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Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK: 

Report on the International Parliamentary Conference: Tackling Drugs, Changing Communities

3-8 February 2008

Carol Doherty


This report concerns the International Parliamentary Conference on Tackling Drugs and Changing Communities. It outlines the following information:

  1. Timetable and key issues identified on an International level
  2. My personal experience of the conference

The conference was held in the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House, in the Houses of Parliament in London. The objective was to identify challenges for parliamentarians in relation to the issue of tackling drugs. With such a massive issue, the conference provided a wide variety of information in an attempt to encompass all of the main issues which face every society today in relation to drug use and supply.

1. Timetable and key issues identified on an International level
Monday 4th February: International Perspective, Social Impact, Reducing Supply

This was the first day of the conference and it was very comprehensive. There were twelve speakers in total and a wide range of information was delivered. The day was broken into 4 sessions and at the end of each session the delegates were given an opportunity to ask questions and voice individual opinions to the panel. This was a highly informative day with a lot of detail to absorb. The day culminated in a visit to the House of Lords where the delegates had a mini-tour and an opportunity to relax and discuss the day.

Tuesday 5th February: Visit to London Heathrow Airport, Pharmacia House and DAIS (Drug treatment centres) Hounslow

This was a field trip day and an opportunity to see the practical application of the multi-tiered anti-drugs plan. The delegation visited Heathrow airport and had a tour of the airport detection facilities. After this, there was a trip to Pharmacia House in Hounslow which is a drug treatment centre. Here we met drug users and recovering addicts and had an opportunity to interact on a personal level and ask questions. This was a very interesting day and I found it very useful to see how resources are used. It was also a unique experience to talk to the drug users because they were very honest and open and it changed my idea of a ‘druggie’ stereotype.

I also saw the needle exchange program which allows users to get clean equipment to use their drugs. This shocked me a bit because I didn’t like the idea of “enabling” users- however; this was very naïve of me because the problem grows when users have dirty and unhygienic equipment. It was still quite disturbing and made me realize how easy it is to avoid the realities of drug use.

Wednesday 6th February: Organised Crime, tackling the impact of drugs in our communities

This day was similar in design to Monday’s timetable in that the delegation had the opportunity to listen to a number of speakers. It also allowed time for the delegates to exchange views in a more formal setting and also to raise issues which were pertinent to their society. I found some of the speakers to be particularly good- Mr. Shaun Bailey (Director, My Generation) was inspirational in giving his talk which centred on community support.

The day finished with a dinner in St James’ Park which placed delegates in different groups which again led to some diverse conversations between different countries. It was interesting to note that some countries have bigger issues with supply of drugs than demand for drugs. The UK and Northern Ireland have more obvious demand issues, so it was good to hear the different perspective from the more “supply” oriented countries.

Thursday 7th February: Education and Prevention

This was day 4 of the conference and the group was interacting on a more natural level which again led to better conversations about the conference. Good contacts were made and there was a general feeling of unity against the global issues of drugs. (It may sound a bit like an episode of Big Brother but I felt very positive that these politicians from around the world were sitting in one room and informing each other about their countries’ issues with drugs.) The speakers brought a range of information and statistics again and talk turned to the “hidden harm” of children and families. This is definitely a big issue in Northern Ireland (and everywhere really) and so it was good to hear of strategies for families having spent the week talking about supply and demand and the user himself.

The day finished with all the delegates having dinner in the hotel and exchanging views once again.

Friday 8th February: Departure day

This day was reserved for an optional visit to the houses of parliament. This involved a tour and a final goodbye to the delegates

2. My personal experience of the conference

I had a thoroughly informative and interesting time whilst in London for the drugs conference. I was delighted to represent the Assembly and provide some insight for the other delegates into the parliamentary workings and political climate in Northern Ireland.

It was the most rewarding experience I have had in my time with the Assembly and I have returned with a great deal of knowledge and insight not only into the global issue of drugs, but also into the workings of other Commonwealth countries. Many issues were discussed and many potential research topics have developed which I expect to rise into the public eye in the coming months. Hopefully I will be of some use in informing members and developing research in this area.

Annex 1



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“Working for Parliamentary Democracy throughout the Commonwealth





1. We, the 38 parliamentarians from Commonwealth and other countries met in London on 4-8 February 2008 for an International Parliamentary Conference on, “Tackling Drugs, Changing Communities; Challenges for Parliamentarians”. Our purposes were to learn more about the misuse of drugs, the international illicit drugs trade and their effects on the communities in our constituencies in order to explore how Parliamentarians might work better together nationally, regionally and globally to ensure that proper legislation is enacted to reduce the misuse of drugs and the international illicit drugs trade to enable our communities and constituents to live in safe and healthy environments.

2. We recognise the urgent need for co-ordinated global and international action to; reduce drastically both the misuse of drugs and the illicit drugs trade – production, supply, demand and use; share intelligence and detection technology, and for all countries – producers, transit and consumer, to work together to develop more effective interdiction and prevention strategies. We note, support and welcome the several United Nations Conventions on Drugs and agree to scrutinise and hold our Executives to account in their commitments to UN and other international agreements to reduce the illicit drugs trade.

3. We recognise the inherent danger to; the stability of our countries from the illicit drugs trade and its links with organised crime, and socio-economic challenges; the stability and health of our communities from the misuse of drugs, and undertake to work to improve our criminal justice, health and drug strategies in a co-ordinated manner. We note that seized criminal assets could be used to fund anti-drugs programmes.

4. We accept that we have special responsibilities to do our best to improve our social support and health systems working with those in our communities who suffer harm and deprivation as a result of the misuse of illicit drugs. We recognise that more needs to be done to educate our constituents, especially the young, to the dangers and harm of drugs misuse, and to strengthen our institution

5. We accept that parliamentarians have a moral responsibility to address the drugs issue. We recognise cultural attitudes towards the vulnerable members of our communities; celebrities, the unemployed, women and the young, who become involved with illicit drugs, vary from country to country. We undertake to work in our legislatures, with groups within and without our communities and with our constituents to broaden the understanding of the challenges involved.

6. We note that in 2008, the 10-year review period proposed at the United Nations Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in June 1998, reaches its conclusion. We urge our Executives to join all other national governments in Vienna in 2009 to decide a way forward for the management of the international drugs control system.

7. We pledge to work in our parliaments, with international parliamentary organisations and in our communities to ; reduce the misuse of drugs and the trade in illicit drugs; strengthen our communities and institutions against the dangers of drugs misuse; educate our communities about the harm from the consumption and misuse of drugs; break down the cultural barriers and misunderstandings of drug misuse in our communities, and to scrutinise and hold our Executives to account in their actions and commitments to reduce the misuse of drugs and the illicit drugs trade and to improve the criminal justice, social support, health and drugs strategies in our countries

Australia, Canada, the Cameroons, the Gambia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

1961 Single convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.