SSDP’s Model UNGASS 2016

At this year’s biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Students for Sensible Drug Policy 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 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. Because so many drug policies are created with the intent of protecting youth, it is vital that the opinions of those most affected are not only heard, but also valued and respected. 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.

As the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world’s drug control priorities draws ever closer, Students for Sensible Drug Policy aims to challenge the notion that conversations about drug policy reform on the global level are merely a symbolic gesture by the international community that hold no real promise of institutional change. Shifting this view requires familiarizing students with exactly what makes the upcoming UNGASS such a monumental occasion. Though originally scheduled for 2019, in Mexico and 95 other countries co-sponsored a provision in 2012 to move the special session up three years in order to address the concerns brought to light by Latin American leaders particularly affected by the drug war. Encouraged by a growing global consensus that punitive drug policies do more harm than good, many reformers feel UNGASS has the potential to serve as a catalyst for positive change. Best put by our friends at Open Society Foundations, “UNGASS 2016 is an unparalleled opportunity to put an end to the horrors of the drug war and instead prioritize health, human rights, and safety.” For these reasons, and many more, SSDP strongly believes that involving students in the processes leading up to UNGASS is an opportunity that cannot be passed up.

Be on the lookout over the next few weeks for more information about registration, participation, and the schedule. We hope you will join us in November as we host Model UNGASS at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference – and if you haven’t applied for a scholarship yet, now is the time to do so!


For questions or further information, please contact Sarah Merrigan at