03/30/14 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

Doug McVay report: Part three of our coverage of the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs 57th annual session.

Audio file


Century of Lies March 30, 2014


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DOUG McVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network, and is brought to you through the Pacifica network's radio station KPFT-fm in Houston, Texas. Find us on the web at drug truth dot net, where you can find past programs and you can subscribe to our podcasts. You can follow me on twitter, where I'm at drug policy facts, and also at doug mcvay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends.

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This week is part three of our coverage of the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs 57th annual session. From March 12th through the 21st, representatives of various national governments and UN agencies met in Vienna, Austria. They were joined by representatives of accredited nongovernmental organizations who were there to represent civil society.

The session opened with presentations by the delegates on drug control situations in their various countries, as well as overall reports by regional coordinating authorities, UN agencies, and the nongovernmental organizing committee's representative. At the end of a two-day plenary, the delegates adopted a joint ministerial statement. That statement was the result of a long process involving careful negotiation, it had been prepared well in advance of the meeting, the meeting itself was merely a formality. The statement was non-controversial, intended to celebrate the treaties and compliance with them, and to underscore international resolve to accomplish the goals of the treaties. It avoided difficult discussions, such as the human rights violations being committed by some member nations under the guise of drug control. Normally, that would be glossed over or ignored in public. Not this time, however.

Let's jump straight into the action, starting with the delegate from Greece representing the European Union:


CHAIRMAN: Now I would like to give the floor to Madam Seat Margaret, Deputy Minister of Health, head of the delegation of Greece and also president of the European Union.

SEAT MARGARET: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Your majesty, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the invitation. It is an honor for me to attend such an important meeting were we have an opportunity to express our views. It is also an honor for me to speak on behalf of the European Union as presidency of the horizontal drugs group of the council of the European Union.

I would like to congratulate you for the initiative that may open the door for this society’s active involvement in the development and implementation of drug policies national, EU and international level.

Civil societies present a vital asset in terms of their knowledge, resources and commitments. Working on a daily basis will also affect drug use, drug policy prevention, treatment and harm reduction. The drug strategy reiterates active involvement including the scientific community, the NGOs as well as people who use drugs in a development and implementation of drug policies.

In preparing a new drug strategy the review of policies and current challenges resulting in Drug Strategy 2013-2020 which incorporated a number of demand reduction strategies. These challenges include the increasing trend towards [inaudible], the trend towards non-opioid drug use as well as the emergence and spread of new psychoactive substances and the continue high instances of blood borne diseases among injecting drug users such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

It is increasingly recognized that the drug problem is first and foremost a health-related challenge. Punitive and repressive policies toward drug use behaviors have driven international drug control and dominated the approach of several countries in the European region. The consequences of such policies and the enforcement practices such as using law enforcement, [inaudible] executions, denial of [inaudible] services, excessive bail, systematic discrimination against people who use drugs have resulted in widespread and varied basic human rights violations.

Moreover, [inaudible] and harm reduction policies constitute a hidden threat for society as their effect overburden of the health and the criminal justice system. In this context a health orientated approach is a necessity now not an option.

The Drug Strategy 2013-2020 is a good start towards the special protection approach as it emphasizes the implementation on contemporary harm reduction policies and practices with strong components of prevention, early intervention, recovery, harm reduction and social integration.

All this is based on scientific evidence and best practices would provide a framework for a more balanced approach integrating effective utilization of harm reduction tools with greater treatment availability. This approach would foster social integration and defuse the harmful effects related to most punitive drug law policies.

It is now the time to act. It is the time to abandon outdated punitive measures that are based on prejudices, moralistic betrayals, and superficial perceptions about public safety such as chronic restriction and compulsory measures. We have to invest on the shift towards a health-based approach and recovery.

A health oriented approach tailored by scientific evidence, respect for human rights and the principles of nondiscrimination, protection of the [inaudible] and the department of [inaudible] will provide this ground for building healthy communities. Working collaboratively with civil society who can form a roadmap addressing their use to a health-based approach that can be more prominent, effective toward our shared efforts to tackle drug use problems.

Thank you for your attention.


DOUG McVAY: Now let's hear from the delegate from Switzerland, Andrea Arz de Falco from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.


CHAIRPERSON: I should like to invite Andrea Arz de Falco, Vice Director of the Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland.

ANDREA ARZ de FALCO: [via interpreter] Mr. Chairman, excellences, ladies and gentlemen the international community is facing unprecedented challenges in the fight against drugs. Markets on self-consumption are changing ever more rapidly meanwhile progress on reducing supply and demand is limited.

The member states have negotiated very hard to come to a consensus of the text that we have before us today. Switzerland is aware of all of the efforts that have been made. Nevertheless my country is left feeling that some issues might have deserved more attention.

