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

Introduction

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:

  • examine current challenge to peace and security
  • consider the contribution which collective action can make in addressing these challenges
  • review the functioning of major organs of UN and the relationship between them
  • recommend ways of strengthening the UN and reform of its institutions and processes.

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.
Since the convening of the UNGA Special Session on narcotics (UNGASS), the UN has continued to address the drug question form the same angle without attempting any real assessment of the actual outcome of the current drug control regime. This position paper, which is released on the eve of the 47th session of the Commission on Narcotics (CND), addresses some of the major issues related to drug control, isussues, the TRP believes, which also need a radical reform if they want to successfully counter the problems related to narcotics.
TRP drug-related activities has been often time characterized as action in favor of the use of drugs or to gain support of Narco-Mafias. Contrarily to that mis-representation, radical anti-prohibitionism aims at devising more pragmatic and, possibly, effective ways to deal with drugs and what surrounds them.

Inherent Problems of Supply and Demand Reduction and Alternative Development
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reducing the supply and availability of illicit drugs as well as the demand for them, is an essential component of the fight against drug abuse. The UNODC seeks to limit the cultivation, production, trafficking and distribution of drugs. In the intention of the UN, Supply reduction projects also seek to broaden regional cooperation between governments in response to cross-border trafficking, strengthen border controls by providing modern equipment and develop training in "best practice" law enforcement procedures.
Demand reduction strategies seek to prevent the onset of drug use, help drug users break the habit and provide treatment through rehabilitation and social reintegration. At the 1998 UNGASS, Member States recognized that reducing the demand for drugs was an essential pillar in the stepped-up global effort to fight drug abuse and trafficking. They committed themselves to eradicate both the supply of and demand for drugs by 2008, as expressed in the Political Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction
Moreover, efforts to reduce the supply of drugs should include encouraging those who cultivate illicit crops such as the opium poppy or coca plant, to switch to other profitable crops and alternative sources of income. This goal is achieved through alternative development projects, community development, natural resource management and income-generating projects.
The current international "drug control" regime finds in the "philosophy of prohibition", which is at the basis of the three UN Conventions on Drugs, its guiding principles. For over four decades, the international community has devoted substantial resources and efforts to combating the production, consumption and trafficking of all the plants and their derivatives that are listed in the four schedules of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Year after year, the United Nations has produced estimates and trends concerning the presence of narcotics in the world that have documented a steady increase in the production and consumption of all natural and chemical drugs and their relentless global spread.
The UNODC, which until 2001 was known as UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP), has duly carried out its mandate in trying to devise projects and programs to implement the documents adopted by the CND and the UNGASS limiting itself to the strict interpretation of such a task. The TRP believes that, far from being the initiator of a process of reform, the Vienna Office should facilitate a dialogue on the needs and constraints of the current "drug control" regime in order to allow some major changes to take place. The UNODC should candidate itself to become a forum where the UN and its specialized agencies, its Member States, concerned organizations and independent experts could meet to address drug-related issues in a frank, secular and open-minded debate.
On the basis of the latest World Drug Reports and the various country reports, the UNODC should reach out to other UN agencies such as UNDP, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, but also the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to devise a mechanism capable to assess the outcomes of the current "drug control" regime in oder to evaluate the possibility to initiate a process of reform, which might lead to a more comprehensive revision of the international legal arsenal contained in the UN Conventions. This process should address supply and demand reduction, as well as alternative development in a more comprehensive framework that takes into consideration issues related to individual rights, development, the environment, health-related matters as well as the the international campaign to combat terrorism.

Demand Reduction

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.
The UNODC should reach out to the relevant ministries of those pioneering countries that have decided to incorporate harm reduction into their drug control strategy to consult with them on the possibility to propose some of the most successful projects as models for other countries where, for instance, the spread of intravenous drugs is a major drive of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The provision of health services for individuals who have a problem with the consumption and/or abuse of narcotics has proved to be effective in limiting cases of overdoses, at time reducing the death rate up to 50%; moreover, those programs have also been instrumental in containing the spread of hematic diseases.
The systematic application of "harm reduction" has been instrumental in creating a context where individuals with a drug problem are not criminalized but helped in their trying to cope with consumption and/or addiction and related problems. A reduction in the harms caused by drug consumption, which oftentimes has also been complemented by a de facto or de jure depenalization of personal consumption, has also proven to be less expensive than other measures that privilege law enforcement.
These interesting developments have triggered a debate on the "legality" of harm reduction, some contend that it violates the three UN Conventions, others believe that the harm reduction can be interpreted as a medical use of the illicit substances. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which for years have been extremely critical of any type of diversion from the spirit and letter of the Conventions, over the years has developed a "doctrine" that in a way "tolerates" harm reduction as long as it is not considered the only measure to reduce the demand of narcotics. Unfortunately programs of needle exchange are considered to be outside the Conventions.
In countries where these alternative approaches have been implemented, the general climate surrounding the use of drugs has also changed allowing public debates on the subject that have proven to be effective in the prevention of consumption and in raising awareness on its risks.

