The Drug Commissioner coordinates the narcotic drugs and addiction policy of the Federal Government and acts as its representative at international level. She thus assumed the leadership of the German delegation.

Foto: Werner Sipp at UNGASS 2016

Werner Sipp, former german president of INCB, at UNGASS 2016 

Source: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Foto: Marlene Mortler UNGASS 2016

Marlene Mortler at the lectern at the UN special session.

Source: Beowulf Shehann

Foto: Marlene Mortler at the conference table

Marlene Mortler at the side event at the UN special session...

Source: C. Hässler