UN adopts a declaration to reduce world drug problems

Published

On Tuesday 19 April, the UN Member States adopted a new declaration that supplements other existing decisions, where they commit to working to reduce demand and access to drugs. The decision was taken at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, UNGASS, in New York, which will continue until 21 April.

  • Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström is standing at a rostrum in the UN General Assembly

    Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström is speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.

    Photo: Government Offices of Sweden

  • Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström is sitting together with other people at a platform

    Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström (in the middle) is attending the seminar "Listen first" on how to help children and youth grow healthy and resilient.

    Photo: Government Offices on Sweden

Sweden is being represented by Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström and a delegation of ten participants, including members of the Riksdag and representatives of stakeholder organisations. The meeting originated on the initiative of a number of Latin American countries, where massive drug-related violence has lead to a desire for the international community to show more intensified efforts in combating drugs. In addition, the current declaration on drugs from 2009 expires in 2019.

"I am pleased that the UN has taken another step towards tackling world drug problems. The content of the new declaration also well reflects the priorities of the Swedish drug policy with a focus on public health and human rights," says Mr Wikström.

Greater emphasis on health aspects

Compared to the earlier UNGASS declaration from 2009, the new one is focused more on viewing drug problems from a health perspective. Preventive work, care and treatment, and work to reduce injuries needs to be given further priority.

At the same time, the declaration guarantees access to narcotics-classified, but necessary, pharmaceuticals in the world. It also raises recent years' challenges of new psychoactive substances and the importance of quickly classifying new substances as a drug.

"Sweden and the EU have worked together to give health issues greater scope and for drug policy to be implemented with respect for human rights. We have also pushed to have global work on drugs linked to work on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals that the UN adopted in September last year. To limit production, trade and use of drugs, people must be given prospects for alternative opportunities to earn a living, democracy, social cohesion and equal health," says Mr Wikström.

Other important perspectives for Sweden in the negotiations include the rights of the child, gender equality and the users' perspective. Sweden has also ensured that there are wordings on increased international cooperation and cooperation between different UN bodies, including in the health area.

Dialogue with other countries and organisations is valuable

The three-day session will include a number of discussions between Member States, UN organisations and representatives of various stakeholder organisations to spread the latest knowledge in the area and create better conditions to address the global drug challenges. A general debate will be held in parallel with five roundtable discussions on themes such as demand reduction, access limitation, cross-sectoral issues (human rights, children, women and societies), new challenges and international cooperation. Many other seminars and activities are being organised alongside these talks.

"It has been interesting and productive to take part in the many discussions in progress at UNGASS. It has been very important for me to add nuance to the picture of Swedish drug policy and show what we do in the health area as well as preventive work," says Mr Wikström.

About UNGASS

UNGASS refers to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem. It is a special session on drugs arranged by the UN General Assembly. The session brings together Member States’ presidents, ministers and officials to discuss the global drug challenges. Representatives of stakeholder organisations at regional and global level are also taking part.

The last time the General Assembly met to discuss drugs was in 1998. Since then, drug issues have been discussed regularly in the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which has also prepared the declaration adopted by the Member States. Every Member State is responsible for implementing it in the manner best suited, based on national circumstances.