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.
Furthermore, the usual alternative to coca bush has been coffe beans and bananas; over the last few years, both products have seen a surplus in the world production that has caused a drastic decrease in their profitability, therefore annulling the economic argument in favor of the substitution. Lastly, when it comes to agricultural products, the tariff system imposes an unfair burden on developing nations. Rich markets such as Europe and North America are particularly protected in those sectors.
In the framework of its work towards the promotion of "alternative development", the UNODC should carry out a feasibility study to assess the possible alternative development of the plants that are used to produce narcotics. In fact, not only coca leaf, but also poppy seeds and cannabis, can be used to produce medicines of different sorts, but they can, as they have been for hundreds of years, used in the production of goods such as tea, flour, condiments, paper, fabric, gums, chewing gum as well as different dietary supplements.
The alternative use of the illicit plants may trigger positive outcomes:

  • it will remain within the local culture and tradition (at times sacred) of dozens of groups, including ethnic minorities, that live throughout the Andes or in Asia;
  • it will not imply an "intrusion" in a region's economy with techniques and or producing habits that do not belong to that part of the world;
  • it will provide a particularly environmentally-friendly industry that could facilitate the development of rural areas in their eventual industrialization in a context that respects local customs and practices;
  • it will take away the business from the criminal networks that today control and blackmail peasants that are involved in illegal activities;
  • a conversion of programs of supply reduction to curb the production of illicit crops into alternative development of the illicit plants, would also be instrumental in ceasing the negative impact of eradication techniques, namely aerial fumigations, which causes dramatic health and environmental problems in several areas of the Andes.

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.
Working together with other UN agencies such as UNDP and international donors, the UNOCD should take into consideration those possible "alternative" developments with a view of reviewing radically its "alternative development" and "supply reduction" programs turning them into pilot projects for the alternative development of illicit plants. Should those pilots produce positive evidence of such options, the UNODC should transmit its findings to the Economic and Social Council and the CND for their consideration and eventual debate.

"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 Customs Organization.
The TRP urges the Law Enforcement Section to reserve particular attention in the information sharing on best practices data from those countries, such as Belgium, Canada, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, to name a few, where non-violent drug offenders are not prosecuted under criminal law. These innovative approaches should be studied at two levels:

  • to assess the impact of the non penalization on individual habits, i.e. drug consumption, on increase of narcotics abuse and its related problems;
  • to assess the efficiency of the employment of the police to combat drug trafficking rather than consumers or petty criminals.

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:
[...] Seizures are, in fact, a reflection of both the success of enforcement agencies and the visible tip of a much larger iceberg of drug supply and trafficking. This 'double nature' of seizures may create confusion in the interpretation of such statistics for the identification of trends.

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.
Over a longer period, and using broader geographical units (regional or global) as a basis for investigation, as well as some simple smoothing techniques, trends in seizures do tend to highly correlate positively with a number of other drug indicators that are linked both to trafficking and to abuse.

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 INCB's 2004 Report Fails to Address Ineffectiveness of International Drug Control Regime
On March 2, 2004, the INCB issued its Annual Report that surveys the ways in which countries that have ratified the UN Conventions on Drugs implement the provisions contained in the international documents. On the basis of an anticipation issued by the INCB, on 5 March, the TRP and the IAL issued a critical reading of the general content of the Report pointing out how the Board fails to take into consideration the magnitude of the failures of the current system. The INCB should honor its mandate also assessing the overall outcome of the current drug control system, which in over four decades has not been able to limit the production, consumption and trafficking of those substances that have been outlawed by the UN Conventions. The members of the Board should facilitate the opening of a scientific, economic and technical debate, which should benefit from the expertise that they represent.
The 2004 Report focuses on crime, harm reduction, cyber-trafficking, pain killers, chemical control and regional situations. The INCB acknowledges the relationship between violence and illicit drug abuse as "highly complex" and points out that it needs to be examined keeping a range of factors in mind. The Report maintains that a demonstrable link to violence and crime exists in that some drug addicts resort to violence either to fund their habits or indeed as a result of the psycho-pharmacological impact of some illicit drugs. However, based on controlled laboratory-based experiments, INCB stresses that it is very difficult and misleading to suggest a direct causal link between violence and illicit drug ingestion. This link has to be examined with reference to culturally and socially situated factors, that, in turn, influence an individual's behaviour.
Among the INCB's recommendations there are community-based drug demand reduction policies with particular attention to drug abuse prevention in combination with a range of social, economic and law enforcement measures including : creating a local environment that is not conducive to drug dealing and micro-trafficking, supporting local efforts at employment and licit income generation, educational programs targeting socially marginalized groups, and integrated as well as targeted intervention work with risk groups.
The Board reserves particular attention to harm reduction policies calling on Governments which intend to include "harm reduction" measures into their demand reduction strategy to "carefully analyse the overall impact of such measures" as these may "sometimes be positive for an individual or for a local community while having far-reaching negative consequences at the national and international levels." In reaction to specific harm reduction measures, such as the establishment and/or operation of drug injection rooms the Board points out that "the operation of such facilities remains a source of grave concern" and "reiterates that they violate the provisions of the international drug control conventions."
Throughout the 1990s, several countries have implemented various measures to reduce the harms provoked by drugs, which in the end are the final product of prohibition; despite the successes obtained by projects and programs carried out with public support in countries like Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, the UN has never acknowledged the progress and successes of those alternative measures that have tried to treat drug users as patients rather than criminals creating an environment that, far from promoting the use of narcotics, provides them with safe and secure places where to cope with their habits.
After some 15 years, the INCB continues to chastise programs that have proven effective and successful in saving lives and in presenting drugs consumption not as a human activity to be criminalized, but rather as a health problem that needs to be dealt by physicians and social workers and not law enforcement officials. Although the Board's role is to monitor the application of the Conventions, it is quite surprising that a group of distinguished experts and scholars has never believe it appropriate to suggest a revision of the Conventions when confronted with programs that, while being in contradiction with the spirit and letter of the Conventions, save human beings and assist individuals with peculiar problems and their families and communities to live a less degraded existence.
Virtually no attention is paid to the link between Intravenous drug users and HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is occurring against the background of a range of other crises and transformations many of them rooted in social and structural inequalities that complicate the pandemic, should deserve more attention from the entity that is in charge of controlling the implementation on the Conventions.
The Report also draws its attention to a continued increase in cyber-trafficking of pharmaceutical products containing internationally controlled substances. Internet pharmacies, which can operate from any part of the world, play a major role in the increasing illicit supply of pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Illegally operating Internet pharmacies do not require a doctor's prescription or just offer on-line or telephone consultations.
Citing "uneven" and "lax" implementation of laws governing the Internet, the Board urges Governments to take a more proactive stand. To support legal action Governments should ensure that the offer for illicit trafficking and the diversion of pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances via the Internet are established as criminal offences. The Board also goes as far as pointing to the "dangerously widespread perception" that "misuse and abuse of pharmaceutical products is not as harmful as the abuse of illicitly manufactured drugs." The Board expresses its concerns on the fact that the judiciary in many countries still does not attribute adequate severity to diversions and trafficking of licit controlled substances. Far from studying the real impact of the current prohibitionist regime, the Board calls for an escalation in toughness vis-à-vis law enforcement urging prosecutors, judges and the police to do more in their fight against illicit as well as licit drugs.
Particular attention is also given to synthetic drugs and the launch of a new war on them. In fact, the INCB calls upon all governments concerned to join forces in combating the problem of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) abuse through Project Prism, a worldwide operation to prevent diversions of "precursor" chemicals needed by traffickers for clandestine manufacture of ATS. Regional operations were started under the umbrella of Project Prism in January 2003. These activities reinforce the existing tracking programmes, which were introduced by INCB a decade ago, to prevent diversions of methamphetamine precursors from licit international trade. Project Prism also follows the launches of Operation Purple in 2001 and Operation Topaz in 2002 which focused on the control of the chemical precursors for cocaine and heroin. As a sort of magic tool, the Project Prism is designed to give governments the capacity to address the ATS problem through a two-pronged approach: preventing illicit manufacture of the substances by stopping traffickers from obtaining the chemicals they require, and, identifying and dismantling the laboratories where such manufacture already takes place, by using a variety of law enforcement investigative techniques, such as controlled deliveries. The name sounds good but the recipe is the same. One can bet on the outcome...
Among the tasks for the Board there is the one of monitoring and ensuring that an adequate supply of narcotic drugs exists for licit medical purposes. Without acknowledging any contradictions with its previous recommendations, the INCB warns that the availability and consumption of some essential narcotic drugs, particularly opioids, which are used for pain treatment, including palliative care, remains extremely low in many countries worldwide.

The Board has identified that the low availability of certain types of medicine can be related to at least three different factors:

  1. unnecessarily strict rules and regulations created an impediment for providing adequate access of populations to certain controlled drugs in some countries;
  2. the negative perception about controlled drugs among medical professionals and patients in many countries has limited their rational use
  3. the lack of economic means and insufficient resources for health care has resulted in inadequate medical treatment, including the use of narcotic drugs.

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.
Finally, the Board presents a survey of the world. The Report gives particular attention to Afghanistan, noting how, despite the armed intervention and the political change in the country, as well as the fight against terror, illicit cultivation of and trafficking in opiates has grown. This may result in more political instability. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan continued on an even larger scale in 2003. As a result of two years of bumper crops of opium poppy in Afghanistan, it is expected that heroin trafficking along the Balkan route and through Eastern Europe will continue to increase - this, the Board says, may also lead to the reversal of the declining trends in the abuse of heroin in Western Europe.
The Board also recognizes the link between drugs and armed insurrections, something that has characterized world affairs for a couple of decades now; in fact it says that information gathered from conflict-stricken countries, in particular the Central African Republic, the Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, indicates that arms and ammunitions used by rebel groups and criminal organizations may have been partially procured with the proceeds of illicit drug trafficking. The situation is particularly grim in Southern America, where the increased focus on the political threat of the drug problem has led many Governments to devote an ever-increasing proportion of their limited resources to reducing illicit drug supply, including the eradication of illicit crops, the interdiction of drug trafficking and the introduction of measures against money-laundering. No assessment of evaluation of the costs and effectiveness of such an approach is provided.
In conclusion, the Board failed to take into consideration new trends, experiments and policies and their positive outcomes limiting itself to the mere monitoring of the UN Conventions. While the TRP is aware that that is its main task, it believes that acknowledging problems should also be at the center of a body of experts that are working towards the goal of finding ways to devise a more effective system of drug controls.


Documents presented by the TRP before the 60th UN Commission on Human Rights

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.


A worldwide campaign to reform "drug control"

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.


Text of the Appeal for an Anti-prohibitionist Reform of the UN Conventions on Drugs

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:

Whereas:
- the abuse of drugs, especially by young people, is a serious problem around the world,
- all civilized nations are seeking better methods to control drug abuse,
- the long history of prohibition has conclusively demonstrated that reliance primarily on governmental action, through the criminal law and the police, has only marginal effect on the control of drug abuse,
- there is strong evidence, furthermore, that effective treatment programs should be developed largely free of governmental restraints, thus allowing for the widest possible experimentation in the never-ending search to improve their ability to assist the victims of drug abuse.

In regard to production and trafficking:

Whereas:
- the great majority of narcotics move freely around the world in defiance of prohibition laws,
- the increasing profits which criminal organizations derive from trade in illegal substances and which are ploughed back into criminal activities or legal financial circuits have reached such magnitude that the foundations of legal bodies and constitutional government are being undermined,
- the profitability of the trade in illegal substances can only lead to an increase in the number of countries involved in drug production and generate massive investment in research into, and the production of, new chemical drugs, and
- the main effect of deploying large amounts of resources to curb the traffic in illegal substances has triggered an increase of the selling price (the crime tariff) to the sole benefit of organized criminal networks.

In regard to social and health aspects and consumption:

Whereas:
- consumers of illegal substances usually lack any reliable information concerning the composition and effects of the narcotics and that they are consequently exposed to risks (including death as a result of overdoses and infection by HIV/AIDS) which far outstrip the dangerous nature of the substances themselves,
- the clandestine nature of the consumption of illegal substances is an often-insurmountable obstacle to prevention work as well as to the provision of assistance by public authorities and private organizations; current policies therefore condemn consumers to live at the edge of society, in permanent contact with the criminal underworld,
- organized crime acts in such a way that the number of consumers increases rapidly and they are encouraged to move on from relatively harmless substances, such as cannabis derivatives, to the consumption of the so-called hard drugs, and
- extreme financial need and pressure from the world of organized crime lead consumers of illegal substances to become dealers themselves, which increases drug abuse even further.

In regard to legal and prison issues:

Whereas:
- the application of repressive drugs laws eventually places unbearable pressure on the national and international legal and prison system to the extent that large numbers of those currently detained in prisons are charged with penalties directly or indirectly related to drugs, and;

- 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' lives;
2. Urge the Secretary-General and of the Member States of the UN to consider the positive results obtained through the implementation of policies in several countries, which involve harm and risk reduction (in particular through the administration of substitute substances), the decriminalisation of the consumption of certain substances, the partial decriminalisation of the sale of cannabis and its derivatives, and the medically controlled distribution of heroin;
3. Call on the Secretary-General and of the Member States of the UN to take action in order to make the fight against organized crime and drugs trafficking more effective, establishing a system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal;
4. Call on the Secretary-General and of the Member States of the UN to initiate a process of revision of the UN Conventions, in order to reform or amend the 1961 and 1971 Conventions, with the aim of re-classifying substances and providing for other uses of drugs than only for medical and scientific purposes to be legal, and to repeal the 1988 Convention.