Identifying Common Ground on Public Health for UNGASS 2016

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  • DATE / TIME:
    2015•04•21    10:00 - 12:45
    New York

    As momentum builds towards the General Assembly’s Special Session on the World Drug Problem, scheduled for early 2016 (UNGASS 2016) in New York, there are increasing calls for it to “reaffirm the original spirit of the conventions, focusing on health”. But what does a ‘public health approach’ to global drugs policy mean in practice? Member States, civil society actors, and increasingly also other actors in the global drug control regime’s governance structures — the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the World Health Organization — seem to have quite different answers to this question. This is leading both to areas of emerging consensus, and to stark differences of interpretation, emphasis and practice. For instance, some 90 countries ranging from Malaysia to Switzerland now implement harm reduction measures for drug users, but there are significant differences in the content of those programmes. The INCB’s recent finding that some 5.5 billion people are without adequate access to ‘medicines containing narcotic drugs’ suggests that identifying a ‘public health approach’ may need to expand beyond demand reduction issues, as UNGASS 2016 approaches.

    About the panel discussion

    With an eye to UNGASS 2016 in April 2016 in New York, the United Nations University convened a panel discussion to consider where common ground might be found on public health issues and what ‘operational recommendations’ could usefully be developed ahead of UNGASS 2016 as a result of a public health emphasis. The panel considered questions of public health priorities, how to measure and assess the impacts of drug policy on public health, and in what ways UN departments, funds, programmes and agencies might ensure public health considerations contribute to system-wide coherence in the implementation of global drug policy.

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


    Confirmed Speakers Include:

    Mr Olivier Zehnder, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations

    Mr Werner Obermeyer, Deputy Executive Director, WHO Office to the United Nations

    Ms Charity Kagwi, Programme Management Officer, UNODC New York Office

    Mr Ninan Varughese, Senior Adviser, UNAIDS New York Office

    Mr Sandeep Chawla, former Deputy Executive and Division Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, UN Office on Drugs and Crime

    Ms Joanne Csete PhD, Associate Professor, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

    Mr Diederik Lohman, Associate Director, Health and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch

    Moderator: Mr James Cockayne, Head of Office at the United Nations, United Nations University

    A moderated Q&A session followed.

    This event was webcast and can be viewed here.




    Conference Room 11, Conference Building, United Nations Headquarters


  • Ms. Summer Walker

    Drug Policy Project Manager

    Tel: +1 212-963-6346