From 19 to 21 April 2016 the UN General Assembly held a Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016) in New York.
What is the UNGASS?
The General Assembly, as the principle policy-making organ of the UN, convenes infrequent special sessions on pertinent issues. While the next Special Session on Drugs was scheduled to be held in 2019, it was brought forward following a call from the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico in September 2012 for the UN to host an international conference on drug policy reform. Subsequently a resolution sponsored by Mexico, and co-sponsored by 95 other countries brought this global drug policy summit meeting to 2016.
‘The UNGASS on drugs has the potential to be a ground-breaking, open debate about the international drug control system – but there is much work to be done to ensure that it fulfils that potential.’ International Drug Policy Consortium
To support civil society input and participation, the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs and the New York Committee on Drugs joined forces and established a Civil Society Task Force (consisting of 26 members). PRI is a member of the Task Force.
Together with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and Quaker UN Office (QUNO), PRI organised a consultation of civil society organisations working on criminal justice related issues. The consultation took place on 29 September 2015 in Geneva, on the occasion of a Human Rights Council Panel discussion on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights. The views and recommendations of this consultation were shared electronically with other criminal justice organisations to collect additional views and recommendations. You can find the results of this consultation here.
We also provided a submission to UNGASS and will also participate at the Hearing of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on 8-9 February and at the Civil Society Hearing in New York on 10 February 2016.
PRI participated in the UNGASS in April 2016, highlighting key issues including: proportionate sentencing for drug-related offences; impact that the ‘war on drugs’ has had on women and their children; and harm reduction policies in prisons for drug users.