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Give New Zealand a say in global drug policy

Consultation to give New Zealand a say in global drug policy
New Zealand Drug Foundation
15 February 2008

A greater community voice in United Nations global drug policy is the goal of a historic forum to be held in Wellington 18-19 February.

The Beyond 2008 Regional Consultation for Australasia is one of nine being held around the world to gather input from non government organisations (NGOs) on what has worked for them in reducing supply and use of illicit drugs, and seek opinions on how well United Nations drug control targets have been met.

“World leaders met a decade ago and set themselves the ambitious goal of a ‘Drug Free World’ by 2008,” says Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell.

“While we can admire their intentions, the cold hard facts tell us that the world community has largely failed in its official drug control efforts and questions are now being asked about whether the current structures are fit for purpose.

"These consultations are a genuine and welcome attempt by the United Nations to allow communities affected by drug problems to contribute to future directions in global drug control. New Zealand has a lot to contribute and can be proud of its achievements in reducing drug harm. This forum is one important way we can share our experience with the global community.

“Increased investment into drug treatment services, government support for community drug projects, and a world beating needle exchange service are some of the successes New Zealand community agencies will share with their international colleagues.”

Results from New Zealand will be combined with those from Australian consultations to form an Australasian report to the Vienna NGO Committee which will meet in July to review progress in achieving UN drug control targets established in 1998.

More than 40 delegates from a range of New Zealand NGOs will attend the Wellington consultation, including the Drug Foundation, Needle Exchange Programme, youth health services, treatment services, Maori health organisations, and DHBs.

A number of drug policy experts from overseas, including Italy, Canada and Australia, will be speaking at the consultation alongside prominent New Zealand drug control figures.

The New Zealand forum will also include a focus on domestic drug control law, with the Law Commission updating participants on its review of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"The Misuse of Drugs Act has become a tangled patchwork of amendments, many of which were ad hoc responses to short term public or political concerns. As a result it's rife with inconsistencies and anomalies," says Ross Bell.

"That's fairly typical of drug legislation in many parts of the world, and it is encouraging that our legislation is being reviewed at the same time the UN is looking at drug control globally."

He says harm minimisation should be the aim of any new drug legislation, and that message is one he hopes New Zealand will convey to the July summit in Vienna via the consultation results.

The Beyond 2008 consultations are an initiative of the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In June 1998, the UN General Assembly adopted Political Declaration committing around 150 states to achieving significant and measurable results in reduction of illicit supply and demand for drugs by the year 2008.

The General Assembly also called upon NGOs to work closely with governments and others in assessing the drug problem, identifying viable solutions and implementing appropriate policies and programmes. End.

ENDS

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