About Model UNGASS

At this year’s biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, in partnership with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK, will host a simulation of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. This simulation, which will be formatted similar to a typical Model UN, will serve as a way for students to become familiar with the ins and outs of global drug policy reform during the months leading up to (the real) UNGASS, which will be held from April 19-21 in New York City.

By engaging students on a participatory level, Model UNGASS will serve as a platform for SSDP to amplify the voices of youth drug policy reformers. Aside from amplifying the youth voice, Model UNGASS will provide SSDP members with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the broad spectrum of drug policies around the world, analyze policies comparatively and objectively, and examine the various cultural factors that influence domestic policies. Not unlike the UNGASS itself, the simulation will demonstrate the ways drug policy directly relates to other issues of international importance, including human rights, public health, sustainable development, and security issues.



Registration for Model UNGASS is now open! In order to register, please do the following:

  1. Review the Master List of Committees and Countries and choose which committee you would like to participate in. Then, select a country from that committee.
  2. Fill out this Google Form to indicate your selection to us.
  3. Complete a Country Position Brief on your country and submit it to jake@ssdp.org by October 13th, 2015.


If you would like some help with research for your country position brief, feel free to contact jake@ssdp.org.

Participants will also be required to attend at least one online training webinar that will go over standard Model UN procedures. The dates of these trainings are TBD, but will be conducted throughout October and November.


How will the Model UNGASS work?

Model UNGASS will consist of two sessions occurring on two different days; three committee meetings which will occur on the first day; and a General Assembly session which will convene on the second day. The committees are divided up into three broad categories: Drugs and Crime, Drugs and Health, and Human Rights & Alternative Development.

Goal of the Committees:

The goal of each Committee is to come up with a list of recommendations that will be organized into an outcome document. In order to produce these recommendations, countries need to agree on them. More specifically, recommendations need to be voted on by a majority of 50% + 1 in order to express the will of the Committee. Committees will have a chance to do so during the first day of Model UNGASS. Recommendations that significantly contribute to the discussion but do not receive a majority in the vote can also be included in the outcome document.

Goal of the General Assembly

During the second day, all three Committees will convene in one room for a session of the General Assembly (GA). The goal of the GA is to come up with the final Outcome Document.  The lists of recommendations from the committee meetings will be introduced to the session of the GA for consideration by all countries. These will then be debated and voted on in order to produce the Outcome document, which will be the final result of the Model UNGASS – your very own proposal on how to address the World Drug Problem.

So, to summarize:

Committee → list of recommendations

General Assembly → Outcome document (consisted of recommendations from the 3 Committees)

The Country Position brief we asked you to submit contains 1-5 recommendations that you ideally want to see adopted in your Committee, and later in the GA. However, all other participants will have their own recommendations that will differ from yours to a small or large extent. Therefore, during the sessions you will come to know the positions of others in order to know who you can ally with and who you want to debate against to win even more allies. Once you know your allies, you will know who you can support or ask for support for your propositions. During the course of the sessions, you will naturally come to adapt your recommendations and make concessions in order to secure the majority of votes. In the UN world of international politics, the bigger the number of countries, the smaller the number of issues they can agree on (consensus). Thus, being in a position of a world leader, you will come to realize why compromising on your own policies is necessary for achieving your goals.


Committee Session (2 hours)

Introduction by the Chair – 5 minutes
Introductory Statements by the Delegates – 10 minutes
Unmoderated Caucus – 15 minutes
Introduction of Recommendations and Voting – 7-10 minutes each
Voting on Final Recommendations – 5 Minutes
Committees are adjourned by the chairs – 5 minutes

General Assembly (2 hours) *Note that all Committees will convene in a General Assembly Session

Introduction by the Secretary General – 5 minutes
Presentation of Draft Recommendations from each Committee and the Preambule – 10 minutes
Introductory statements – 15 minutes
Unmoderated Caucus – 15 minutes
Amendments and Voting on each Recommendation – 7-10 minutes
Voting on Final Recommendations – 5 minutes
Closing Ceremony – 10 minutes



What is UNGASS 2016?
UNGASS 2016 – includes statements by NGOs and UN Entities
The CIA World Factbook
The CND Blog – includes statements from the High Level Thematic Debate on Drugs
Preparing for the 2016 UNGASS on drugs
The E-Book of Authorities – includes US Non-Paper: UNGASS on Drugs
European Union Recommendations for UNGASS 2016
Improving global drug policy: Comparative perspectives and UNGASS 2016
The Limits of Latitude: The UN drug control conventions
IDPC recommendations for the “ZERO DRAFT” of the UNGASS Outcome Document
Addressing the Development Dimensions of Drug Policy
UN Drug Policy Reform


How will Model UNGASS Work?

