UNGASS 2016: Plenary statement on behalf of the Council of Europe (Pompidou Group) and national statement

President, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the 37 member states of the Pompidou group. The Pompidou Group is a Council of Europe entity that upholds the core values of the Council of Europe; those of human rights, democracy and rule of law.

The Pompidou Group finds it of extreme importance and relevance to remind that drug policy – as all other policy fields – must be developed, implemented and evaluated in light of and in full respect of the fundamental human rights.

The Pompidou Group notes that Human Rights are highlighted in the outcome document of the UNGASS, and expects the follow-up process to take this fully into account, and to contribute to the task of defining the impact of human rights on the field of drug policy where this is unclear.

The Pompidou Group welcomes the fact that the UNGASS outcome document is based on the concept of a balanced approach to drug policies.

In the follow-up process, both at international and national level, the relevant authorities need to perform objective and continuous monitoring and evaluation of the efforts to reduce drug problems in order to assess whether there are imbalances to be rectified.

The Pompidou Group expects the follow-up process will include scientific work and evidence based practical tools with the aim of enabling member states to evaluate the cost benefit ratio of the different measures they implement at national level.

The Pompidou Group takes this opportunity to recall a few areas where human rights need to shape and impact on drug policy. There should be no compromise with the fact that people who use drugs should enjoy the same rights under the existing international human rights instruments as all other persons.

First and foremost, the application of the death penalty for drug related offences is not in line with human rights obligations.

Secondly, the application of in-humane punishment and torture for drug related offences is not in line with human rights obligations.

Thirdly, people who use drugs have an uncontested right to equitable access to health care services for their drug addiction and other drug or non-drug related health problems.

The Pompidou Group expects the follow-up process of the UNGASS to take this fully into account, and expects all relevant actors to dedicate themselves to work towards the abolition of the use of death penalty for drug related offences, the abolition of in-human punishment and torture, and ensuring access to treatment and rehabilitation as well as risk and harm reduction measures for all, including those in prison settings, in order to minimise health and social consequences of drug use.

The Pompidou Group welcomes the UNGASS follow-up process, and would like to underscore the expectations for an open debate recognizing human rights as fundamental for a coherent balanced drug policy that facilitates an awareness of both the positive and unintended effects of different measures implemented to address the world drug problem.

I would further like to make the following statement in my national capacity:

President,

The preparations for this event have been long and intense. My thanks go to all involved.

The draft of the UNGASS outcome document agreed in Vienna last month was an important step. Norway had, however, hoped for a more forward-looking outcome.

The UNGASS-process has attracted enormous attention and interest. This provides an excellent basis for our preparations for 2019. We are pleased that the international debate has increasingly placed a focus on health and wellbeing.

Human rights must inspire all our work. We are pleased to note that human rights are reflected in the outcome document, although Norway would have liked to see stronger language. We regret that it was not possible to agree on language on death penalty. Norway strongly opposes the death penalty and will continue to work for its abolition.

Moreover, we register positive developments regarding access to controlled medicines. The problem concerning lack of availability, accessibility and affordability, seems to be acknowledged as a first step. What remains is to fully ensure their availability to those in need.

The outcome document welcomes, as do we, the Sustainable Development Goals as "complementary and mutually reinforcing" to drug control, and recommends "the use of relevant human development indicators".

While all these represent positive developments, some issues are still not dealt with adequately.

Firstly, we expected harm reduction to be recognized, accepted and brought into the document. However, we do recognize that the outcome document includes references to programs compatible with this approach: naloxone and overdose prevention, "medication-assisted therapy programs" and "injecting equipment programs".

18 years have passed since the previous UN special session on drugs. We still face huge challenges on almost all measurable indicators. Therefore: Have we sufficiently assessed why our approach has failed to meet our stated goals, and whether we need to re-address the drug challenge?

The world drug problem is a multifactorial phenomenon. A successful approach requires coordinated contribution from several sectors – at local, national and international levels. We must think health in all policies.

Real involvement and participation of the wider UN is necessary to ensure an effective global drug policy that puts humans first. This requires coherence between drug control and security, human rights, public health and development policies.

This work should be under the leadership of the Secretary General and done at principals level – in the UN Chief Executives Board. Continued and strengthened civil society involvement will also be a key factor.

In sum; heading for 2019, we need to be more ambitious. Some elements of our approach work well, but need to be strengthened. Other elements must be questioned. New ones must be subject to an open-minded debate.

Our overall goal, to promote health in all policies, must inform our debate forward to a larger extent than it has so far.

Thank you.