Civil society is making its voice heard at the UN


From 13 - 17 March 2017, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will be holding its 60th Session in Vienna.  The CND is the central policy-making body for the UN drug control system. It is comprised of 53 UN member states, elected (on a rotating basis) to ensure geographical representation, although other countries can attend as observers. At the CND, member states discuss the ‘global drug situation’ and adopt a series of resolutions on related issues. The CND is also the final decision maker on proposals by the World Health Organisation to schedule, de-schedule or re-schedule particular substances. CND also oversees the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). For an explanation of the different UN entities that comprise the UN drug control infrastructure see this page on the IDPC website  


The CND can often seem like a dry, bureaucratic gathering of career diplomats, divorced from the reality of the drug war in the world outside. This view is not an unfair one much of the time; for many here attendance is little than more than formality. But it is also why the role of civil society at the event is important; ensuring that the reality of the drug war’s failings are not ignored and challenging the entrenched institutions to engage with the reform debate, to evolve, change and improve.  Whilst the pace of change is often frustrating, change is happening - CND is a dramatically different event to when Transform first attended 15 years ago.


Unlike previous years when civil society was systematically excluded, today civil society speakers are more fully embedded in the formal program - able to participate in and address formal sessions including the plenary. Perhaps more importantly the CND has become perhaps the key international drug policy forum taking place annually - with over 1000 delegates and more than 100 civil society organisations from around the world represented, and over 90 side events on a diverse range of topics including human rights, treatment and harm reduction, decriminalisation, treaty reform and legalisation and regulation (see the full side event schedule here). These events, combined with the opportunities for informal meetings with member states and UN officials, provide a unique opportunity for civil society to engage with high level policy makers and push for meaningful longer term reform.

Transform is co-sponsoring three side events this year - please check them out if you are at CND or check Transform online for reports and live tweeting;



Organized by the Government of Czechia, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Youth Rise, NoBox Transitions, Anyone’s Child Belgium and Recovering Justice.



Organized by the Governments of Austria and Spain, Acción Técnica Social, Asociación Bienestar y Desarrollo, ReverdeSer Colectivo Programa de Análisis de Sustancias, Trimbos Instituut and Transform Drug Policy Foundation.



Organized by the Washington Office on Latin America, the Global Drug Policy Observatory, the Transnational Institute, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.


You can follow the events at CND this week in a number of ways:

On Twitter

  • Follow the hashtag #CND2017 and #CND60

  • From Transform - follow @Transformdrugs, @Stevetransform @lismarybaby and @anyoneschild

  • From IDPC - @IDPCnet and from TNI - @druglawreform (and for many other brilliant tweeters - check the @transformdrugs feed)


  • The excellent (staffed this year by Izzy and Ben from Transform) provides live updates of formal proceedings and key side events through-out the week

  • This year also sees the launch of the new CND online app - at  - making all the useful scheduling and background info available on smartphones.

The official UNODC CND site is here and includes the full program and draft resolutions.