What is UNGASS 2016?
In 2016, a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) will be held on the topic of drugs. This follows the previous Special Sessions held in 1998 and 2009, and comes at a time when the ineffectiveness of current drug policies is being hotly debated in many parts of the world, and a number of countries and territories have adopted new and innovative arrangements for regulating cannabis.
In the UK, you may well be aware of high profile figures such as Richard Branson and Nick Clegg arguing that we should end the war on drugs and adopt a new approach, possibly including depenalisation, decriminalisation or even legalisation.
There are a number of events leading up to the Special Session itself which will be held in New York from 19-21 April 2016.
You can find full details on this page of the International Drug Policy Consortium site.
The organisation International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies (whom you can follow on Twitter: @idhdp) is urging doctors to join together in the pursuit of four main objectives:
- Making opioids available to relieve pain for all people (when necessary)
- Ensuring that opioid substitution therapy is available to all who need it
- Making naloxone widely available to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses
- Ensuring that needle and syringe programmes are easily accessible in every country
They have summarised their approach in the infographic reproduced below:
Originally, the next UN special session on drugs was not scheduled until 2019 but a number of countries, particularly from Central and South America, have lobbied for it to be brought forward three years because they want to see a change in the way the drug problem is tackled globally.
Currently, it is far from clear what decisions the special session will make with many countries wanting to step up the war on drugs as well as others who want to take a more treatment or decriminalisation approach.
There will certainly be increased coverage of the issue in the next 5 months leading up to UNGASS 2016.