The International Narcotics Control Board

Current Tensions and Options for Reform
IDPC Briefing Paper 7
February 2008

This briefing paper brings together material and analysis from a number of recent reports that raise questions about the role and functioning of the INCB. The IDPC analysis is that the Board mixes a rigid and overzealous approach to some aspects of its mandate, while showing a selective reticence in others. These inconsistencies do not arise automatically from the structure or role of the Board, but from the operational and policy decisions of its officers and members.

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Beginning with a discussion of its formal powers and self-proclaimed "unique" position in international relations, this IDPC report explores the tensions surrounding various aspects of the current operation of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB or Board). These tensions are analysed in light of the INCB’s interpretation of the UN drug control conventions and its mandate as laid out within them. It is argued here that in a number of contexts the Board appears prepared to act beyond the limitations which the treaties place upon it and engage in what can be termed mission creep.

The report also explores other contexts within which the INCB appears reluctant to meet its mandated obligations and displays what can be described as selective reticence. The report contends that the areas of concern surrounding these mandate issues are further reinforced and complicated by the INCB’s culture of secrecy and the lack of transparency which characterizes all its work.

It concludes by outlining "A Way Forward" in reviewing the way the INCB operates: a vital and timely endeavour that should be undertaken during the UN-level process to assess the 1998 UNGASS on drugs and the subsequent period of global reflection leading up to a high-level meeting in 2009 where markers for future UN drug control efforts can be adopted.