WHO Joins 67th Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The 67th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) , convened in Vienna from March 14th to 22nd. This event marked a critical juncture in international conversations on drug policy. The World Health Organization (WHO) emerged as a key advocate for evidence-based approaches and public health-centric solutions during discussions on progress and challenges.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO , underscored the staggering toll of 600,000 deaths annually due to non-medical use of psychoactive drugs in a critical video address. He urged the need for evidence-based strategies focused on prevention, harm reduction, and treatment, offering hope to combat this grim reality.

Key to WHO’s agenda is the just use of controlled substances, such as opioids and psychotropic medicines, as critical tools in pain management, palliative care and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Dr Tedros shed light on the sharp inequalities plaguing these medications’ distribution and accessibility, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO emphasized the formidable barriers individuals face to accessing necessary care due to stigma, discrimination and legislation favouring criminalization over public health. This call for a foundational shift resonated with Member States and civil society.

Significant international backing of WHO’s recommendations emerged as Member States voiced support for the international scheduling of psychoactive substances, underlining a unified commitment to evidence-based regulation and control measures.

In addition to official proceedings, WHO initiated a series of side events and collaborations with Member States, addressing various components of the global drug challenge. Notably, the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drugs Threats, a diplomatic initiative aiming to counter the rising threat posed by synthetic drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine, gained significant attention.

Engagement with civil society representatives was another highlight of the session, thanks to the Vienna NGO Committee’s organization of an informal dialogue that sparked meaningful exchanges.

As the session concluded, Member States adopted resolutions emphasizing increased co-operation amongst UNODC, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and WHO. These resolutions reflect a collective determination to improve collaborative mechanisms and guide more effective drug policy frameworks.

WHO reaffirmed its commitment to its partners, including Member States, INCB, UNODC, and civil society, pledging to continually seek solutions grounded in evidence, human rights, and public health principles.

As the curtains fall on the 67th session of the CND, Vienna was setting the stage noy only for diplomatic dialogues, but as a symbol of hope, lighting the path towards a more compassionate and enlightened global approach to drug policy.

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