60 Years of International Drug Control

The anniversary of the international drug conventions is an opportunity to reflect on additional tools to respond to the changing nature of the world drug problem


Treatment is one of the weakest links in drug policy: at present, women and marginalized people do not have sufficient access to quality and affordable treatment services – Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

By Lucía Goberna – The 64th annual session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND64) was held in a hybrid format (in-person and online meetings) for the first time from 12 to 16 April 2021. Representatives from member states and from a small number of other agencies and civil society were able to attend the session in person. Dianova attended this important meeting virtually and has been participating in the CND for a decade.

60th anniversary of legal framework on drug policy

The year 2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs (the ‘Single Convention’) and the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which are two of the three conventions which determine the legal framework for drug policy control, which were widely ratified at the time. These tools classify the  drugs under international control, include provisions for alternatives to incarceration, and ensure access to controlled substances for medical and scientific use, amongst other elements.

It is however undeniable that the drug problem is a rapidly changing phenomenon that has proved to be very persistent.  The conventions do not provide specific effective tools to deal with the following issues: the unequal distribution of access to controlled substances for medical and scientific use, the inadequate provision of treatment and rehabilitation services, and the challenge posed by drug trafficking for non-medical use. It is for this reason that “this anniversary is also an opportunity to reflect on possible additional tools and forms of cooperation to respond to the changing nature and magnitude of the global drug problem, including those that were not foreseeable at the time of adoption of the conventions”as stated by Cornelis P de Joncheere, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

We too at Dianova believe it is essential that the international conventions be adapted to the changing realities to provide more effective responses.


The 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), 2021, was held in a hybrid format, i.e. with in-person and online meetings

Treatment services, one of the CND64 topics

The issue of treatment is having a big impact on the committee. Following the CND thematic session which took place in autumn 2020, two of the five resolutions presented this year for debate have been on access to treatment services, amongst other things. Canada, Honduras, Malta, the Philippines and Uruguay, in particular, introduced a resolution on access to demand reduction services for people affected by social marginalization. Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, together with Albania, Angola, Australia, Brazil, Norway and Thailand, proposed a resolution on the promotion of quality, affordable and comprehensive prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.

In line with this, Dianova sent a written statement that was one of the six civil society statements which were used as the official documentation of the session.  Our focus this year has been on the need to improve prevention and treatment services for problematic cannabis consumption.

Record number of side events with high participation rates

The virtual format allowed for a greater number of side events (110 in total throughout the week), which attracted a large number of participants as they were not exclusive to CND64 attendees.

Dianova organized and moderated the side event “Strengthening the prevention and treatment of problematic cannabis consumption”  together with the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities, the Rotarian Action Group for Addiction Prevention and the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies.

We participated as speakers in the event “The way forward: development of treatment programs with a gender perspective to eliminate barriers to women” which was organized by the World Federation Against Drugs, together with Dianova International, Proslavi Oporavak/Celebrate Recovery and the Women’s Organisations Committee on Alcohol and Drug Issues. An original infographic prepared by Dianova together with WFAD presenting these barriers and the solutions to eliminate them was presented at the event.

As members of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs, we participated indirectly in the event “Promoting evidence-based drug policies and interventions enshrined in human rights in Europe” which was organised by the Proyecto Hombre Association with the support of the EU, Portugal, Spain, the Council of Europe and the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs.

Furthermore, several Dianova representatives had the opportunity to participate in several parallel events on topics as varied and interesting as demand reduction strategies in the Americas, human rights in drug policies, impact of COVID-19, and the situation five years after UNGASS 2016.

VNGOC annual meeting

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) is the civil society interlocutor with the UN agencies that work on drug policy. Every year, at the annual session of the CND, the Committee takes the opportunity to bring its members together in a virtual general assembly and organize elections. In 2021, half of the Board of Director positions were determined through the latter. We at Dianova would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the VNGOC and its new team, which is comprised of: President Jamie Bridge (UK); Vice President Matej Kosir (Slovenia); Treasurer Hellen Lunkunse (Uganda); Deputy Treasurer Heloisa Broggiato (Brazil); Secretary Ergin Beceren (Turkey); Deputy Secretary Penny Hill (Australia).

The VNGOC has a consolidated and recognized position at the institutional level with United Nations partners and has proved to be a balanced, operational and efficient committee.

Informal civil society dialogues

In accordance with standard practice so far, the VNGOC organized civil society dialogues this year with the President of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the President and the Secretary of the CND, the President of the International Narcotics Control Board and representatives from the World Health Organization.

Dianova has raised questions about how the World Health Organization can increase the visibility of mental health and substance use disorder issues and the need to provide guidelines for treatment providers on how to proceed in comorbidity addiction cases which may or may not involve substances.

We at Dianova wish to thank the VNGOC and the Civil Society Team of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for their efforts to enable civil society to access the annual session of the CND. Technically, it has worked well although we hope that we can soon meet again in person in Vienna!