Questioning Costa’s Answer

Costa vs. Polak -
where is the discussion paper?
Guess the riddle!

On March 12, the second day of the High Level Meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime met with NGO delegates. The meeting was initiated and organized by the Vienna NGO Committee, the same organization responsible for the Beyond 2008 global NGO forum in July 2008 (watch our video!).

First the organizers did not allow any cameras in the room but after they discovered that the UNODC also planned to record the event they decided to let us film as well. However, the press was exluded. We found this step quite unnecessary if we consider that the meeting was called “an open dialouge”: why is it closed to the media than? It’s not surprising that one day prior to this meeting NGO delegates were also excluded from the official UNODC press conference.


Transparency is not a strength of the UN anyway. It was not allowed to film the plenary session or the round table discussions, what is more, we were even banned from making interviews in the corridors with people who gave their consent. They said we can only film with media accreditation – but I really don’t see any reasons why NGOs cannot make their own movies. One security guard  said it's because the government delegates don't want to find themselves on YouTube - at least he was honest. This also shows how big is the gap between the UN drug control system and the very principles of the UN – that is, to promote human rights.

The high level security at the NGO meeting was also quite unnecessary: are NGO delegates so dangerous that a dozen security guards – some of them armed with teasers - have to escort and protect Mr. Costa at the meeting? He himself claimed this has nothing to do with him: this is a rule set by the New York based UN security department.

Anyway, I felt some tension in the air even before the meeting set to begin. If not the security guards, the presence of Dr. Polak made us sure of even more tensions. He asked Mr. Costa about the discussion paper on the Dutch coffee shop system he promised to publish “very soon” last May in Barcelona, at the international harm reduction conference. Mr. Costa said there are some discussion papers produced by his agency that “were eventually quashed” and “remained an internal document never published”. He claimed he gave an elaborate answer to this question in his blog (Costa’s Corner) and at the UNODC press conference as well – where a Dutch journalist, Derick Bergmann posed the same question to him. But as Dr. Polak did not attend this press conference, we gave him the opportunity to address the issues raised by Mr. Costa there.

Watch our video and find out more!

Read Transform's blog on the issue!

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