In this regard we would like to highlight the following. We are particularly concerned of the fact persons who have committed drug crimes are being deprived of their lives for those drugs offenses. Switzerland unequivocally rejects the concept that a person may be killed in the name of justice. Capital punishment has no place in the modern world.

We are also concerned about practices that go on in the name of therapy or rehabilitation – practices such as forced detention, forced labor and physical or psychological abuse that contravene states’ human rights obligations. There is no evidence that such practices are effective and we call for their abolition.

According to UN AIDS the global deal of having HIV infection among people who inject drugs by 2015 will not be reached. Criminalization, stigma and discrimination deter people with HIV from seeking health care and social services.

Countries that implemented harm reduction and public health strategies early have experienced consistently low rates of HIV transmission among people who inject drugs. We, therefor, encourage improving access to sterile syringes and other harm reduction measures that are scientifically proven to be effective in reducing the transmission of HIV and other blood borne infections.

It is our obligation to apply the most appropriate means of protecting public health, public safety and safeguarding people’s welfare. That is why pilot projects and new approaches developed in their specific context as well as their scientific evaluation are so important in improving the efficacy and efficiency of our interventions in the field. Therefore Switzerland actively supports harm reduction activities and considers them to be within the scope and the spirit of the 3 UN drug conventions.

We are concerned by the tragedy of the inadequate availability of opiate analgesics. The WHO estimates that millions of people annually fail to receive adequate treatment for moderate to severe pain. We need to recognize their suffering as an unintended, unacceptable side-effect of drug control. We are responsible for ensuring the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes and we must urgently address this challenge.

Here in Vienna we have the opportunity to review progress made with an open mind and a spirit of shared responsibility. It is time for an approach that includes all UN agencies that deal with the effects of the world drug problem. It is also time to consider drug policies that take people’s health and safety into account.

Respecting and fostering the human rights of all people including those who use drugs is an imperative.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.


DOUG McVAY: Of course, nations which have the death penalty for drugs had to respond, so now let's hear from the Iranian delegate:


IRANIAN DELEGATE: Every state has a sovereign right to choose its own political, economical, and legal systems based on what is in their own best interest yet it is clear that the initiators in this matter in this quorum have decided that there can only be one view on this issue and that only one set of choices should be respected.

We would like to clearly reiterate that the death penalty is an important component in the administration of law and justice system and is imposed only for the most serious crimes including drug trafficking and sales as a deterrent. We have proper legal safeguards in place that take into account national policies that prevent any miscarriage of justice. Mr. Chairman, I request that this statement be reflected in the official report of this session.

Now I read my second statement which will be read on my national capacity. Mr. Chairman, I would like to put on record the reservation of delegation on paragraph 44 of the political delegation as follows:

We have always expressed upon the common determination of the Islamic Republic of Iran in fight against trafficking in narcotic drugs, terrorism and other transnational organized crimes and the money laundering and corruption affiliated with them. From the beginning of consultations on the political declaration this delegation believing in the need to promote the cause of international combat against narcotic drugs committed itself to absolute constructiveness and great [inaudible] in order to facilitate the emergence of the consensus among participating delegations.

However, [inaudible] to financial task force in the declaration we have a strong reservation since this exclusive, non-transparent [inaudible] task force continually declared goals and objectives directed and guided by bias motives.

For my delegation and several other delegations any reference to this so-called task force should not be interpreted as giving any recognition or legitimacy to it. We continue to be in the frontline of international fighting against drug trafficking and terrorism and have spared no effort to eradicate this menace from the earth.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to request that our reservation be reflected in the official report of this session.

Thank you very much.


DOUG McVAY: Once again let's be clear, the ministerial statement avoided any mention of death penalty. The plenary was broadcast live only, so complaints about would have only been heard by the other delegates – well, ordinarily that is, obviously, since I recorded most of it and you've just been listening to it, and there were reportedly a few others there getting some of the video and audio, the public gets to hear some of the proceedings.

Now, here we have the Ecuadorian delegate:


CHAIRPERSON: I will give the floor to Mr. Rodrigo Valez, Executive Director of the National Council for the Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances of Ecuador.

ECUADORIAN DELEGATE: [via interpreter] Your excellences, Mr. President, on behalf of the Ecuador please allow me to congratulate you and say how pleased we are at seeing you chair this session. We are sure that with your great skills the deliberations of the High-level Segment of the 57th session of the CND will conclude with very specific contributions as well as the midterm review of the political declaration and plan of action of 2009 to join together efforts to deal with the social phenomenon of drugs.

