07/10/19 Jaime Bridge

This week on Century: Heather Haase with the New York NGO Committee, Jamie Bridge with the Vienna NGO Committee, Benjamin Phillips with the Harm Reduction Coalition, and representatives from UN AIDS, InterPol, and UNODC discuss the global drug situation and UNODC's newly-released 2019 World Drug Report.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Guest: 
Heather Haase
Download: Audio icon COL071019.mp3
Share

Comments

TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

JULY 10, 2019

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 host Doug McVay, editor of DrugPolicyFacts.org.

June 26 was UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, on which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime releases its annual World Drug Report. The UNODC held events in New York and Vienna to announce that release. We’re going to hear some of the audio from those.

The event in New York was facilitated by Simone Monasebian, Director of the UNODC New York Office. You’ll hear her voice introducing speakers. First up we’re going to hear from the representative of UNAIDS, Ninan Varughese. He will be followed by the representative of INTERPOL, Emmanuel Roux.

SIMONE MONASEBIAN: Now we will go to our sister agency, the UNAIDS, and Ninan Varughese. We heard earlier the importance of having all UN agencies involved in this problem, and UNAIDS has been such a wonderful partner of the UNODC.

And we also are very happy to see you again, Ninan. You've been here for almost every launch that we've had in New York and have worked very, very hard on this issue to take the health approach and prioritize it here in New York amongst delegations and civil society, so, thank you and you have the floor.

NINAN VARUGHESE: Thank you, Simone. Excellencies, civil society partners, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of UNAIDS.

I want to join the speakers before me to congratuate UNODC for this comprehensive report and briefing.

As this report and other UNAIDS reports clearly show, billions of dollars spent, many lives lost, and the imprisonment of millions of people have failed to reduce either the size of the drug trade or the number of people who use psychoactive substances.

People who use drugs have been the biggest casualties of the global war on drugs. The world is failing to protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs. One result of this failure is an HIV response that has left behind people who inject drugs.

Globally, there was no decline in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs between 2010 and 2018. This goes against the global trend of declining new HIV infections.

Evidence supports the need for a shift in the global approach to drug use. It's time to do things differently. We need to broaden our vision of harm reduction that extends beyond prevention and risk reduction to strategies that address trauma, social justice and social division, injustice, and inequities.

UNAIDS reiterates its call for the global -- of people centered public health and human rights based approach to drug use. We cannot end AIDS if we do not end it among people who inject drugs.

UNAIDS is committed to promote increased investment in measures aimed at minimizing the adverse public health consequences of drug abuse, namely harm reduction. Harm reduction works. Harm reduction saves lives.

The decriminalization of drug use and the possession for personal use has been shown to facilitate access to harm reduction services and improve rights protection for people who use drugs.

As we gather here today, there are discussions and events going on in Geneva at the Geneva Drug Policy Week. Also briefing session has been organized for UNAIDS program coordinating board member states tomorrow to brief them on the UN common position and various evidence based resources to support member states in their national responses. The briefing will be done jointly by colleagues from UNODC, WHO, UNDP, and UNAIDS.

We have a unique opportunity to adopt a new course of action, to treat people who use drugs with dignity and respect, to provide them with equal access to health and social services, to greatly reduce the harms of drug use, and to contribute to the end of the AIDS epidemic and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I congratulate you again. I thank you.

SIMONE MONASEBIAN: Thank you so much, and now I give the floor to another vital partner of UNODC, Emmanuel Roux, the Special Representative of INTERPOL. You have the floor.

EMMANUEL ROUX: Thank you very much, Simone, after a very short word of, a very warm word of well deserved congratulations for this tremendous work done on the reports. Let me jump right away to the specifics of INTERPOL activities related to drug control in support of our 194 member states.

Since the types of drugs trafficked and the routes used are constantly evolving, it is essential that countries work together in a united and coordinated way, as has been mentioned several times by other speakers.

INTERPOL assists national, regional, and international law enforcement bodies to counter the production, trafficking, and abuse of drugs in the following ways.

