A Diary of UNGASS

Dianova publishes a series of articles to analyse what has happened at UNGASS and what will be the main consequences of this event


After many years of preparation, the UNGASS was finally held April 19-21, 2016 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.  The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) brought together representatives of the member states of the United Nations to evaluate and debate the central aspects of drug policies. The main outcome was the adoption of the final document “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem,” which reviews the progress made in recent years in this area.

Dianova could not miss UNGASS, the historical meeting in the field of drugs and addictions. The Director General of Dianova International, Montse Rafel, and Dianova USA Board of Directors member Ram Raman attended the meeting as well as the parallel events and the civil society forums organized the same week.

ungass-event-04The formal sessions, which consisted of the plenary session and the five interactive round tables, were held with representatives of UN Member States of the United Nations, and international and civil society organizations. We would like to emphasize that we are very pleased with how civil society organizations are taking their correct places at high-level events such as UNGASS, where they can participate and have their positions taken into consideration. In the words of Yury Fedetov, UNODC Director, civil society is a vital partner in all our efforts to counter the global drug problem.

There were also many parallel events surrounding UNGASS, civil society forums and social events (such as the Museum of Drug Policy installation) that offered the opportunity to meet with representatives of the member states and civil society colleagues.

In the last 70 years, many advances in the area of drugs have taken place. Nevertheless, 250 million people consume drugs in the world. The United Nations indicated that four out of every five people with drug problems do not receive treatment. For that reason, we have much work left to do in the areas of prevention, education, treatment and reintegration.

One of the greatest achievements of UNGASS 2016 is that it has pointed out that the drug problem is a public health issue, thus placing the person and not the substances at the center of the policies. Similarly, all the debates have included the need to protect the rights of children, the proportionality of sentences and the gender perspective. By unanimous agreement (except for the countries that apply it), continued application of the death penalty was condemned, but this element was unfortunately not included in the final document.

After many years of work and Dianova’s participation in expert groups, we should be proud of the inclusion of the proposals made by civil society in the debates and the approved resolution. It is a first step, but we still have a long way to go.

We would especially like to thank all our civil society partners who have worked side by side in the different committees, work groups, etc., to make it possible for civil society to be present at UNGASS. We are like a great family sharing the same goal: leave no one behind!

The week of work concluded with attendance at a meeting of the Board of Directors of CoNGO (The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations) that took place in New York on April 22, 2016.