UNHQ, New York — A two-person delegation from SSDP International traveled to New York from Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. International Liaison Patrick Timmons and International Outreach Daniel Pacheco went to lobby for and present the organization’s application for consultative status before the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) committee on non-governmental organizations. This nineteen delegate committee approves or defers NGOs’ applications. Consultative status would allow SSDP to send delegates to all appropriate committees and meetings of the ECOSOC.
As a registered non-governmental organization with operations in several of the world’s regions, SSDP applied for consultative status in 2007. Since then SSDP national staff have responded to further lines of questioning in writing by the committee, thereby keeping our application alive in the paperless correspondence system. In late 2010, to try to understand why the application had been deferred, SSDP’s executive director Aaron Houston decided to send a delegation upon invitation by the committee. The committee met from 31 January to 9 February in United Nations Headquarters.
SSDP International’s gaining of consultative status would boost the international drug policy reform movement’s profile. Few regulationists appear on the roster for special consultative status. Transform, an organization with strong ties to SSDP, gained consultative status in 2007. And, if this author is not mistaken, Transform has allowed SSDP to appear on its credentials in meetings of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Other drug groups will soon be on the roster, though they come from a different perspective. Drug Prevention Network Canada, an abstentionist group, was put forward for approval to ECOSOC for consultative status in this first regular session of 2011. No delegation asked questions of the DPNC. When no questions are asked, applications go forward as it signals the committee has reached consensus.
The committee hears applications according to lists developed through the criteria of 1996/31/E / Consultative Relationship between the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The list the committee hears the NGOs’ applications proceeds with new applications from Global South countries, followed by new applications from Global North countries. The committee then hears deferred applications from the South, followed by the North. SSDP appeared in this final category.
The committee tended to approve most cases for consultative status. But some disputatious issues led to procedural stalling and exaggerated lines of questioning about human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, which has not had its official quadrennial report recognized by the committee for the past five years. Tensions simmered as high drama erupted in the hall when the committee considered two international lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations for status. Several countries managed to block approval of theAustralian Lesbian Medical Association and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex Associationdespite protestations from Belgium, Bulgaria, Israel, and the United States. Global South countries make up the majority of the committee’s nineteen members. In a July 2010 case for a gay rights organization, the smaller bloc tends to bypass this committee, sending the organization’s application for review by ECOSOC where fifty-four member states divide more equitably among the world’s regions and can overrule the lower NGO committee.
SSDP International will not be forwarded to ECOSOC’s approval for consultative status this session. SSDP’s application was deferred pending a response to questions offered by the Delegate of Pakistan. This delegate suggested we stress SSDP’s unique features: youth participation, public health, and democratic decision-making, rather than articulations of drug user’s rights. He reminded us of the Bolivian coca controversy, suggesting that at this level, SSDP might not want to raise its political voice over other issues, many of which dovetail with such UN millennium development goals as: sustaining universal education, combating HIV/AIDS, creating a global partnership, and a commitment to environmental sustainability.
The UN Committee on NGOs meets again in from 16 – 24 May in New York. SSDP’s application for consultative status will be reconsidered at that session.
The 54th Session of the UN Committee on Narcotics Drugs meets next month in Vienna, Austria from 21 – 25 March 2011.
REPUBLISHED VERSION, EXPANDS SECTION ON COMMITTEE’S PROCEDURE AND CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES, ADDS SEVERAL HYPERLINKS.