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‘Unique in International Relations’? A Comparison of the International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies 2008
In February 2008, Harm Reduction International’s HR2 (harm reduction and human rights) team launched a new report – entitled Unique in International Relations?: A Comparison of the International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies. This report provides a critique of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) – the United Nations (UN) body which is charged with upholding the international drug conventions. The INCB operates behind closed doors, with minimal engagement with civil society, and has justified this stance by claiming that it is a body that is “unique in international relations”.
This report explores how, far from being unique, the INCB is actually just an early example of the ‘independent committee of experts’ model that has been adopted and developed across the United Nations (and, in particular, in the UN human rights systems and regional human rights systems) over the past four decades. It is a common model that continues to be used today. In contrast to these similar bodies, however, the INCB has failed to modernise its processes, raising questions about its continued legitimacy and relevance. The report suggests a number of reforms required to bring the INCB into line with other similar bodies in the UN system.