The 65th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs took place in Vienna between 14-18 March, with members states and civil society representatives coming together to discuss the most pressing issues shaping drug policy today. This session saw historic developments largely influenced by the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Walkouts were initiated at various times during the debate and for the first time in the history of the Commission, member states directly called out the actions of the Russian government. Members of the European Union also refused to engage with the Russian Delegation in any of the activities conducted by the Commission. The outcomes of the session were subsequently influenced by these tensions, as the Russian Federation had to postpone its resolution on information and communication technologies due to inability to reach consensus.
Nevertheless, some progress was made on the language used in relation to the role of young people in early prevention efforts. Youth-led civil society organisations were able to successfully push for the promotion of direct engagement with young people when it comes to developing prevention programmes and strategies, following up on the commitments made by member states in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration.
Members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy were integral to these policy efforts. Before the start of the 65th Session, SSDP advocates took part in civil society consultations with numerous state delegations, including the United States and the United Kingdom. During the proceedings of the Commission, our members met with the delegation of Slovenia.
In parallel to the resolution on early prevention, Students for Sensible Drug Policy has continued to draw attention to the need for meaningful youth engagement in policy-making processes. Our side event titled ‘Won’t Somebody Think of the Children? Youth Welfare in Drug Policy’, organised in partnership with the delegation of Canada, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and YouthRise brought together advocates from the UNODC Youth Forum, as well as youth civil society representatives from across the policy spectrum in order to discuss the common challenges they face when trying to uplift young people’s voices in international fora.
On the same day, Students for Sensible Drug Policy published its open letter to Ghada Waly, the Executive Director of UNODC. Signed by over 60 civil society organisations, the letter raised key issues on the transparency and accessibility of the Youth Forum and provided recommendations on how the organisation, as well as member states, can improve their mechanisms to be more inclusive of youth perspectives. These recommendations were also reiterated by Iulia Vatau, the SSDP United Nations Global Fellow, who held a speech in front of the Commission.
Our members Elouisa Schwarz and Jacob Chagnon also managed to engage in the Informal Dialogues with the Chair of the Commission, the UNODC Executive Director and the President of the International Narcotics Control Board. Particular emphasis during these conversations was placed on expanding the ability of Youth Forum delegates to engage with the decision making and policy creation functions of the CND.
This year’s main CND session was marked by the breaking of the Vienna consensus. However, the work of Students for Sensible Drug Policy has proven to be impactful. Following the end of the proceedings, Roisin Downes, the Executive Director of SSDP International, was able to follow up on the Open Letter to UNODC and meet with Mr Wadih Maalouf from the Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section.
SSDP members will also be present at the 2022 ECOSOC Youth Forum, which will take place between 19-20 April. In partnership with International Young Leaders Organization, we will host a side event on the importance of youth engagement in relation to the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda and the Decade of Action. This will take place Monday 18th of April between 7-8.30 pm CET. You can register here.
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