The HCLU’s Drugreporter is launching a video campaign to debunk the offensive of the International Narcotics Control Board against drug policy reform initiatives
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is almost as old as the global drug control system itself: it was created in 1961, the year when the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was signed by UN member states. This treaty banned the non-scientific and non-medical use of some drugs (other than those popular in Western societes).
The INCB was created to monitor the implementation of the treaty and to ensure that illicit drugs are available for pain medication. The Single Convention is now more than 50 years old, but has never been evaluated. Without evidence to support the policies based on this convention, it has become dogma – holy text recited at the annual meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) – light-years away from the reality on the streets. The original purpose of the convention – to protect public health and human rights – has been obliterated.
If the conventions have become sacred texts, then the INCB has become the Inquisition, combatting heretics who question or deny the one true interpretation of the treaties. Although the INCB does not imprison and torture heretics, there are millions of people who lose their freedom, their health, and even their lives, because of the punitive drug policies it supports (learn more about the costs of the global war on drugs!).
The INCB's main weapon is its annual report, which condemns those member states which stray away from its own narrow interpretation of the Conventions. For many years, the INCB has used its report to criticise the Netherlands for its cannabis coffee shops; Switzerland, Canada and Australia for their supervised injection sites. But this year it has much more to worry about. Two US states (Colorado and Washington), and one Latin-American country (Uruguay) have introduced legal regulation of cannabis for recreational use. This year’s annual report, published last Tuesday, addressed these developments. Raymond Yans, the current president of the INCB, voiced concern over these “misguided initiatives” which posed “a very grave danger to public health and wellbeing”.
When the Drugreporter video advocacy team attended the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver, Colorado last year, we interviewed some of the people who played a pivotal role in making cannabis legal in the state. We asked them to comment on the INCB’s criticisms. Here we present a short video, giving the responses of leading drug reformers to Mr. Yans' accusations.
The Drugreporter invites fellow drug policy activists, professionals, decision makers and all like-minded people who support the movement to end the global war on drugs, to send us a video message addressing the INCB’s counter-offensive against drug policy reform! All you need to do is to use your camera (webcam, smartphone etc.) to record a brief message, just a few minutes long, upload it on YouTube and send the link to [email protected]!
In the following months, we are going to publish these messages on Drugreporter to give a voice to our communities.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE INCB!
What's wrong with the INCB?
1. The INCB has a very narrow view of its mission.
Altough the drug conventions clearly mandate member states to make evidence-based public health services available for people who use drugs, the INCB has remained silent on the shortage of treatment programs, and consistently emphasises drug control at the expense of public health. It has never criticised the Russian government for prohibiting opiate substitution treatment programs, or countries for not providing alternatives to incarceration.
2. The INCB contradicts evidence-based recommendations on harm reduction.
In its annual reports, it speaks out against life-saving harm reduction programs, and it condemns countries which deviate from a strictly prohibitionist approach. The Board has become an obstacle to effective programs for the prevention and treatment of HIV and chemical dependence. Even though the WHO added methadone and buprenorphine to its Model List of Essential Medicines in 2005, the Board has made no public effort to promote opiate substitution treatment. It has used its energies instead, to launch attacks on countries such as Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, for introducing safer injection facilities.
3. The INCB has praised governments which violate the human rights of people who use drugs.
One example (among many) is Thailand, where the government launched a war on drugs campaign that resulted in more than 2000 extrajudicial killings of drug users and petty dealers. Reporting on this during a 2004 visit (meant to examine the impact of the Thai government’s campaign), the INCB expressed no concerns about mass arrests and detentions in the name of treatment, but instead, expressed appreciation of government efforts to investigate the killings — an effort that many human rights experts had deemed completely inadequate.
4. The Board conducts operations in secret, and without any mechanism for accountability.
INCB meetings are closed to observers, and no minutes are available. Sources are selectively and inconsistently documented in INCB reports. The INCB does not publicise country visits in advance, or convene public hearings or other opportunities for input. Despite the UN Secretary-General’s call for greater transparency and interaction with civil society at the UN, the INCB’s website includes no information on the Board’s budget or staff. The INCB Secretariat — paid for by the UN — is unresponsive to requests for information from affected communities or non-governmental organisations.
Posted by Peter Sarosi
Video: Istvan Takacs Gabor and Peter Sarosi