The first way we support member states is by working on [unintelligible] basis and issuing notices. Over 2018, INTERPOL communications were instrumental in the arrest of major drug trafficking suspects by member states, and these arrests resulted from intense police cooperation throughout INTERPOL's secure global communication network we call I-24/7.

And as of today, for example, we have issued since 2013 more than 400 purple notices, whose goal is to circulate modus operandi among police forces.

Secondly, we coordinate field operations, INTERPOL coordinates drug trafficking operations spanning different regions of the world and support on a regional basis drug operations and investigations led by -- always led by national and international agencies.

We called the LionFish operation, and in -- the last one was in 2018, an operation called by INTERPOL across 93 countries, led to the arrest of 1,300 suspects and the seizure of more than 55 tons of illicit substances and drugs.

And what is interesting is, during this first global initiative, INTERPOL's system enabled participating countries, so 93 countries, to synchronize regionally, to synchronize globally their actions by connecting police from one end of the world to the others.

We also do help member states work on criminal intelligence analysis, because police need timely, accurate criminal intelligence in order to understand crime trends, so we can adapt their -- our activities and police these accordingly.

And I'm happy to announce here the recent opening in 2018 of our Drug Analysis File, DAF, with 114 participating countries, so thank you to everyone in the room who are contributing to this -- to this analytical file.

It's the widest analytical file of INTERPOL's to date. It gathers a significant volume of intelligence on illicit, original, and intentional drug trafficking. Through the DAF, this analytical file, we analyze the links between suspects, location, substances, and routes, and again, this topic has been mentioned several times beforehand.

And we share the results and comprehensive analytical products with all participating countries. So of course I would like to encourage everyone in the room to contribute to this analytical file, and to contribute to the fights, to the world fights.

We also have released a database which works on the markings on drugs, on pills. It's been developed by the Czech Republic with the financial support of -- from Switzerland, and it's accessible to our 194 member states today.

So, it helps, it's a database to see if the same device has been used to compress another seized drug package in a different case or anywhere in the world.

We also have a training capacity building capacity, which is usually combined with operational support, so our member states benefit from the two sides, the theoretical and the very concrete field operations.

And, I cannot end without mentioning two programs, which one includes very consistently at UNODC. The first one is a program that we call AMEAP, to identify security threats in Africa, Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific, so we always like to work in a regional aspect.

And the last one is a project we call CrimJust, which has a strong focus on justice. It supports twelve countries in Latin America, Caribbean, and West Africa to counter organized crime along cocaine trafficking routes.

And we are also about to open a new regional bureau, we have seven of them already. One of them will be implemented shortly, we hope, in the Caribbean. And this CrimJust Project is in partnership with UNODC and Transparency International.

Again, in conclusion, I would like to congratulate you and all the staff for the events and for the work that has been done combating crime worldwide. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: You’re listening to Century of Lies, I’m your host Doug McVay. We’re listening to audio from the release of the 2019 World Drug Report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. We just heard representatives from INTERPOL and UNAIDS speaking at the New York launch. We’ll hear more from that in a moment.

The UNODC is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. They also held an event there in the morning of June 26 to launch the 2019 World Drug Report. One of the people who spoke in Vienna was Jamie Bridge, he’s chair of the Vienna NonGovernmental Organizations Committee on Drugs. Here’s Jamie.

JAMIE BRIDGE: Thank you very much, Mister Chair, and thanks to UNODC for once again allowing the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs to make a formal intervention today as we mark the UN Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, like others, I want to start by congratulating Angela Me and her colleagues for the delivery of another rich and engaging World Drug Report.

The Report is a huge undertaking, and one that makes an important contribution to the global response to the world drug situation.

There are three areas in particular that I want to focus on today.

Firstly, one number stood out when I first read the report last week, and as Mister Fedotov has already highlighted, 585,000 people died as a result of drug use in 2017.

Now regardless of whether you believe that the answer to that problem lies in treatment, or harm reduction, or law enforcement, or rehabilitation, 585,000 deaths is a staggering failure that we all have to face up to. We simply have to bring this number down.