The simulation will take place over two days in two-hour sessions. On the first day, participants will sort into committees and debate policy prescriptions and resolutions related to the agenda of their committee. On the second day, the proposals of each committee will be brought before the General Assembly and debated amongst all participants. We are still working on finalizing the details of the schedule and will have a more in depth breakdown in the coming weeks.


Why Are Some Countries in Multiple Committees?

Countries are placed into committees based upon whether they are actively affected by the primary issues the committee is working on, or if they are addressing the issues through their domestic policy. This means that multiple participants can represent the same country, but will be in different committees on the first day. During  the second day, countries with multiple representatives will have to come to a consensus amongst themselves about how they will be represented during the GA session.


Why am I Required to Submit a Research Brief?

In addition to proving to us that you have done prior research on your country before Model UNGASS, completing the research brief will provide you a chance to get to know how your country ‘feels’ about  the current international drug policy and about UNGASS. This will help you stay in character during the simulation and give you an idea of how a representative from your country would act at the real UNGASS. We recommend looking at official statements that country representatives have made recently at events in preparation for UNGASS, such as the 57th Committee on Narcotic Drugs Session or the High Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem. If you have trouble finding any relevant information on your country towards the drug conventions, please contact us so we can help point you in the right direction.


What is the Dress Code for Model UNGASS

Western business attire is the appropriate dress code. Think what you would wear if you were going to the real UN.


Is There Anything I Should Know about UN Procedure?


  1. A country representative never uses the “I” pronoun when speaking; s/he uses the name of the country in third person form. For example, a representative of Mexico will say “Mexico believes that an expert advisory group should be established to review the UN drug control architecture…” A country representative will not say “I believe that an expert advisory group should be established to review the UN drug control architecture…”
  2. In a UN setting, country representatives are respectful of differences in opinion and of other countries. Thus, it is extremely rare for a country representative to call on to another country for their actions/problem, as this has repercussions in other areas of diplomacy. For example, if Portugal decided to call on US for implementing racist policies, US mission to the UN can influence important trade connections with Portugal in order to respond to this hostility.
  3. All members states that have signed a UN convention are obliged to respect it. This is outlined in one of the most important rules of the UN legal structure, termed pacta sunt servanda, or ‘agreements must be kept.’ Thus, in order to properly represent your country, you must be aware of the agreement that you country must keep, at least in speaking in front of other UN members. For example, although Portugal has decriminalized all drugs in disaccord with the conventions it has signed, Portugal will most likely not say publicly that they disagree with conventions. Similarly, most of the countries who disagree with the war on drugs policies will likely not say that conventions should be changed until there is a strong enough initiative that stands a chance to actually change a convention, which takes a lot of time, preparation and negotiations.


Advisory Committee

SSDP’s Model UNGASS Advisory Committee is composed of thought leaders involved in various aspects of the international drug policy reform community. These individuals recognize that students and youth are key stakeholders in the reform movement and have offered to share their time and expertise with SSDP in the months leading up to Model UNGASS.

Aram Barra
Co-founder of Espolea and Latin American Programme Officer at Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Ross Bell
Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation

Scott Bernstein
Global Drug Policy Program Officer at Open Society Foundations

David Borden
Founder and Executive Director of StoptheDrugWar.org

John Collins
International Drug Policy Project Coordinator at LSE Ideas

Heather Haase
New York Consultant at International Drug Policy Consortium and Chair of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs (NYNGOC)

Hannah Hetzer
Senior Policy Manager, the Americas at Drug Policy Alliance

Martin Jelsma
Coordinator of the Transnational Institute’s Drugs & Democracy Programme

Sandy Mteirek Karam
Drug Policy Advocacy Coordinator at SKOUN, Lebanese Addictions Center

Michael Krawitz
Executive Director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access

Kathryn Ledebur
Director of Andean Information Network

Donald MacPherson
Executive Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Marie Nougier
Senior Research and Communications Officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium

Steve Rolles
Senior Policy Analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Nathalie Rose
Advocacy Officer at Prevention Information Fight against AIDS (PILS)

Lisa Maria Sanchez Ortega
Latin American Programme Manager at Transform Drug Policy Foundation and México Unido contra la Delincuencia (MUCD) and Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Programme Project Coordinator at Espolea

Zara Snapp
Policy and Communications Officer at the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Eric Sterling
President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

Sanho Tree
Fellow and Drug Policy Project Director at the Institute for Policy Studies

Jasmine Tyler
Senior Policy Analyst for Global Health and Drug Policy at the Open Society Foundations

John Walsh
Senior Associate for Drug Policy and the Andes at the Washington Office on Latin America