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13/03/2004 | POSITION PAPER OF THE TRANSNATIONAL RADICAL PARTY FOR THE 47TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON NARCOTICS, PREPARED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE INTERNATIONAL ANTIPROHIBITIONIST LEAGUE
A first radical reform needed at the United Nation
After a statement issued by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the beginning of the 58th UN General Assembly calling for radical changes to deal with the global threats of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear proliferation, the system of the United Nations has initiated a series discussions within and outside the Organization to devise a set of possible reforms for their eventual implementation.
In his September 2003 speech, Mr. stated that the UN had "reached the most decisive period since its formation in 1945", and that "the time was right for a hard look at fundamental policy issues". He also announced plans to create a panel of eminent personalities to carry out a wide-ranging examination of the UN's role in addressing challenges to peace and security.
Mr Annan also emphasised the importance of the decisions facing the assembly saying: "History is a harsh judge, it will not forgive us if we let this moment pass." While the main subject of the UNGA address was the policy of "pre-emptive strikes", namely the one carried out by the U.S. and other on Iraq, there is no doubt that the UN system - if it is to play a prominent and effective role in fostering peace and in maintaining international security - needs reforms in its structure as well as in the ways in which it discharges its mandate.
To follow up to his declaration, Mr Annan has appointed as special panel, which will report back before the next General Assembly session. The panel will have peace and security as its main priority, but it will also look at other global challenges such as:
For the last nine years, thanks to the consultative status that is enjoys
with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Transnational
Radical Party (TRP) has tried to make its contribution to the work
of the UN supporting and complementing several of its initiatives, addressing
major human rights violations, circulating written documents, but also
presenting its critical views on some policies, mainly the ones that deal
with "drug control", convinced as it is that its relationship
with the UN is to be seen as a continuous engagement in the search for
more effective ways to promote human rights.
Inherent Problems of Supply and Demand Reduction and Alternative Development
Over the last few years, several countries have implemented original
programs that try to tackle drug-related issues promoting measures of
so-called "harm reduction", which include the prescription of
methadone, distribution of heroin under strict medical control, programs
of needle exchange, distribution of sterile syringes, counselling as well
as abstinence programs. Despite some initial problems, the majority of
those pilot projects have evolved into full-fledged programs that have
had a tremendous impact on the welfare of drug users living in those countries.
Several of the initiators of these types of alternative approaches, such
as Brazil, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United
Kingdom, to name a few, eventually decided to legalize "harm reduction"
making it a fundamental component of their health and drug policies. In
some countries the UN has kick-started a number of those projects.
Supply Reduction and Alternative Development
The unsuccessful projects of supply reduction - carried out often through
violent means and in close cooperation with non-democratic regimes - have
proven to be so ineffective that the new UNODC has rightly decided to
gradually substitute them with programs of so-called "alternative
development". While in theory the idea of promoting licit crops as
an alternative means for the development of those societies where the
plants used for the production of drugs are grown is a good one, in practice
the substitution has never proven to be fully self-sufficient in the medium
or long term. In fact, even in those countries such as Peru and Bolivia,
where some progress was made in the late 1990s and documented by UNDCP,
once the international community pulled out the progress achieved disappeared
in the matter of months. The local communities found themselves left without
the means provided by the "artificial" support to sustain alternative
crops and went back to cultivating illicit crops.
There is evidence that an alternative use of the illicit plants is possible
- the most evident and notorious case of non-narcotic use of illicit natural
products, other than medicines, is Coca Cola, which is a derivative of
the coca plant - if the UN is really committed to improving the socio-economic
quality of life of targeted populations through integrated development
projects, the alternative development of illicit plants should indeed
be integrated in the programs not to prevent, reduce and eliminate the
production of illicit drug crops, but to diminish the production of illicit
narcotics. Comprehensive alternative development projects should address
the broader economic situation of farmers, who cultivate "drug crops"
due not only to rural poverty, lack of access to markets for legal products
and unsuitable soil for many other crops, but also because the illicit
plants are an integral part of the cultures, traditions and religious
of those people.