The SDGs seek to leave no one behind, but we're not doing that. We are leaving lots of people behind, and the report's data on deaths and prisons and the unmet treatment need shows this to be the case.

My second point is about the alleviation of pain and suffering, which remains a global health imperative. The World Drug Report itself refers to quote "a global paradox of too much and not enough," unquote.

This is an important reminder that we face more than one kind of opioid crisis. That the actions, the narratives, and the strategies still do not reflect the necessary balance between much more access and control.

Ensuring access to controlled pain medication, including both scheduled and nonscheduled opioids, is essential to meet the SDGs. It cannot be an afterthought and it cannot continue to just be collateral damage from the control of nonmedical use.

My third point today is about the data themselves. The World Drug Report reflects the information it has harvested through the ARQs, and yet the questionnaire itself is in need of modernization to reflect the UNGASS, the 2019 Declaration, and the UN system common position.

And I appreciate that this is an ongoing process with a lot of hard work already underway, including through the new UN System Coordination Task Team on Drug Related Matters. The Task Team, which was launched earlier this year by the UN Chief Executives Board, aims to promote cooperation and coordination in drug related research, data collection, and analysis across the UN system, in the quest for better and more effective drug policies.

But I also want to highlight today the role that civil society can play in this regard. NGOs on the ground often have access to knowledge, information, and evidence that can compliment the data that is being collected by governments and by academia.

This can help to formulate the most complete picture possible. While civil society can also help to supply the human stories that make the data real. Many NGOs are experts in data collection and in monitoring and evaluation, not least because we're constantly having to do it for our own donors.

We can help to critique and verify data, as currently happens for example with the UNODC, WHO, and UNAIDS estimates on injecting drug use each year.

But we can also help to plug gaps where the ARQs are either not submitted or are incomplete.

So I'll want to end by encouraging you all, member states, the UNODC, and the UN System Coordination Task Team, to better tap into and nurture the existing resources that NGOs have to offer. Thank you very much for all of your attention.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Jamie Bridge, chair of the Vienna NonGovernmental Organizations Committee on Drugs, speaking in Vienna at the launch of the 2019 World Drug Report on June 26. You’re listening to Century of Lies, I’m Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now let’s hear more from the New York launch. The first speaker will be the chair of the New York NonGovernmental Organizations Committee on Drugs, Heather Haase. She will be followed by Chloe Carpentier, who is the Chief of the Drug Research Section at UNODC, and then by Benjamin Phillips from the Harm Reduction Coalition. Heather Haase will be the first speaker, she's introduced by Simone Monasebian.

SIMONE MONASEBIAN: And now, I will give the floor to Heather Haase from the -- who's the chair of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs. This world drug problem, as we mention throughout this event, is a shared responsibility and we will only really get further in making comprehensive changes and advances that we need if civil society is a huge part of the solution, so we're very honored to have you, Heather, here today. You have the floor.

HEATHER HAASE: Thank you so much for it and excellent presentations, and for permitting civil society to attend and provide input at this important event every year without fail. It's really very much appreciated.

On the report, a few things drew our attention. First the number that stood out to all of us, as others have mentioned, was the 585,000 number. That's how many people died as a result of drug use in 2017. That's over half a million people, as was pointed out on the panel. And according to the report, most from untreated hepatitis C or overdose.

A full 72,000 of these deaths occurred here in the US, as a result of fatal overdose. That's eight thousand more than the year before, and more than guns, car crashes, or HIV AIDS ever killed in a single year in the US.

So regardless of where you believe that the answer lies, 585,000 deaths is a staggering failure that we all have to face up to. We simply have to bring this number down.

The SDGs seek to leave no one behind, but we are not doing that. We're leaving lots of people behind, and the report's data on deaths, prisons, and the unmet treatment need show this to be the case.

In addition to prevention and adequate treatment, we can address this by meeting people where they are, and extending health and human -- and harm reduction services to all, regardless of where they fall on the drug use continuum.

Secondly, we appreciate that there is a full section on cannabis. That hasn't always been the case. The report gives some very interesting information about cannabis markets and trends, as well as some items of concern. Now, we appreciate that cannabis is a complex topic, results of more liberalized cannabis laws are neither going to be all good nor all bad.

