With the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) Vienna midterm review of international drug strategy now just six weeks away, the International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ICN) has stepped up its efforts to wrest changes in the UN's current prohibitionist consensus. The coalition's "Another Drug Policy is Possible" campaign took off Monday in Brussels, as demonstrators at the Place de la Monnaie launched hundreds of balloons filled with cannabis seeds to "spread seeds of peace" instead of drug war violence.
The following day, the coalition organized a public hearing on reform of the UN drug conventions at the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament. Approximately 120 politicians, experts, and drug policy reform activists participated, reported Joep Oomen of the European NGO Council for Drugs and Development (ENCOD), which was named the European chapter of the international coalition in a meeting in Antwerp on Wednesday.
While speaker after speaker detailed the harms of prohibitionist policies on drug users and the broader community alike, Andria Mordaunt of England's John Mordaunt Trust, succinctly summed up the central theme of the conference. "There is ample evidence across the entire planet, (and in greater degrees within countries that are resourced well enough to carry out the research), that non-criminalizing drug policies -- for the most part -- work better for the individual drug user, their significant others and their wider community," said Mordaunt, adding "what I mean by 'work' is reducing the deaths, disease and crime that are so often associated with addictive drug use."
The answer, said Mordaunt, is obvious: end drug prohibition. "Global drug prohibition seems to be a failure," she said. "In our lives and in our communities it is and has been an abject disaster and a war on all of us."
This week's Belgian events are part of the run-up to Vienna that also includes an ongoing campaign by the Transnational Radical Party (http://www.radicalparty.org) and Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action (PAA) to encourage national governments to call for review of the UN drug conventions, the legal backbone of the global prohibition regime. The TRP announced Monday that efforts are now underway in three national legislative bodies -- Canada, Colombia, and Greece -- as well as the European Parliament in Brussels.
In Brussels, Kathalijne Buitenweg, MEP from the Netherlands, presented a resolution calling for "a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of the implementation of the UN Conventions." That resolution, which calls for a possible "procedure for the amending of the 1961 and 1971 Conventions and for the repeal of the 1988 Convention," should be considered within two weeks, according to ENCOD's Oomen.
And while the parliamentary track unfolds, the International Coalition of NGOs has announced plans for a demonstration in Vienna on April 12, where "thousands of people, while crossing the bridge over the Danube, will again spread the seeds for drug policy reform" before marching on the UN conference. Similarly, an alternative conference is scheduled to take place in Vienna April 10-13. Oomen reports that among participants will be the Italian MDMA network, which will lead chants of "no war, no war on drugs."
The road to Vienna is starting to get crowded.
Visit http://www.antiprohibitionist.org to read the text of the International Appeal for the Reform the UN Conventions on Drugs and view the list of signatories.
Visit http://www.vienna2003.org for further information about the NGO coalition campaign.
And for German speakers, http://www.u-n-o.org provides information about the alternative conference set for Vienna.