Video Report of the UN Drug Debate

April 8, 2015

This March, our video advocacy team attended the 58th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the largest drug policy gathering in the world, to find out how governments and NGOs feel about the prospects of drug policy reform. We produced a series of short thematic videos, to give you an overview of the current state of political debate on the burning issues of international drug control.

Internationally, drug policy is at a crossroads: the debate is shifting from a paradigm based on criminalising drug users, to a more public-health-oriented approach. But is this only a change in rhetoric, or a sign of real political reform? We asked activists who have been attending the CND for several years. 



There are high expectations from civil society about the UN General Assembly on Drugs, a high-level meeting of governments that aims to discuss the world drug problem in New York next year. The last UNGASS was held in 1998 under the slogan: “A drug-free world: we can do it!” After almost 20 years, many governments feel frustrated at of the evident failure and measurable unintended consequences of this utopian strategy. But can we expect governments to discuss the alternatives to current drug policies next year? We asked participants to share their views with us. 

Another sign of change was the stronger-than-ever presence of civil society at the UN headquarters: NGOs from all over the world came to share their experiences with government delegates, about how to deal with drug problems in the most effective ways. Our video provides a powerful photo exhibition, and a campaign in support of harm reduction.

China proposed an international ban on Ketamine, a dissociative drug known for its anaesthetic properties in medicine – as well as for its use as a recreational drug. Although the World Health Organisation recommended against scheduling this substance, many governments urged the CND to ban it. From this video, you can find out whether they were successful or not.

One of the most controversial issues debated at the CND, was the death penalty for drug offences. There are at least 32 countries which still prescribe capital punishment for drug offences, and several Asian countries still execute drug offenders every year. Although European countries condemn the death penalty, and call for its abolition, they also contribute to the execution of people – learn how, from our video!

For more information on the CND please read the CND blog edited by the members of the International Drug Policy Consortium!

István Gábor Takács
Peter Sárosi 
Mátyás Kálmán

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