After many years of preparation, the UNGASS was finally held from 19 – 21 April 2016 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) brought together representatives of the Member states of the United Nations to evaluate and debate the central aspects of drug policies.
During UNGASS preparation process, the President of our Association was a member of Civil Society Task Force. We conducted global civil society consultations during 2015 with 152 CSOs from around the world and based on the consultations, we have written a Final Report on Recovery and Recovered Users.
The main outcome was the adoption of the final document entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem,” containing operational recommendations to address and counter the world drug problem.
One of the greatest achievements of UNGASS 2016 is that this process represented a further shift towards a more health oriented approach to drug issues. There is also greater emphasis on access to essential medications and all the debates have included the need to protect the rights of children, the proportionality of sentences and the gender perspective.
Even though we have much work left to do in the areas of prevention, education, treatment, recovery and reintegration good things from UNGASS are that prevention, recovery and alternative development got a good place in the outcome document
The main disappointment from many organisations and NGOs as well as many countries is that progress could not be made on the elimination of the death penalty for drug offences. By unanimous agreement (except for the countries that apply it), continued application of the death penalty was condemned, but this element was unfortunately not included in the final document. We hoped the UNGASS would go further in this regard but the issue was vetoed-blocked by several countries which meant that no progress was made.
The words harm reduction didn’t make it into the final outcome document but individual harm reduction interventions were specifically mentioned. This indicates that member states support harm reduction interventions in their own regard but don’t support harm reduction as an overarching philosophy for drug policy.
List of full statements delivered by Member States during the UNGASS general debate as well as webcasts on demand are available here.