The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs-UNGASS 2016 is an event 20 years in the making, since the last UNGASS session, which took place in 1998. A coalition of Latin American countries, led by Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador, have specifically requested and obtained the permission that this meeting be held in New York in 2016, to facilitate a dialogue on drug policy and to open the discussion on experimentation, legalization and more permissive policies outside of the existing UN conventions on drugs.Preparations for UNGASS 2014-2016
As San Patrignano committed two years in the preparatory work of the UNGASS, with Elisa as Vice President of the Committee of NGOs in Vienna (VNGOC) in the creation of Civil Society task force (CSTF) together with the NGO Committee in New York (NYNGOC).
Elisa Rubini has served as vice President of CSTF since its foundation in 2014 to date, her presence being essential in contributing to the creation of its Working Groups – that include many of San Patrignano’s partners and organization in which San Patrignano has a role on their Board of Directors such as RUN, WFAD, EURAD, strategic partners like Active Youth and Turkish Green Crescent just to mention a few – and to ensure a balanced selection of speakers for Preparatory Commission, intermediate session events of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs – CND, and UNGASS itself.

Events and contributions made during the UNGASS, 19-21 April 2016 in New York

San Patrignano has actively participated in the work leading up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs UNGASS 2016 held in New York from 19 to 21 April.
The week of UNGASS, and our commitment is started on 18th April, where we were honored to be a part of the Civil Society Forum, organized by the task force in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and with the sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Colombia. Antonio Boschini, selected as one of the speaker for the forum, talked about the treatment of addiction, highlighting the location of San Patrignano and the communities experience, advocating the importance of recovery, access to treatment and the need to invest in policies aimed at the rehabilitation and social reintegration. Elisa Rubini, as Vice-President of the Task force moderated the session dedicated to the presentation of the Task Force’s report.

Always on April 18th, San Patrignano figured among the speakers at the side event United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) on alternatives to imprisonment. On this occasion Elisa Rubini presented San Patrignano and community Pope John XIII jointly, to emphasize the importance of alternative measures in Italy, considering the contributions of these communities and the role of the recovery in reducing recidivism in both crime and drug addiction.

On April 21st there was the side event organized by San Patrignano See full statement and sponsored by UNODC, Sweden and Croatia on the socio-economic benefits of investing in recovery. The event, opened by Lina Pastorek, Sweden’s representative and by Gilberto Gerra on behalf of UNODC, was well received by the public and successful in term of participation. In the wake of Kerry Kennedy’s opening remarks encouraging the support for recovery, which were presented by Rowdy Yates, on behalf of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities, the factors that make recovery a means not only sustainable, but also economically preferable to medicalization and/or harm reduction. Antonio Boschini stressed his experience in San Patrignano as a community of life and hope and as an example of recovery both personally and professionally. Colleen Marlett shared her experience as a mother of a young addict, giving voice to the despair and frustration of many American mothers and fathers who cannot find an adequate response within the existing treatment services. Colleen is the author of a blog on the subject “This is why I fight” https://thisiswhyifight.wordpress.comwhich has helped and is helping so many mothers and fathers who face the same problems. Jeff Bratton presented his story, speaking of the experience of recovering from a personal perspective, paralleling the version told by his mother, author Libby Cataldi, in her book Stay Close and blogs http://libbycataldi.com/blog/

San Patrignano has also followed the official UNGASS sessions, plenary and round tables , and additionally San Patrignano participated in the campaign “Prevent don’t promote” http://preventdontpromote.org, which aims to highlight the importance of alternatives to pro-reformist tendencies, putting a strong emphasis on prevention as opposed to speculation of big corporations and the pro-reformist marihuana industry pushing for legalization.
“Prevent don’t promote” was launched by Drug Policy Futures http://drugpolicyfutures.org an International Network of which we are a part

UNGASS 2016 Results:
The general analysis of the UNGASS is certainly positive one. The final Report https://documents-dds -ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N16/105/72/PDF/N1610572.pdf?OpenElement is definitely in line with current policies and does not show any reformist breakthroughs. It was discussed and negotiated in Vienna and adopted by a consensus vote.
The document reflects the new paradigm in public health in the context of political drug policies which is now widely shared, as well as the need to address the drug issue by supporting treatment in place of incarceration. The alternative measures were highlighted clearly as one of the priorities, unfortunately there was a lack of consensus on the issue of the death penalty for crimes associated with drug dependence.

It appears clear by the signals that this UNGASS is not the end of a process rather, it’s just the beginning. The next target is 2019 the ten-year review of the Declaration and plan of Action adopted in Vienna in 2009. It seems that after the New York experience, we should go back to Vienna and the CND as natural home for these discussions and work, being as the CND is the official organ for such negotiations.
Therefore is it necessary more than ever to continue our efforts together with our partners to ensure that the best practices in prevention, recovery and social reintegration are not forgotten or diminished, until they are able to be measured and cataloged as evidenced based.
Our international engagement remains crucial as a standard-bearer of the values we believe in, recovery and social reintegration.