Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Losing UNGASS? Lessons from civil society, past and present

Collins, John (2017) Losing UNGASS? Lessons from civil society, past and present. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 17 (2). pp. 88-97. ISSN 1745-9265

PDF - Accepted Version
Download (838kB) | Preview
Identification Number: 10.1108/DAT-02-2017-0006


Purpose of paper: This paper examines the role of civil society in the recent history of drug policy reform. It focuses on the UN drugs control system, which is designed to regulate certain ‘scheduled’ or listed substances internationally. It provides new light on recent reformist discourses and strategic agendas and how they related to the reality of UN politics and international relations. It questions the idea that the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016 was a failure in terms of outcomes. It concludes by suggesting that the true outcomes of the UNGASS process will initially be obscured by the complexity of national-international drug policy dialectics, but may eventually prove more tangible and enduring than proposed formal systemic reforms. Design/methodology/approaches: The paper examines the historical role of civil society in the UN drug control system. It highlights that although civil society played a key role in the early formation of the system, this role diminished over time as the system professionalised. Meanwhile, as a new reformist movement emerged in the 1990s challenging the status quo, the article traces this movement through the early UNGASS process, the decline of the reformist era and the eventual UNGASS outcomes. It concludes with a critical evaluation of civil society strategies and the relationship between idealistic strategies and the realities of national and international politics. Findings: Rather than a failure of outcomes, UNGASS represented a failure of assumptions, strategic vision and ultimately expectations on the part of reform optimists. These groups ultimately created and became captive to a goal of formal systemic reforms, or treaty revisions, underpinned by a dogmatic assumption of ‘the inescapable logic of reform necessity’. This logic argued that highlighting treaty ‘breaches’ and contradictions would be a sufficient condition to drive a formal UN system-wide re-evaluation of drug control. These failures of strategic assumptions and vision ultimately resulted in the sense of ‘failure’ of UNGASS 2016...

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Divisions: IGA: United States Centre
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2017 14:27
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2024 20:03

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics