Global Drug Policy
Global Drug Policy Campaign
The War on Drugs has spread beyond the United States to become one of the most alarming and destructive global humanitarian crises of our time. All around the world, young people are among the most affected populations of people affected by international commitments to failed drug control policies. SSDP amplifies the voices of those young people calling for an approach towards drugs grounded in human rights, compassion towards people who use drugs, and scientific-based evidence. We are also committed to sharing the stories and lessons young people from the most impacted areas of the world have to share.
Spanning the globe, SSDP chapters exist in more than a dozen countries, each impacted in its own unique way by the global drug trade. International SSDP chapters coordinate actions, share lessons, and support each other as they advocate for reform in their communities. SSDP members have experienced the negative impacts of drug policy at all levels and work to combat relevant issues through education, awareness, and policy change.
SSDP participates in significant meetings on drug policy such as the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and the 2016 Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem. We also help coordinate youth participation in global campaigns such as Support. Don’t Punish and International Overdose Awareness Day. We seek to connect young people around the world who are passionate about changing the way their communities deal with drugs, giving them the tools and resources necessary to carry their voices into the United Nations itself.
If you are interested in participating in any of SSDP’s international actions, send an email to email@example.com.
Amplifying the Youth Voice at the United Nations
Since 2011 SSDP has been an ECOSOC accredited NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, putting us in a unique position to provide a platform for young people to speak out at the highest level of international decision making. Each year we find more ways to amplify the youth voice at major UN sessions, meetings, and events. SSDP is also a member of both the New York NGO Committee on Drugs and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, and we work regularly with our allies in civil society that are committed to enacting more humane drug policies throughout the world.
Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND)
Over the past several years, SSDP students (along with staff & alumni) have attended the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna, Austria. The CND serves as the governing body of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In this role, the CND supervises the implementation of the international drug control treaties and approves the budget of the Fund of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the resources available to the United Nations for drug control.
At the UN, drug control policies are often justified in the name of protecting young people. While the UNODC Youth Forum has served as a very limited outlet for youth voices, SSDP has noted that the voices of young people are often absent from drug policy discussions. One of our major goals at CND is to empower young people to speak for themselves as destructive policies are being implemented in their name. We insist that all conversations around drugs should be as inclusive of youth, the demographic most affected by inhumane drug policies, as possible. Our members stand up for the rights of drug users and argue that not only is the goal of a ”drug free world” unachievable, but that the idea is ultimately at odds with the human rights obligations all UN member states must abide by.
Since 2014, SSDP has hosted a side event with our global allies on topics related to youth and drug policies. Check out some of SSDP’s most recent side events at CND here:
Are Drug Policies Protecting Youth? – CND 2016
Protecting Youth from Drug Policy – CND 2015
Protecting Youth with Drug Policy – CND 2014
At the most recent CND in March 2016, we released a Global Youth Consultation report along with our allies in CSSDP, SSDPUK, YODA, and Youth Rise. The consultation, which was endorsed by 100 other civil society organizations prior to UNGASS, calls on UN member states to stop trying to create a better tomorrow for the world’s youth, and rather start creating a better tomorrow with the world’s youth. A summary of this report was presented on the floor of CND in a statement given by SSDP Ambassador Sara Velimirovic.
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS), held in New York City from April 19-21, was an opportunity for the global community to debate the effectiveness of the International Drug Control Conventions. The last two Special Sessions were held in 1998, where member states agreed on a Political Declaration on Drug Control, and 2009, where member states agreed on a new Political Declaration and Plan of Action. The UNGASS was originally scheduled to be held in 2019; however in 2012, the presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala called upon the UN to move the session up to 2016 in order to call attention to the increasingly violent behavior of cartels and police in the region.
As part of our preparations for UNGASS, SSDP sought to educate students about the potential impacts of the session in a unique, interactive format. During the 2015 Reform conference, SSDP students participated in a two day Model UN style simulation of April’s United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). Students each picked a country to represent, studied up on the drug policies and positions of those countries towards the international drug conventions, and were placed in one of three committees on the first day to vote on recommendations the committees would present to the General Assembly. On the second day, all delegates met together for a General Assembly session to debate and vote on a final outcome document. The topics debated included ending the death penalty for drug offenses, implementing harm reduction practices such as syringe exchanges or naloxone access, and the environmental effects of aerial eradication.
For the 60+ students and alumni who participated in Model UNGASS, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the drug policies of a new country while also preparing for the real deal in April.
At UNGASS, SSDP seeked to amplify the youth voice and ensure that young people had a place in the discussions. The day before the UNGASS kicked off, we organized a youth demonstration outside the UN with over 150 people present. There, we gave the stage over to young people who had stories and feelings to share about the UNGASS in a soap-box style platform. Check out some of the best pictures here, and see some of the highlights in a video produced by Drug Reporter.
SSDP was able to bring over a dozen current students & alumni inside the UN for all three days of UNGASS, joining with our global youth allies to form a coalition of about 30 young people. We were given the impression that the UNGASS would be an open, inclusive, and impartial avenue to discuss much-needed reforms to the global approach to drugs, and that there would be a place at the session for young people to share their own experiences. Instead, what we experienced was a disorganized mess of a session that saw our delegation repeatedly ignored and insulted. It was clear to us that just like at CND, youth at UNGASS were encouraged to be seen, not heard.
The results of UNGASS were mixed. While the session initially appeared to be a victory on paper for the status quo, it was easy to see that support for the international drug control regime is decreasing around the world. The strong presence of civil society organizations both inside and outside the session and the number of member states upset that the UNGASS outcome document was approved a month before the session even began demonstrates that the global community is rallying behind the idea that a public health, harm reduction-based approach to drugs is the best way to protect children, provide support to people with addictions, and stop the harm of a racist criminal justice system.
For more on UNGASS, check out these links:
- University of Copenhagen SSDP’s short film, The Movement, chronicles the people who make up the movement pushing to end the War on Drugs.
- Here is Everything That Happened During UNGASS Week, by SSDP Outreach Coordinator Jake Agliata
- How the UN Drugs Summit Excluded Young Voices and Failed Youth All Over the World, by SSDP Board Member Sarah Merrigan
- In Drug Policy Debates, Youth are Often Seen, but Not Heard, also by Sarah Merrigan
- Censorship and Exclusion on Day One of UN Special Session on Drugs, by Diane Goldstein of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
- The Drug Consensus is Not Pretty – It’s been Ripped Apart at the Seams, by IDPC Executive Director Ann Fordham
Taking Action Around the Globe
Solidarity with Ayotzinapa
On September 26, 2014, unidentified gunmen believed to be members of the municipal police from two towns, federal police, and the army attacked a group of students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa. These students were studying to be rural teachers in an area of Mexico that is often neglected by the federal government, and were on their way to a protest in Mexico City to commemorate the October 2nd, 1968 Tlatelolco massacre of university students who were demonstrating in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Based on phone records, around 6 members of the police and at least 1 member of the army had contact with the Guerreros Unidos cartel. The result of the attack was 6 students dead, 25 injured, and 43 more still missing two years later. Since then, justice has escaped the families of the slain and missing as the Mexican government has yet to launch a credible investigation into the attack, and no one has been criminally charged. Meanwhile, the alleged perpetrator of the attack, Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca, remains uncharged after resigning his position and fleeing the town, even after he was discovered taking refuge in Mexico City.
In the weeks after the initial attacks, the SSDP network took action by organizing a series of candlelight vigils to honor the victims of Ayotzinapa, including one vigil that took place outside the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC. A student from Guadalajara, Mexico shared his thoughts on what transpired, and pleaded for support from young people around the world. We also published an open letter to the people of Mexico that was shared with the Mexican ambassador and publically posted on our blog.
What happened to the students of Ayotzinapa the night of September 26, 2014 is a tragedy that the Mexican government insists on sweeping under the rug through false reports, obstruction of justice, and denial of evidence. That is why we are calling on all SSDP members and young people around the world to stand in solidarity with the families of Ayotzinapa and their allies in the coming months. As students fighting for progressive change in our own communities, it is imperative that we stand up against those who use violence and fear to silence youth voices, especially those of us who have the privilege of fighting for change without risking our lives.
September 26, 2016 will mark the 2 year anniversary of Ayotzinapa, and we plan on activating the entire global SSDP network to take action. Check out our organizing guide to see how you can get involved, and contact Jacki Moreira at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan on organizing an event.
Support. Don’t Punish.
Support. Don’t Punish. is a global advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the harms being caused by the war on drugs. The campaign aims to promote drug policies that respect
human rights and protect public health, to change laws and policies that impede access to harm reduction interventions and other evidence-based services, and to end the criminalisation of people who use drugs. The day of action takes place annually on June 26th, which is also the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – a day when many governments celebrate their contributions to the global ‘war on drugs’. In the past, some governments have even commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders. By taking part in the Global Day of Action, you can help “reclaim” this message on this important day.
Every year SSDP organizes global youth participation in the campaign by organizing actions all around the world and contributing to the campaign’s photo project. To start planning for 2017’s Day of Action, check out our organizing guide, or contact Jake Agliata at email@example.com with any questions.
International Overdose Awareness Day
International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global event held on August 31st each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. IOAD spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
Last year, SSDP participated by sharing stories of students who have been personally affected by overdose. This year, we are hoping to do even more. Check out our blog post to find out how you can get involved with IOAD in 2016! Be sure to contact Jake Agliata at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan on organizing an event, training, or vigil.
International Partner Organizations
SSDP is proud to work closely with our allies all over the world on amplifying the voices for reform at the UN and beyond.
Recent Chapter Accomplishments
Across the globe, SSDP students are changing the way people in their communities approach drugs. Here are just some of the amazing things international chapters have done recently:
- SSDP Ireland members and alumni were invited to give recommendations on drug decriminalization to the Oireachtas (Irish legislature). They were invited back over the course of several months as the government worked to develop a new strategy towards drugs that included safe injection facilities and drug checking.
- Students hosted the 3rd Annual SSDP Ireland Conference at University College Cork in February 2016. The conference featured Irish students presenting reports on their chapter’s activities over the past year, along with several expert speakers who discussed topics such as medical marijuana, naloxone, nightlife harm reduction, and environmental harm reduction.
- Victoria University of Wellington SSDP met with MPs from most major political parties in New Zealand, as well as minister for drug strategies Peter Dunne who also conducted a Q&A event with students on campus.
- EPSD MX conducted a demonstration outside the Supreme Court before the ruling that laid the groundwork for marijuana legalization in Mexico.
- SSDP Nigeria held a training on drug policy and harm reduction for peers and other student organizations.
- Members of SSDP Ghana met with Robert P. Jackson, the US Ambassador to Ghana, to talk about youth inclusion in drug policy discussions and the need to treat drug users with compassion instead of with incarceration.
- Hosted by the University of the West Indies, Mona and organized by the school’s SSDP chapter, the first ever Caribbean Student Drug Policy conference had around 100 student attendees. Speakers discussed topics such as the rights of cannabis farmers in Jamaica and the potential impacts the UNGASS may have on marijuana laws in Caribbean countries.
- University of Copenhagen students filmed and produced a short documentary on UNGASS and the movement behind global drug policy reform.