Add your voice to the call for pain relief ahead of UNGASS 2016

Categories: Policy.

These submissions should stress the need for much greater attention for the impact the War on Drugs has had on the availability of strong pain medicines.

As part of the agreed participatory process, the Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the UN body leading the preparations for the Session, has been requested to consult with relevant stakeholders to inform this process.

What is UNGASS?

UNGASS is a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. The UNGASS on drugs in 2016 is part of the work towards the achievement of the ‘Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem’, which UN member states agreed in 2009.

What does this mean for hospice and palliative care?

UNGASS seeks to make important decisions towards reducing the harm caused by drugs. As opioid analgesics like morphine are controlled substances, the decisions made here will impact the availability of essential medications for the relief of patients’ pain and other symptoms. 

Having these medicines available makes the difference between a patient dying in agony with inadequate pain relief, or being able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life until their death.

Why should you make a submission?

The CND has decided to ensure an adequate, inclusive and effective preparatory process for the 2016 UNGASS. The website has been created to “enable global dialogue in an inclusive and transparent manner and to function as a resource tool for the Commission in its preparations for the 2016 Special Session.”

This means that civil society can be part of the conversation by making a submission and that these submissions will be read by the Commission members as they prepare for UNGASS.

The ‘Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem’ calls for a balanced strategy. However, the vast majority of the discussion and action so far has focussed on the dangers of illicit drugs and has ignored the need for access to essential medications, particularly those needed for pain control.

It is important that as many hospice and palliative care groups as possible add their voices to the discussion. Otherwise, there is a risk that the important issue of access to medications will be sidelined, as a large number of groups’ submissions will focus only on the control of illicit drugs.

How can you do this?

All interested NGOs, regardless of ECOSOC consultative status, are invited to submit their contributions to the UNGASS preparatory process. You are encouraged to submit anything you deem interesting and of importance to the preparations – be it practical recommendations, activity reports or video footage of your work.

You can find key messages to include in your submission on the WHPCA website.

Contributions are not limited in length, and should be sent to Ms. Regina Rohrbach at with a copy to

If you have any questions about the process or how to meaningfully contribute, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Daniel Quittan at

Drugs or medications?

It is important to make it clear that when we talk about opioids and other medications needed for the relief of pain and other symptoms, we are talking about ‘medications’, not ‘drugs’.

The word ‘drugs’ refers to potentially harmful substances taken and trafficked illicitly, and the UNGASS seeks to solve the ‘drug’ problem.

Therefore it is important to refer to ‘medications’, not ‘drugs’ in your submission when talking about opioids or other medications for pain or other symptom relief.

By distancing medications from the ‘drug problem’ through the language we use, we are making it clear to decision makers that increasing access to medications will not mean an increase in the supply of illicit drugs with the attendant compounding of problems.

Making a submission, you will be contributing in a very important way towards the availability of essential medications and the quality of life of patients and their families.

For more information visit the UNGASS website

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