18 March 2009

Civil Society: The Silenced Partners?

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In March 2009 – at the 52nd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna – Harm Reduction International launched a short paper examining civil society engagement with the Commission (the main UN body tasked with addressing global drug policy). The paper – entitled Civil Society: The Silenced Partners? Civil Society Engagement with the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs – provides a succinct overview of key issues and reveals the extent to which the CND is out of step with UN practice in this area.

The CND is required to engage with non-governmental and civil society organisations as a Functional Commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). The  Commission has also recognised the importance of civil society engagement through CND resolutions 49/2 and 51/4. Despite this, however, the involvement of civil society in practice in this forum is extremely limited due to a narrow interpretation by CND of its commitments in this regard. This results in few mechanisms for engaging civil society, and perpetuating factors that minimise or obstruct the participation of NGOs in the international drug policy debate. This was typically evident at the 52nd Session of CND (where this report was launched), as NGOs were prevented from being put on the list of speakers at the ‘High-Level Segment’ – contrary to ECOSOC rules.

This paper briefly outlines the current state of civil society engagement and provides examples of good practice from elsewhere within the UN system.

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