Mr. Chairman, the current UN drugs system needs deep changes. For more than 50 years and throughout successive international conventions a model of use and consumption of drugs was proposed based on the idea that supply reduction would increase market prices and, therefore, discourage possible drug users. All of this within the framework of prohibition without taking into account the historic and cultural specificities of potential users all over the world. This led to the implementation of a model whose costs (especially in human rights) have taken this whole idea and turned it into a paradox – especially in Latin America.

The aims have not been achieved in the fifty years of application because there has been a significant increase in the number of drug users within the context of highly punitive legislations imposed by interests other than national interests. Prisons have been filled with petty traffickers and consumers. We have seen a huge network of corruption which has had a big impact on states and their social functionality. Judicial systems and the role of the police have been denatured pursuing guilt and generating imbalances in the proportional nature of punishments.

The recognition of the failure of the current drug policy led to questioning by regional governments, politicians, thinkers and civil society organizations. Many voices advocates a paradigm shift in the way we understand and tackle the drug problem since the American summit in 2012, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and the Antigua Declaration from the General Assembly of the Organization of African States in 2013.

Different political forum such as the Community of Latin American/Caribbean States we have seen agreements in the sense that we have just pointed out. In January 2013 in the Santiago Declaration and I quote, “We indicate the need to review achievements and limitations of current policies to address the problem – especially the violence generated by consumption, trafficking and production of drugs all over the world – as well as identifying actions which will enable us to increase the efficacy of these strategies and instruments which the international community uses to face the challenge of the world drug problem.”

Mr. Chairman, what I have said doesn’t mean we are trying to impose a monolithic criterion as there is no single drugs problem within the same society or even in different societies. The homogeneity of policy is not suitable for all countries. Prevention programs will not be the same for different sectors within the same country. That is why we underscore the independence and sovereignty of states in the adoption of approaches to respond to their real needs and necessities.

We should not believe that one country or one policy is enough to beat the problem. The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as other southern nations have suffered the worst of the prohibition policy because in the fight against drugs intentions to impose were hidden and continue to be hidden in the actions of northern countries who act as arbitrators of democracy and transparency. Let’s not forget that the Financial Action Task Force places southern countries on the list of launderers when we all know that 90% of dirty money is laundered in the north.

My delegation considers that we should overcome the concept of drug problem and call it the social phenomenon of drugs due to the complexity and the cross cutting nature of this issue. For example, the raw materials grow in the south but the precursors come from the north as do the weapons that have strewn this business with death.

As a consequence Latin America has become a form for debate, a region of unity and diversity with the ethical horizon of actions which will make a substantive contribution to human rights to a new planet-wide policy on drugs which will receive impotence at the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016.

Equador as part of this current of social transformations in Latin America is firmly and decisively committed to eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and building more equal societies – societies in which the debate and redesign of drugs policies needs to be present. This means we need to admonish the reality of the structural conditions of violence and poverty as the scenario where illicit drug trafficking actually takes place leaving few possibilities for vulnerable people and the state to guarantee the peace and wellbeing of its inhabitants.

As a result of this process the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador decriminalizes the use and consumption as we see this as a public health issue. As a result of this Ecuador proposes the need to reconsider our comprehensive vision of drugs policies within the United Nations.

We also believe we need to update existing conventions. This would lead to an improvement of strategies on the social phenomenon of drugs. In order to do this we should have an ad hoc committee of states to prepare draft proposals for the transitions towards a new global agreement through one single updated convention that actually takes into account realities.

We need to consider alternative development including preventative alternative development as a series of measures that will encourage communities to participate in productive programs and projects thus reducing the vulnerability to illicit drug-related activities.

This was the backdrop to the Global Preventative Alternative Stamp. This is a mechanism based on the principle of common and shared responsibility. The paradigm that we are proposing means that we should change our language and the way we see people and groups as well as inclusive strategies that respect diversity.

The perspective of social integration means we need to reconstruct the public’s fear in order to understand others so that we understand each other – that we should maintain our unity in diversity. Social integration means that we develop individual capacities as well as collective capacities to understand the phenomenon of drug use and consumption.

We know that over and above substances indicators need to show us how we can bring about transformation and development. We need to demilitarize the current political approach and open the way for an acknowledgement of diversity and cultural uses regarding the social phenomenon of drugs within a framework that respects human rights.

We should establish international corporations agreements dealing with drugs policies based on the principles of common and shared international responsibility. This would lead to an improvement in the quality of life especially in those places affected by violence generated by current drugs policies.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, Ecuador exhorts the world for the drugs debate to be focused on human beings and not on substances.


DOUG McVAY: That's it for this week. This has been Century of Lies. Thank you for listening. You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website drug truth dot net, where you can also check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, where I'm @ Drug Policy Facts. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends. Spread the word. Remember: Knowledge is power.

For the drug truth network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org