ELSA delegation in New York

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In Spring 2016 two of my dreams became true! One of them was visiting the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the other one being actually visiting New York. In December 2015 I was lucky to get an email stating that I was appointed as a delegate of ELSA International to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, April 19th to 21st, in New York. I was one of the five delegates appointed by ELSA International.

The delegation started with finding (stalking) all the other delegates from Facebook and creating a group for planning the trip. The delegation consisted of myself from Finland (and Estonia), Matéj (from Czech Republic), Federico (from Italy) and Yuriy (from Ukraine). Unfortunately, Rahmat (from Indonesia) was not able to participate. At this point it is safe to say we had a great variety of different cultures attending and I couldn’t be more excited.

You’re probably thinking that nothing could go wrong on a perfect-sounding trip like this – well I’m going to stop you right there, because I think in my case pretty much everything went wrong, at least in the beginning :D. So I’m struggling if I should actually tell the whole story or just the fun part. Well, after giving it a thought, I’ve decided to write a little bit of both.

I started my trip on 15th of April. I had a connecting flight from Tallinn (connection in Helsinki) to NY. Since my Tallinn-Helsinki flight was delayed, I missed my NY flight with the result that I was seated on Helsinki-Heathrow, Heathrow-New York flights. Instead of arriving to NY at 4pm on Friday, I was there 7 hours later, which meant that everybody else had already headed to the apartment and I had to survive totally new place all by myself. Oh, and I also got my luggage two days before heading back to Finland, which automatically meant a lot of shopping at the Woodbury outlet area. YAY! But enough about the obstacles! Now to the fun part, that is the delegation itself! J

The delegation lasted for three days, but we all stayed in US approximately for a week. Three of us rented the apartment together, and one of us stayed at his friend’s place. The UN Headquarter was amazing, and of course the delegation itself. Even though it was a shame we were not given the access to side events where actually all the hottest debates were held, we managed to make the best of our time at the UN.

If you are not familiar, the UNGASS is a meeting of UN member states to assess and debate global issues such as health, gender, or in this case the world’s drug control priorities. Lastly, a special session on drug problems was held in 1998, its focus being the total elimination of drugs worldwide. Today, the approach is somewhat different, that is more humane, when discussing the drug problem. The outcome document of UNGASS was “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem”, adopted in April 19, 2016. This document provided recommendations and guidelines for Member States on drug control, including measures to combat demand and supply of illicit drugs, new emerging challenges in drug control, international cooperation and alternative development programs for drug-producing regions. Recommendations of the outcome document were one of the major topics to be discussed during general debate and also round-tables. As there is a definite progress in the new document, many countries argued the document to be still rather toothless, which it actually is.

The statements given by the states were interesting and first of all engrossing. Majority of the states tended to agree on terms how to make the progress regarding the world drug problem, but there were exceptions supporting criminalization of drug dealing/using and the capital punishment for drug dealers for example. Our delegation agreed that the major topics of the delegation were: a new approach on drug control; supply and demand reduction; harm reduction; legalization and decriminalization of possession and use of some of the narcotic drugs; capital punishment; indigenous communities and traditional cultivation of plants containing narcotic or psychotropic substances; new psychoactive substances; organized crime, money laundering, corruption, terrorism and other drug-related crimes; and the principle of common and shared responsibility.

All in all New York treated us well and the delegation was definitely the best part of it. If in doubt whether to go or not, do yourself a favor and go! 😉

Kadri Vatman