“The drug market is thriving” is one of the key messages in UNODC’s 2017 World Drug Report. This is an important admission from the UN’s lead agency for drugs given that it is now less than nine months away from 2019 – the current target date by which governments committed to “significantly reduce or eliminate” the global drug market within ten years. At last month’s annual gathering of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, the abysmal failure to be able to claim any progress whatsoever towards these so-called ‘drug-free’ targets was the backdrop to the latest round of tense negotiations on global drug control.
Pressure on the UN drug control system continues to build following the UNGASS in 2016. At last year’s CND meeting, it was clear that a new paradigm was emerging with human rights, public health and sustainable development becoming centrally embedded in the debates. However, this development is not to the liking of all member states and this latest CND meeting was arguably the most contentious and fractious to date. The so-called consensus on drugs so clearly “ripped apart at the seams” is now a distant and rapidly fading memory. It was an eventful week and here are five significant developments that encapsulate the tone and mood of the UN drug policy debate.