Identifying Common Ground on Criminal Justice for UNGASS 2016

Related Files
  • DATE / TIME:
    2015•06•09    10:00 - 13:00
    New York

    As the UN General Assembly’s Special Session in New York on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) approaches, there is a need to consider how criminal justice approaches best fit within efforts to create an integrated and balanced approach for the international drug control regime. This panel, convened by the UN University and hosted by the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations, will consider these issues.

    About the panel discussion

    Criminal justice and law enforcement-based approaches have been at the centre of global drugs policy for many decades. Yet while criminal justice has been a lynchpin for global drug policy, its application varies widely. Many states remain in favour of a punitive approach in the implementation of the global drug control regime, and in the most extreme cases, a minority of states retain the death penalty for drug-related offences. However, the pursuit of criminal justice-based approaches to implementation of the global drug control regime has led to some unenvisaged outcomes: the criminalization of whole communities; mass incarceration; and militarized responses to cultivation and trafficking. As a result, some Member States are seeking a ‘rebalancing’ of the implementation of the role of criminal justice in the implementation of the global drug control regime. Options under discussion include:

    • alternatives to incarceration, including even decriminalization;
    • proportionality in sentencing; and
    • new approaches to policing and law enforcement.

    The Panel

    As Member States begin to consider possible ‘operational recommendations’ for UNGASS 2016, panelists will consider questions intended to help identify potential common ground on criminal justice issues, such as:

    • How might Member States use UNGASS 2016 to promote a more effective criminal justice approach to implementing the global drug control regime?
    • Should UNGASS 2016 provide normative or programming guidance on alternatives to incarceration, either for people who use drugs (i.e. on drug treatment programming, or drug courts), or for those who commit minor drug-related offences (i.e. on proportionality in sentencing)?
    • Alternatively, could UNGASS 2016 establish a process (such as an International Expert Advisory Group) to develop such guidance by 2019?
    • How can Member States adapt lessons learned from policing and criminal justice in one context to another? Could UNGASS 2016 establish a mechanism for inter-regional, South-South or triangular cooperation to promote good practices?

    Speakers include:

    Mr. Richard Baum, International Policy Branch Chief, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, United States

    Incarceration and sentencing reforms

    Ms. Jasmine Tyler, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundation

    Ms. Simone Monasebian, Director of the New York Office, UNODC

    Comparative perspectives on criminal justice reform

    Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution; co-director of the Brookings project on Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives and UNGASS 2016

    Making communities safer

    Ms. Amy Crawford, Deputy Director, National Network for Safe Communities

    New approaches to law enforcement

    Dr. Robert Muggah, Research Director and Program Coordinator for Citizen Security, Igarapé Institute

    A moderated Q&A session will follow.

    See the Related Files tab to download the panel discussion’s concept note.


    Due to security arrangements at the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations, advance registration is strictly required before Friday, 5 June. Please note that space is limited and the event may not be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to attend, so please register early. Due to security protocols, we will not be able to accommodate unregistered participants.

    Please click on the register button above to access the online registration page.


    United States Mission to the United Nations
    Briefing Room
    799 United Nations Plaza, New York


  • Ms. Summer Walker

    Drug Policy Project Manager