Thursday, February 10, 2011

SSDP goes to the United Nations, Seeks Consultative Status

UNHQ, New York -- A two-person delegation from SSDP International traveled to New York from Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. International Liaison Patrick Timmons and International Outreach Daniel Pacheco went to lobby for and present the organization's application for consultative status before the Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) committee on non-governmental organizations. This nineteen delegate committee approves or defers NGOs' applications. Consultative status would allow SSDP to send delegates to all appropriate committees and meetings of the ECOSOC.

As a registered non-governmental organization with operations in several of the world's regions, SSDP applied for consultative status in 2007. Since then SSDP national staff have responded to further lines of questioning in writing by the committee, thereby keeping our application alive in the paperless correspondence system. In late 2010, to try to understand why the application had been deferred, SSDP's executive director Aaron Houston decided to send a delegation upon invitation by the committee. The committee met from 31 January to 9 February in United Nations Headquarters.

SSDP International's gaining of consultative status would boost the international drug policy reform movement's profile. Few regulationists appear on the roster for special consultative status. Transform, an organization with strong ties to SSDP, gained consultative status in 2007. And, if this author is not mistaken, Transform has allowed SSDP to appear on its credentials in meetings of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Other drug groups will soon be on the roster, though they come from a different perspective. Drug Prevention Network Canada, an abstentionist group, was put forward for approval to ECOSOC for consultative status in this first regular session of 2011. No delegation asked questions of the DPNC. When no questions are asked, applications go forward as it signals the committee has reached consensus.

The committee hears applications according to lists developed through the criteria of 1996/31/E / Consultative Relationship between the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The list the committee hears the NGOs' applications proceeds with new applications from Global South countries, followed by new applications from Global North countries. The committee then hears deferred applications from the South, followed by the North. SSDP appeared in this final category.

The committee tended to approve most cases for consultative status. But some disputatious issues led to procedural stalling and exaggerated lines of questioning about human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, which has not had its official quadrennial report recognized by the committee for the past five years. Tensions simmered as high drama erupted in the hall when the committee considered two international lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations for status. Several countries managed to block approval of the Australian Lesbian Medical Association and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex Association despite protestations from Belgium, Bulgaria, Israel, and the United States. Global South countries make up the majority of the committee's nineteen members. In a July 2010 case for a gay rights organization, the smaller bloc tends to bypass this committee, sending the organization's application for review by ECOSOC where fifty-four member states divide more equitably among the world's regions and can overrule the lower NGO committee.

SSDP International will not be forwarded to ECOSOC's approval for consultative status this session. SSDP's application was deferred pending a response to questions offered by the Delegate of Pakistan. This delegate suggested we stress SSDP's unique features: youth participation, public health, and democratic decision-making, rather than articulations of drug user's rights. He reminded us of the Bolivian coca controversy, suggesting that at this level, SSDP might not want to raise its political voice over other issues, many of which dovetail with such UN millennium development goals as: sustaining universal education, combating HIV/AIDS, creating a global partnership, and a commitment to environmental sustainability.

The UN Committee on NGOs meets again in from 16 - 24 May in New York. SSDP's application for consultative status will be reconsidered at that session.

The 54th Session of the UN Committee on Narcotics Drugs meets next month in Vienna, Austria from 21 - 25 March 2011.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Chapter Leader of the Week: Stefan Reed, NVCC

  • Name: Stefan Reed
  • School: Northern Virginia Community College
  • Studying: Art Education with a minor in Non-profit Management
  • SSDP NOVA, Chapter President

SSDP: When did you 1st get involved with SSDP?
Stefan: Fall '09 after seeing a flyer on a TV at school.

SSDP: What has been your favorite SSDP experience ?
Stefan: Going to my first SSDP National Conference in San Francisco last year. The level of camaraderie amount the SSDP members from all over the world was amazing! Also, it was great to see how far California has come to reform drug laws in their state.

SSDP: What issues are most important for your chapter?
Stefan: We work the hardest on marijuana legalization as well as educating the public about drug use with a "safe sex" approach, vs. "abstinence only" approach. We also like to have a great time while we work toward reform. We play hard, and work harder.

SSDP: Do you have any events planned for the this semester?
  • FILM 10 Rules for Dealing With Police – Tues, Jan 25
  • FILM DMT: The Spirit Molecule – Tues, Feb 8
  • LIVE Open Mic Night – Thurs, Feb 24
  • EDUCATE St. Patricks Day Alcohol Harm Awareness Day March 16th
  • FUN Tie-Dye Day – Tues, March 29
  • FUN Kickball Tournament – Sat, Apr 9th
  • SPEAKER ML Mathre Patients Out of Time – Tues, Apr 12
  • EDUCATE 4/20 Info Day and Baked Sale – Wed, Apr 20
  • FUN Non-Denominational Egg Hunt – Mon, Apr 25
  • EDUCATE Cinco de Mayo Day of Remembrance – Thurs, May 5

SSDP: What do you like best about being part of SSDP?
Stefan: I love that my chapter has turned into a group of friends. We don't do much the ISN'T SSDP related. When we have something to go to, where wear our SSDPness proudly!

SSDP: Do you have any advice for other chapter leaders?
Stefan: Be friends! hang out with your chapter members regularly! The more you hang out, the more SSDP stuff gets done. Also, people like star charts...yeah...1st grade style!

SSDP: What's your favorite "SSDP quote"?
Stefan: I love how Stacia Cosner's constant repetition of "Remember...don't consent to searches" has become a farewell statement among SSDPers.

SSDP: Any fun facts about you?
Stefan: Drug policy, political activism, stencil art, drawing, graphic design, skiing, hiking, playing softball (I play for The One Hitters), hosting vintage video game parties and massive dance parties. Honestly educating the public, woodworking, photo/videography, making SSDP known by EVERYONE! Stefan spent 8 1/2 years in Germany, while attending Middle school, High school and his first year of College.