On May 7, the United Nations (U.N.) will hold a High-Level Meeting to discuss international drug policy, in preparation for a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016. The Special Session will be the largest international drug policy event in decades, the first of its kind since 1998. On May 7, U.N. ambassadors, Ministers, and high level delegates from around the world will meet at the U.N. in NY to discuss achievements and challenges in international drug policy. In recent years, a growing number of countries are pushing for an open debate to discuss alternatives beyond punitive approaches. This movement was first lead by former Heads of State, such as Ruth Dreifuss of Switzerland, who will be speaking at Thursday’s event, and is now being continued by current Presidents, especially in Latin America.
“The veneer of consensus that for so long sustained the failed global drug war and insulated it from critical examination is now broken,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The stage is being set for a new global drug control paradigm for the 21st century better grounded in science, health and human rights.”
On the same day, groups will gather outside the U.N. to protest Indonesia’s execution last week of 8 people for drug offenses. Despite repeated pleas for mercy from family members, citizens, human rights organizations, the U.N., and governments around the world, Indonesia proceeded with the executions. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that the U.N. opposes the use of the death penalty for drug related crimes, however, over 30 countries around the world continue to use capital punishment for drug offenses, executing thousands of people a year.
“The recent executions in Indonesia of people charged with non-violent drug crimes are abhorrent,” said Mike Selick, Policy and Participant Action Coordinator at New York Harm Reduction Educators. “As the United Nations holds a High-Level Thematic Debate on drugs, we stand united with organizations around the world to demand action to end the use of the death penalty for non-violent drug offenses.”
The groups, including VOCAL-NY, NYHRE, Drug Policy Alliance and others are gathering to protest the use of the death penalty for drug offenses and will gather at the U.N. entrance on the corner of 1st Avenue and 47th Street at 1:30 pm on Thursday, May 7.
Earlier this week, a broad coalition of over 100 human rights and drug policy organizations released an open letter calling for a new approach to drug policy that emphasizes human rights over punitive policies and criminalization. It also calls for flexibility for countries to pursue new policies, including legalization, as well as eventual revision of the U.N. drug control treaties.
The signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, as well as a number of organizations dedicated to health policy and AIDS services.
“Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations,” the statement reads. The groups “call for a significant shift in global drug policy in line with international human rights standards, and that prioritizes health, including access to medicines, security, and development.”