High-level General Assembly Thematic Debate in support of the process towards the 2016 Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

Drugs and Development: Participants noted that drugs and crime undermine social and economic development, the rule of law, and threaten the security and stability of countries and societies. A number of speakers emphasized that the socio-economic phenomenon of drugs should be addressed by empowering communities and reducing their vulnerabilities. They also noted that those involved in the production of drugs are often members of vulnerable groups, which struggle to identify opportunities for alternative livelihoods. In this context, speakers called for alternative development measures to be promoted to tackle the root causes of drug cultivation, underlining that only by addressing poverty and the lack of opportunities can such problems be addressed in a sustainable manner. They underscored, in this regard, the importance of addressing and integrating the world drug problem into the post-2015 development agenda.
  • Alternative development
  • Development/SDGs

Human Rights: Speakers highlighted the importance of aligning drug policies with human rights commitments, and of placing people and societies at the centre of such policies. Many also pointed out that a balanced drug policy approach must uphold human rights, including through health and social risks and harm reduction measures, and by devoting special attention to the most vulnerable – particularly youth, women and children. The need for a people-centered approach, in-line with the principles of non-discrimination, human dignity, solidarity, the rule of law and human rights, including the right to life and the right to health, was highlighted by some as integral to the efforts to address the drug problem. Many interventions called for the use of the full range criminal justice tools to ensure proportionality of sentencing and the promotion of alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate. In this regard, they proposed that custodial measures should be reserved for the most dangerous drug trade offenders, not the weakest and most vulnerable drug chain participants. Some speakers asserted that the death penalty should not be used under any circumstances, while others reported that the “zero tolerance approach” had produced drug- and crime free societies. A few speakers welcomed the engagement and contributions of the Human Rights Council to the UNGASS 2016, including through its resolution A/HRC/28/L.22, of March 2015.
  • Human rights
  • Proportionality of sentencing
  • Alternatives to punishment

Implementation of the International Drug Control Conventions: Many speakers underscored the importance of the full implementation of the three international drug conventions, which they said, remain the best tools for achieving progress in addressing the world drug problem. They noted that when applied together with other relevant international instruments, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), as well as relevant international human rights instruments, the conventions could promote an effective response to the world drug problem. In this regard they stressed that States and regions should have flexibility to pursue their own responses to domestic and regional challenges, while respecting the legitimate interests of other States and regions.
  • Flexibilities in the UN drug conventions

Approaches: Participants underlined the need for a more comprehensive approach to address the world drug problem, taking into account different national and regional realities and circumstances, in full adherence of the three drug control conventions. They stressed the importance of the human dimension of the drug issue and called for a greater focus on public health, rehabilitation and reintegration. Some speakers noted that decriminalization has allowed for the creation of a legal framework to reduce the negative impact of drug use, while others argued against the legalization of narcotic drugs
  • Alternatives to punishment

Some speakers asserted that the death penalty should not be used under any circumstances,while others reported that the “zero tolerance approach” had produced drug- and crime-free societies.
  • Death penalty
The perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders were heard, including those of Member States, relevant United Nations entities, international and regional organizations, civil society and the scientific community – underlining the importance of a comprehensive, multi-dimensional and collaborative approach to finding practical and sustainable solutions to the drug issues facing communities throughout the world.
  • Civil society engagement

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