Out of step INCB report still ignores major threats to world health

Da: “The Senlis Council” PRESS RELEASE March 2nd 2004

Drug policy is still in a crisis situation. This is clear when you read the latest annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) issued on the 2nd of March. But at the same time the INCB denounces pragmatic, and often successful, alternative policies implemented by many countries as not complying with the international drug control regime.
The INCB is responsible for enforcing and monitoring the compliance of national policies with the three United Nations drug control treaties. These Treaties, based on a repressive approach, have been failing to effectively tackle the drug problem for the past 40 years. Nevertheless, the INCB gives no consideration as to whether or not current practices are effective, or whether the inclusion of new policies in the treaties would be of benefit to the world drug problem. “The drug issue is multi-dimensional and needs to be tackled in a pragmatic, evidence-based way, avoiding ideological stances which hinder responsible policy development” said Mr. Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of the Senlis Council (see below).

An irresponsible denial of HIV/AIDS threats
The report notes that in Eastern Europe and Asia HIV/AIDS infection is spreading at a catastrophic rate, with injecting drug users playing an important role in the threat of an HIV/AIDS disaster in these regions. Harm reduction policies, such as safe injecting rooms and needle exchange programmes have been proved successful against the spread of the disease. It is urgent for these programmes to be fully recognised by the United Nations drug control bodies to prevent a world health disaster.
For the moment, these measures have not been officially approved by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and much recent discussion has evolved around the question of whether or not the Harm Reduction complies with the treaties or not. The INCB report only grudgingly admits their existence, and even questions their motivations and utility.
Growing opinion is that precious time is being wasted discussing whether harm reduction does or does not comply with the treaties. Dr. Massimo Barra, former Board member of the Global Fund against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria remarked “the INCB impedes countries and the international community from fighting the huge and urgent threat of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” “The rigid political stance of the INCB and the United Nations drug control regime is irresponsible,” added Mr. Reinert.
Other United Nations bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation are supportive of these measures, which have proved to be effective, safe and much less costly than repressive supply control measures based on law enforcement. At the recent European Union conference, “Breaking the Barriers – Partnership to fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia”, calls were made for the respect of basic human rights concerning the provision of therapeutic HIV/AIDS treatment, drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services.

An uncaring preference for repression
The INCB report, which reflects and reinforces the stance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime towards the global drug issue, is indeed out of step with the core United Nations universal values of compassion, freedom, human rights and the continual fight for a better world.
This is exemplified in the INCB report of events in Thailand, where, on the 1st of February 2003 the government launched an official “War on drugs”, which aimed to eliminate drugs in Thailand within three months. The ruthless killing which followed (approximately 2700 deaths) received heavy criticism from human rights groups and the UN Commission on Human Rights voiced concern about the new policy. (see Lisbon Symposium “Drug Policy in Thailand” by Prof. Pasuk Phongpaichit) The INCB Report notes Thailand’s efforts in the struggle to eliminate drugs, making no reference to the violation of Human Rights engendered by the campaign.
The INCB’s inflexibility in response to grave and complex new global issues is a serious concern. “The INCB report is anti-scientific and out-dated, as are it’s responses to the realities of the global drug issue,” concluded Dr. Barra.
Contact: The Senlis Council – Jane Francis Tel: +33 1 49 96 63 70 – Fax: +33 1 49 96 63 73 – email – mobile: +33 6 60 26 19 82

About the INCB
It is the Board’s responsibility to promote government compliance with the provisions of the drug control treaties and to assist them in this effort. The Board’s tasks are laid down in the treaties. Broadly speaking, the Board deals with two aspects of drug control:
– With regard to licit manufacture, commerce and sale of drugs, the Board endeavors to ensure that adequate supplies are available for medical and scientific uses, and that leakages from licit sources to illicit traffic do not occur. To this end, it administers an estimates system for narcotic drugs and a voluntary assessment system for psychotropic substances, and monitors international trade in drugs through the statistical returns system. The Board also monitors government control over chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of drugs, and assists them in preventing diversion of these chemicals into illicit traffic.
– With respect to illicit manufacture and trafficking of drugs, the Board identifies where weaknesses in the national and international control systems exist and contributes to correcting the situation. Further, the Board is responsible for assessing chemicals used to illicitly manufacture drugs, for possible international control.
For more information or to read the INCB Annual Reports: (Annual Reports)

About the Senlis Council
The Senlis Council was established by the Network of European Foundations Drug Policy Fund in May 2002, in the town of Senlis, France, to serve as an international collaborative framework that gathers expertise and facilitates new initiatives on Drug Policy.
The Senlis Council Forum convenes politicians, high profile academics, independent experts and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to address global drug policy issues. It aims to work as a dialogue partner with senior policy-makers at national and intergovernmental levels by fostering high-level exchanges and new ideas on integrated drug policies, whilst avoiding “two-sided arguments”.
For more information on the work of the Senlis Council: