Minimum Agreement Reached at UNGASS

UNGASS 2016 has been a modest step towards better, more humane global drug policies


After almost two decades, the United Nations General Assembly met in a special session in order to address the global drug problem with the delegates from the 193 countries that participate in the intergovernmental organisation and representatives from other agencies of the United Nations, academics and members from civil society. The main result of the convening of the UNGASS was the approval of the final document, “Our joint commitment to address and efficiently counter the global drug problem”.

In this article, we focus on the main points upon which a consensus has been reached in the final document. It is important to bear in mind that the final document is the result of months of work at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The conclusions were adopted by consensus among all countries of the United Nations and it is therefore difficult to make significant progress at this stage. The final document was adopted on the first day of the UNGASS and this paved the way for three days of debates.

At Dianova we believe that the final document from UNGASS must be understood as a minimum agreement, as a document of consensus among all the countries of the United Nations.

Main conclusions

  • Drugs are clearly a public health issue.
  • It emphasises that drug policies must respect human rights and urges countries to apply greater proportionality in sentencing and to provide alternatives to incarceration.
  • Assurances are sought regarding the accessibility of substances for relief from pain and suffering.
  • The inclusion of gender perspectives in drug policy is called for.
  • Drug policy is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, so that it relates to the issues of poverty and inequality reduction, health, human rights, economic development and the empowerment of women.
  • Support is maintained for the three drug conventions and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as the main drug-related bodies.
  • The principles of shared and common responsibility are maintained and the objective of improved cooperation both within the agencies of the United Nations and between countries, as well as with other international organisations, is pursued.
  • The need to strengthen international cooperation in combating drug trafficking, which is directly linked to corruption, organised crime and terrorism, is acknowledged.

As we previously published, regardless of the approved document, there was considerable discussion reflecting disagreements and trends for the future. The most debated and criticised issue was the omission of any reference to capital punishment for crimes related to drugs. In addition, a clear divide between the positions of countries committed to further reform and the more conservative countries was apparent, a fact which will ensure major discussions in the future.

Therefore, although this final document does not cover all of the demands called for by NGOs and other grass roots organizations (including Dianova’s position statement on drug policies), we believe that UNGASS 2016 has been a modest step towards better drug policies, towards policies that place the individual at the centre of any action.