"Best Practices" in Law Enforcement
According to the UNODC,
its Law Enforcement Section is designed to ensure uniformity of approaches
and the application of best practice in all UNODC projects containing
a law enforcement component. It acts as a liaison between the UNODC and
its international law enforcement partners, such as Interpol and the World
The Law Enforcement section of the UN Vienna office also analyses the
results of the Annual Reports Questionnaire (ARQ) submitted by Member
States, as well as reports of significant drug seizures. This information
is eventually used to produce reports on global trends in illicit drug
trafficking and is disseminated in other UN publications. On the eve of
the 46th session of the CND and its Ministerial Segment, the International
Antiprohibitionist League issued its "2003 Updates" a book
that presented a critical reading of publicly available information collected
by the UN
and the U.S. In the study, the IAL tries to expose the failures of
the international drug control regime providing an independent evaluation
of UN figures. At the same time the document tries to address some analysis,
which, if presented without caveats, could in fact mislead the reader.
As an emblematic example the IAL presents the case of drug seizures, which
is systematically considered to be evidence of a decrease of drug circulation.
The relationship between the two indicators is not consequential as the
1 Chapter of the study tries to clarify:
Short-term changes in seizures (for examples, on a yearly basis) in any
particular country, without additional information, such as development
of prices, purities, changes in law enforcement priorities etc., are,
in general, not reliable indicator for changes in trafficking activities.
Larger seizures in a country may reflect a larger volume of drugs in circulation,
but they can also reflect the opposite: because the large seizure, in
itself, would have reduced the amount of drugs available for trafficking.
A number of other factors in a particular year influence the outcome and
can offset underlying trafficking trends, in the absence of detailed information,
price data can help us gain some clarity as drug markets behave similarly
to illicit markets. Rising seizures together with falling prices are an
indication of a growing drug supply. If rising seizures go hand in hand
with rising prices, the information points to a law-enforcement-induced
contracting of the market. This is almost always true as in the short-term
the demand can be considered approximately constant.
The correlation coefficient for opium production (correlated to heroin trafficking) and heroin seizures over the 1980-1998 period and the correlation coefficient for cocoa leaf production correlated to cocaine trafficking) and cocaine seizures over the 1980-1998 period were found to be close to 0.95 (a value of 1 would indicate a perfect fit).
Changes in demand, in general, also correlate with trafficking, irrespective of whether the drug market is considered to be demand or supply-driven. The supply-driven markets are those where the larger the supply, the more drugs are likely to be consumed, whereas the demand-driven markets are those where the larger the demand for drugs, the more drugs will be trafficked. Hence, in variation in seizures are to reflect underlying changes in trafficking activities, changes in demand indicators can be expected to correlate with seizures as well (except for transit countries).
Some empirical evidence points in this direction. For instance, data for the EU (the largest heroin market in economic terms, characterized by a low level of transit trade), show that there is a strong correlation between the number of acute drug-related deaths (which are mostly linked to opiate use) and heroin seizures (correlation coefficient 0.97 over the 1985-1997 period). In other words, the larger the supply of heroin, the better are the chances to seize it; but the overall risk of death from heroin abuse is also greater. Similarly in the world's largest marijuana market (the US, also characterized by the low level of transit trade), cannabis herb seizures and cannabis use among high-school students were found to correlate strongly (correlation coefficient 0.96 over the 1978-1998 period).
All this suggests that seizures statistics, even without additional information, are a relatively good indicator for the identification of trafficking trends once longer period are investigated. To sum up, whatever the problems with the interpretation of seizure date over short term, trafficking activities remain the key underlying parameter to explain changes in seizure of date in the long run. Though there are may be time-lags between increases in trafficking and increases in seizures, which may distort the picture in the short-term, time-lags are not significant once longer periods are considered and data are smoothed to reduce the possibility of accidental shifts in particular years.
Simply put, the higher the seizures, the higher the production, trafficking and prevalence of abuse. Thus, the so-called interception rate can be considered essentially constant over the log term for wide geographical areas.
A similar misrepresentation is often given whenever a decrease in the
number of hectares of land cultivated with illicit crops is linked to
the decrease in the production of drugs. Several national studies have
documented how growers have been able to develop more potent plants that
can produce more narcotic substances with the same amount of raw materials,
other researches have document how crops can be genetically modified to
grow faster. To provide a reliable source of information work, the UNDOC
should review its methodology of investigation radically putting a lot
of effort in the collection of data for their final analysis. In this
exercise the UNODC should take full advantage of independent research
centers and experts that over the years have produced a relevant amount
of work in this field.
