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(1 post)
17. Another Article on this with a bit more detail
Mon Dec 9, 2013, 04:04 PM
Dec 2013

Seems like the UN consensus process is really problematic.

Such documents are whittled down, behind closed doors, into unified policy recommendations. In this case, a consensus statement will be presented at the High-Level Review by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs next March in Vienna. That meeting will set the stage for a Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly in 2016, when member states are expected to outline an updated drug policy for the next decade.

The consensus process, which can give outsized control to already powerful pro-interdiction countries like Russia and the U.S., has come under criticism, says Tom Blickman, a research at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.

“If one country is blocking reform, they can be successful,” Blickman told IPS. “Countries are tired – it shouldn’t be this way.”

In negotiations, the EU speaks on behalf of all its members, further homogenising opinion, says Malinowska-Sempruch. “The voice of Portugal and other more progressive countries get drowned out because they are part of a bigger block.”

A spokesperson for UNODC told IPS it had a policy of not commenting on draft documents and would not speak about the consensus process.

More on the INCB

For countries like Uruguay, where marijuana decriminalisation awaits only a procedural Senate vote, skirting the agreements can be a delicate game of geopolitical chicken.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a quasi-judicial organisation charged with keeping tags on countries’ compliance with the three agreements, threatening the proposed law “would be in contravention of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”

“Looking at Switzerland, or Germany that has heroin injection sites, or Netherlands with coffee shops, or Portugal or Uruguay, it is clear there are countries that think there should be different policies,” said Malinowska-Sempruch.

But while these countries may make headlines – Portugal removed all penalties for drug users in 2000 – smaller states fear offending the likes of the U.S. and Russia, perennial aid sources and holders of Security Council veto power.

Under U.S. law, the Department of State must every year publish a report that includes evaluating whether foreign aid recipients meet the “goals and objectives” of the 1988 agreement.

“Not that many care about drugs enough to fight so hard and make enemies, because they know they will need those votes for what they really care about,” said Malinowska-Sempruch.

Most UNODC funding comes from member states, which can attach strings to “special-purpose funds.”

This means countries can maintain both private and public stances on drug policy. Switzerland, which began offering heroin-assisted treatment for addicts in 2008, backtracked this week in a press statement that stressed the leaked document was part of a “brainstorming” session and that it “does in no way support any efforts or attempts of changing the three U.N. Drug Conventions as they are today.”

As for 2016, Blickman says it’s important the special session be organised not just by UNODC but also by the U.N.’s human rights and development arms.

But while the session could prove a pivotal turning point, activists also say reform will likely first come out of piecemeal efforts to disentangle the conventions’ cascading legal web. Because the agreements exist in so far as countries enforce them, simply ignoring their mandate could as effective as anything else.

“There is leeway in the convention,” says Blikman. If countries start flouting them, the “INCB couldn’t do anything except maybe not allow certain (pharmaceutical) drugs into the country.”

If that trend continues, an ignored INCB could eventually be relegated to the scholarly study of an historical document.
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