But we must be very careful that when we present results that we present the whole picture. Cannabis use may be on the rise in certain jurisdictions and states, but in the states -- certain states in the US where cannabis use has been legalized, there are other factors to consider, like fewer people have been arrested. Instead of arresting people, these states are now creating jobs.

These, in many cases, have not led to an increase in youth use rates, and DWI rate -- arrests for alcohol and other drugs have declined in many cases. So just to caution, full picture is needed in order to effectively evaluate these new laws.

Finally, a word about data. The World Drug Report reflects the information harvested through the ARQs, yet the questionnaire is in need of modernization to reflect UNGASS, the 2019 Declaration, and the UN system common position.

We appreciate that this is an ongoing process, with a lot of hard work already underway, including through the new UN System Coordination Task Team on Drug Related Matters. As most of you know, the Task Team was launched earlier this year by the UN Chief Executive Board, chaired by Secretary General António Guterres.

One of the most exciting roles of the Task Team is that it aims to ensure cooperation and coordination in research, data collection, and analysis across the system in order to best support member states in making informed and evidence based policy decisions in tackling drug related challenges.

This added support for data collection and analysis cannot come at a better time. New perspectives and improved methods are sorely needed in the quest for better, more effective drug policies.

I want to also briefly highlight the role that civil society can play in this regard. NGOs on the ground often have knowledge, access to knowledge, information, and evidence which can compliment the data being collected from governments and academia.

This can help to formulate the most complete picture possible. While civil society can also help to supply the human stories which make the data real.

Many NGOs are experts in data collection, monitoring, and evaluation. We can help to verify and critique data, and we can help to plug gaps where these exist.

So I encourage you all, member states, UNODC, and the UN System Coordination Task Team, to better tap into and nurture these existing resources that NGOs have to offer. We are of course at your disposal. We are here not just to criticize but to help and support you all in formulating the best possible global drug policies. Thank you very much for your attention.

SIMONE MONASEBIAN: Thank you so much, Heather. Before I close, I just wanted to give you, Chloe, the opportunity, if there was something that struck you as perhaps requiring response from you or some clarification.

CHLOE CARPENTIER: Yes. Thank you, Simone. Just to [unintelligible] perhaps on the new cannabis policies, so, and to answer Mauritius, it is very difficult to predict how many countries will legalize the market for medical use of cannabis. Now, we have it legalize -- legal in some jurisdictions in United States, in Canada, in Uruguay, and it's true in the report, there is a description of how this has been implemented, with different measures et cetera.

There's a table in the annex of booklet five, and we have been doing that -- that for many years now, so this is something that we remained in the report.

Now, as the New York NGO Committee just mentioned, it's very difficult to measure the impact of such new policies. There are a number of factors that needs to be taken into account, and it's also very early, I would say.

Canada has just started to implement, Uruguay they have partially implemented the new legislation, and the United States, this is where basically there is most of it is for the moment, but here today, some jurisdictions have only legalized very recently.

So, and data collection takes time, also, and in monitoring. So, what I would say perhaps is that what we mention this year in the World Drug Report, that in some states, there is still a small residual market, black market, for cannabis, where it has been legalized, though this is perhaps one -- one finding of this year.

I want also to comment on the fact that cannabis has been increasing in the US as a whole, not only in the jurisdictions that have legalized the non -- non-medical use of the substance, and has been particularly pronounced in terms of regular use. So this is something that is important perhaps to follow.

And, this is particularly the case in jurisdictions that have legalized.

Now, in terms of the cannabis products, also, our colleagues from Mauritius mentioned that they have changed in terms of THC. This is not only the issue, there is another issue here, which is that the products that are on the market have more -- are more potent, they have more THC, but they also have less CBD.

CBD is cannabidiol, it's another cannabinoid. This is an anti-psychotic substance that tends to counter -- counter, counter the effects, basically, of THC, and this is disappearing because of genetic modification of the cannabis that is being grown now, sometimes indoor et cetera.