The Board has identified that the low availability of certain types of medicine can be related to at least three different factors:
The Board notes that the current global production is ample enough to
meet a significant increase in the demand for narcotic drugs for the world
population. The Board encourages manufacturing countries, in cooperation
with the pharmaceutical industry, to explore ways to make narcotic drugs,
in particular opioids, used for the treatment of pain, more affordable
for countries with scarce financial resources and low levels of consumption.
in the framework of its UN-related activities, the TRP has tried to present its views on the drug questions also in human rights for a. This section contained excerpts from a couple of written statement on the right to development and issues pertaining to economic, social and cultural rights that will be debated at the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which will convene in Geneva, from 15 March to 23 April, 2004.
Abstract from a written statement on item 7 "the right to development"
The Transnational Radical Party (TRP) wishes to bring to attention of the Commission how sometimes efforts to curb illegal activities might pose an impediment to the development of entire societies. In particular the TRP wishes to emphasize how several policies stemming from the three UN Conventions on Narcotic and Psychotropic Drugs have become an obstacle in the development of communities where the raw materials that are eventually used in the preparation of narcotics are grown.
While it is doubtless necessary to adopt and enforce effective measures to control the production, consumption and sale of narcotic substances, the TRP is concerned by the fact that also the plants utilized in the preparation of drugs suffer a regime of total prohibition.
The TRP remains deeply critical of current drugs policies all over the world as it believes that prohibition has not been able to produce the desired effects, i.e. Reduce or contain the production and use of narcotics. These considerations are made on a critical reading of the figures produced annually by the United Nations itself. The TRP believes that,after some four decades of prohibition, the time as come to reconsider the philosophical and political approach on the drug question. the whole legal arsenal of the three UN Conventions is in dire need of a radical revision.
The decision to include coca bush and cannabis derivatives in Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, has had a devastating impact on the life, tradition and culture of ethnic and religious groups all over the world. In the Andes as well as in several regions of Asia and the Caribbean, both products have been considered a basic part of local culture, medicine and cuisine, not to mention religion, their prohibition has outlawed a significant part of those communities' tradition and heritage.
In 1998, at ten years of the adoption of the 1988 convention, the United Nations General Assembly convened a special session to address the drugs question. The forum agreed on a plan of action that set 2008 as the target date for a "Drug Free World". Last year, the 46th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, far from taking into consideration the lack of progress in eradicating narcotics the world over, convened a ministerial segment where the entirety of the policies launched in 1998, where reaffirmed. Among these, there are dozens of programmes of so-called alternative development.
The United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), formerly known as United Nations Office on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP), has been active in the implementation of measures to promote alternative development in Latin America and South East Asia for many years now. Contrarily to what hoped, none of these programmes have been successful in containing the production of coca bush or cannabis. Moreover, once international aid to promote alternative crops, mainly coffee and bananas, was withdrawn those experiments failed remain active and running.
The TRP believes that prohibiting the production of coca bush and cannabis, but also opium for that matter,has proven to be a substantial obstacle in the full and sustainable development of peasants communities in the Andean region as well as in huge parts of Africa and Asia.
Furthermore, prohibition has no serious scientific grounds. The TRP urges the Commission to reach out to the World Health Organization - which in 1995 prepared a study on coca leaf and cocaine, where the legal uses of the plant where presented from a scientific viewpoint, and which in 1997 produced a paper on cannabis and its derivatives - to establish a dialogue on the possible ways to promote the alternative development of those plants. Alternative to the production of narcotic substances that is. Such a dialogue should also interest the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to finally compile a document to call for an assessment of current drug control policies in view of an evaluation of the effectiveness of prohibitionist measures.
TRP's concerns go beyond the right to development of communities in Latin America. In fact, the TRP believes that the lack of freedom to cultivate a plant that is considered sacred and that is traditionally fundamental in the culture of the Andes, and the failure of alternative development programmes, have been a cause for worrying instability and violence in the past years in the region. The TRP believes that allowing alternative development of traditional plants can not only address the legitimate demands of entire communities to live a decent and legal life, but also defuse the tensions that could lead to violent and bloody confrontations. Legally controlled production of coca leaf could also deprive guerrilla, para-military and terrorist groups from a major source of income.
