The U.N. has mostly stood by silently while its drug control agencies (United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC), International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)) set and ran international drug control policy, and those agencies have been mostly influenced by their biggest contributors (United States and Sweden).
Theoretically, all United Nations efforts are subordinate to the Human Rights Treaties, although the UNODC has rarely done anything but pay lip service to them, and no one else in the U.N. has called them on it.
That could change.
Transform Drug Policy Foundation reports on a very interesting development that will culminate in a press conference in New York this coming Tuesday.
Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Groverâ€™s annual thematic report, to be presented on October 25/26, sets out the range of human rights abuses that have resulted from international drug control efforts, and calls on Governments to:
- Ensure that all harm-reduction measures (as itemized by UNAIDS) and drug-dependence treatment services, particularly opioid substitution therapy, are available to people who use drugs, in particular those among incarcerated populations.
- Decriminalize or de-penalize possession and use of drugs.
- Repeal or substantially reform laws and policies inhibiting the delivery of essential health services to drug users, and review law enforcement initiatives around drug control to ensure compliance with human rights obligations.
- Amend laws, regulations and policies to increase access to controlled essential medicines
- To the UN drug control agencies, Mr Grover recommends the creation of an alternative drug regulatory framework based on a model such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The report is the clearest statement to date from within the UN system about the harms that drug policies have caused and the need for a fundamental shift in drug policy.
The report has been welcomed by the European Union in the EU statement on crime and drugs to the UN General Assembly.
The U.N. drug control regime is not going to change overnight, yet this is a powerful development that signals the potential for major shifts. It states that the status quo in drug control systems is no longer a certainty, and, in fact, is in conflict with higher goals of the U.N. This could open the door to change. Additionally, this may weaken attempts by the United States to claim that significant drug policy change here in the States is impossible due to international treaty obligations.