(Text by Sheila Vakharia)

The CSTF, in consultation with Sheila Vakharia, Ph.D, developed a web-based Consultation survey in preparation for the 2019 Ministerial Segment on drugs in order to meaningfully solicit the input of NGOs from around the world. NGOs were invited to comment upon progress since the passing of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, changes made since the 2016 UNGASS, and the alignment of the Sustainable Development Goals with respondents’ work in the field of drugs. The survey was translated into the six UN languages and was shared via social media and other networks of the CSTF and the Vienna and New York NGO Committees, from October to November 2018. Ultimately, the survey was completed by 461 NGO respondents representing over 100 countries, and a diverse range of perspectives and experiences were shared.

The final findings report is available online, and has been formally presented to member states on several occasions. The survey respondents shared a number of positive advances and challenging setbacks that have occurred over the past decade. In reflecting on positives, respondents shared that they have seen increased access to evidence-based prevention and treatment options, including harm reduction, a number of respondents witnessed an increasing willingness in their communities for people to discuss the issue of drugs and addiction, and many positively viewed drug policy reforms towards medicalization and regulation. Respondents also shared that there had been some troubling new trends that have emerged over the past decade, including increased production of drug crops, increased criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs, the development of new psychoactive substances, increased human rights abuses, and fears of the expansion of the dark web for drug markets.

Respondents were also divided in their assessment of the goal of a “World Free of Drug Abuse”, as half of the sample indicated that this goal should not be extended beyond 2019. Yet, despite the fact that most of the sample reported feeling that there had been regression in regards to each of the five goals set in 2009, the majority supported extending these goals beyond 2019. This seemingly contradictory position allowed for two interpretations: that some respondents feel that these goals are still worthy targets to aspire towards regardless of challenges faced to date; or that some respondents believe these goals to reduce illicit supply and trafficking could be achieved through new policy approaches.

Two-thirds of the sample were familiar with the UNGASS Outcome Document, and the majority of these respondents felt as though it was applicable to their work and should be incorporated into the 2019 Political Declaration. When asked whether they had seen any new or modified efforts by their governments since the 2016 UNGASS, the respondents were split between thinking there had been positive changes, there had been negative changes, and that they were unable to see any changes.

Lastly, almost all of the respondents felt as though their work addresses at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and 19% of respondents felt as though they work towards all 17 Goals – showing how cross-cutting drug-related work and policy truly is.