Same should apply for poppy seeds in Central and South East Asia, where not only it remains the most lucrative cash crop, but also it has been, and to a certain extent still is, the major source of financing for terrorist groups. In a study issued in may 2003, by the International Monetary Fund on Afghanistan, it is said that Opium-related revenues amount to almost half of the Gross Domestic Product of the country. This, the TRP, believes, could be addressed in creating a legal market for the raw substance. The alternative development of opium could have an impact in the production of heroin.
Measures to allow a more traditional development in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, should also be paralleled by a different approach to the consumption of narcotics. The TRP believes that a balanced approach to both ends of the question might indeed trigger a much needed and awaited different control of narcotic and psychotropic substances all over the world.
The TRP hopes that the Commission will look into the issue also from the perspective suggested in this paper, with a view of initiating a more comprehensive and secular debate on the matter of drug control involving other UN bodies and specialized agencies in the exercise.
Abstract from a written statement on item 10 "Economic, social and cultural rights"
The TRP is also particularly concerned by the lack of freedom to live, develop and prosper according to their ancient cultures and traditions for dozens of communities living in central and Latin America, where plants used for the production of narcotic drugs grow. In fact, the international legal arsenal created with the adoption of the 1961, 1971 and 1988 UN Conventions on Narcotics prohibits the cultivation of coca bush in the same way cocaine is prohibited.
The TRP, which has always been particularly critical of prohibition on drugs - as it believe that after some three decades of failures, the time has come to initiate a process of comprehensive reform of current drug control policies - believes that coca bus, as well as poppy seed and cannabis, should be reclassified from schedule I to schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances in order to allow thousands of peasants to grow their traditional product legally for its production of goods other than narcotics. Coca bush can be used to produce flour, condiments, medicines, dietary supplements, tea and paper, among other things.
Coca leaf, but also cannabis derivatives, is also part of many religious traditions in the Andes, its prohibition has also a dramatic impact on the cultural rights on thousands of people, who, oftentimes, live at the margin of their countries' social life. The TRP welcomes a more pragmatic approach shown by some countries during the last few years, but remains particularly concerned by the fact that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs has not taken them into due consideration and has refused to foster a debate along the lines of economic, social and cultural rights concerning those regions where raw materials are grown.
For a number of years, the TRP has tried to raise the issue of a comprehensive assessment of the current drug control regime, convinced as it is that it has not been able to deliver what "promised". In doing this the TRP has tried to reach out to different constituencies to engage them in a debate on the philosophy of prohibition and on the possible alternatives, identifying in the legal control of production, consumption and sale of all drugs the ultimate proposal.
Keeping 2008 as a crucial deadline for this exercise, at an international conference organized at the European Parliament, in October 2002, together with the IAL, the TRP launched a campaign to promote a reform of the three UN Conventions on Narcotics. In December of the same year, a document adopted at the EP Conference was introduced by Member of the European Parliament Marco Cappato (Radicals, Italy) as a recommendation to the European Council of Foreign Ministers with the support of 110 MEPs. At the beginning of 2003 the same text was introduced as a parliamentary resolution in the Parliaments of Canada, Colombia, Greece and New Zealand. As of March 2004, 250 legislators have endorsed the document.
In January 2001 the parliamentary resolution became an international petition to the Secretary-General and the Member States of the UN and signed online by over 10,000 people from 116 countries.
Far from being activities to promote the use or abuse of illicit substances, TRP antiprohibitionist actions are carried out to raise issues of legality and to honor the rule of law in a liberal-democratic context.
A. Whereas drugs policies at the international level are derived from the United Nations Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988, and whereas these conventions prohibit in particular the production, trafficking, sale and consumption of a whole range of substances other than for medical or scientific purposes;
B. Considering that, despite the massive amount of police power and other resources devoted to the application of such UN Conventions, the production, consumption and trafficking of prohibited substances have increased exponentially over the last 30 years, which constitute a genuine failure as police and prison authorities also recognize.
In regard to prevention and treatment:
In regard to production and trafficking:
In regard to social and health aspects and consumption:
In regard to legal and prison issues:
- the implementation of current drugs policies leads to the introduction into national law of rules that restrict individual freedom and civil liberties;
- the soundness of current policies and the search for alternative solutions are currently under consideration in an increasing number of countries;
1. Maintain that the drug prohibition policy stemming from the UN
Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 is the actual cause of the increasing
damage which the production, trafficking, sale and consumption of illegal
substances inflict on entire sections of society, the economy as well
as public institutions, thus undermining health, freedom and individuals'