The entire United Nations (UN) family of agencies has for the first time adopted a common position on drug policy that endorses decriminalisation of possession and use. On Tuesday, the Chief Executives Board (CEB) of the UN, representing 31 UN agencies, issued a statement calling on member states to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use”.
The 31 agencies include the World Health Organisation, the UN Human Rights office and even the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the lead UN agency on drug policy – the latter of which had previously held an ambiguous position on decriminalisation.
Transform, the drug policy foundation, welcomed the news, saying: “The statement makes it makes clear that attempting to eradicate drug use through criminalisation of people who use drugs is neither effective nor humane – and it must end.
“It recognises that human rights, public health and development are better served by adopting a more compassionate approach to substance use. It represents an effort by the entire UN leadership to point the way to more effective and humane drug policies.”
The statement comes ahead of a UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting, which will review the 10-year UN global drug strategy and agree plans for the next one. The CEB’s call for decriminalisation goes beyond the existing member state consensus positions, which call only for “alternatives to punishment and incarceration”.
The statement is of course a recommendation to member states and so is not a legal treaty mandate. Neither does it make any recommendations regarding regulation. But it is a positive step nonetheless.