And this, I'm not talking only about the North American market here, I'm talking also about other markets in the world. Thank you very much.

Now, in terms of perhaps for concluding remark from us, I would like to thank very much the member states from outside research, perhaps, one has others, to thank very, very much the member states for the data that you provide us every year in the annual report questionnaire, but not only also the other instruments to collect the data.

This is -- this is clearly the basis for analysis. We also resort to other data from national reports, from scientific literature, et cetera. They are all duly referenced in the report so you can find -- track back the source each time.

And, perhaps, yes, we are revising now, we are in the process of revising the annual report questionnaire. There will be an expert group meeting at the end of August, where all the member states are invited to -- to nominate an expert to attend in Vienna.

So, hopefully, in perhaps one or two years, we'll have another ARQ, and we have better data, and then we can have a better World Drug Report. Thank you very much for your continued support throughout the process. Thank you.

SIMONE MONASEBIAN: I see that there's one last light on, and since we have five more minutes I'm going to make this the last intervention. I understand that one of our civil society colleagues, Mister Benjamin Fillums [sic] from the Harm Reduction Coalition is already a member of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs, and we heard a statement from them, but he also wanted to add some of his thoughts, or ask a question, so if you could just very briefly do so and then we'll be able to close.

BENJAMIN PHILLIPS: Thank you, Madame Chair, for opening up the floor to civil society.

My name is Benjamin Phillips. I'm from the Harm Reduction Coalition here in New York, and I just want make a few comments about the report.

Five hundred and eighty-five thousand. I just want people to reflect on that number for a moment, 585,000. That's more than half a million preventable deaths. The 2019 World Drug Report reconfirms once again the world has failed people who use drugs.

We have failed to prevent overdose deaths. We have failed to stop the criminalization of the most vulnerable in our community. We have failed to prevent HIV infections among people who inject drugs. We have failed to stop extrajudicial killings of people who use drugs and their families. We have failed to provide access to essential medicines both in the communities and in places of detention.

We have failed to allow indigenous peoples access to plants they deem as sacred. We have failed to stop the mass incarceration of women, particularly in Latin America. We have failed to fund comprehensive harm reduction services. We have failed to stop racial disparities in our criminal justice system and the racial profiling of communities of color

We have failed to prevent human rights violations performed in the name of drug control. We have failed to address the stigmatization of people who use drugs. We have failed to prevent and treat hepatitis C amongst people who inject drugs. We have failed to stop the militarization of law enforcement.

We have failed to protect the livelihoods of subsistence farmers and in -- subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples in the global south, and we have failed to stop the death penalty. I've just learned this morning that four people are due to be executed as early as Saturday in south Asia.

The 2019 World Drug Report is possibly the clearest example of catastrophic policy failure I've seen in my 16 years of working in drug policy, and this is why Harm Reduction Coalition, my organization, welcomes a recent unanimous endorsement by the Chief Executives Board, representing 31 UN agencies, common position on drug policy that endorses decriminalization of possession and use.

Given the explicit endorsement of harm reduction throughout the UN human rights system, the provision of harm reduction services cannot be seen as a policy option at the discretion of states, but must be instead understood as a core obligation of states to make their international legal obligations.

In closing, over half a million preventable deaths is not acceptable. We have all the tools we need to prevent these needless deaths, but we need leadership on harm reduction. Leadership means increasing support -- political support and funding for harm reduction. It also means centering the voice of people who use drugs in the global drug policy dialogue.

Finally, the leadership on harm reduction means ending the criminalization of people who use drugs. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: You have just heard Heather Haase, chair of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs; Chloe Carpentier, Director of the Research Section of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; and Benjamin Phillips from the Harm Reduction Coalition. They were speaking at an event in New York to announce the launch of UNODC’s 2019 World Drug Report.

And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. I'm Doug McVay and you have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs, including this show, Century of Lies, as well as the flagship show of the Drug Truth Network, Cultural Baggage, and of course our daily 420 Drug War News segments, are all available by podcast. The URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug Policy Facts, which is also Drug War Facts, is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.