On 15 March 2024, the Eastern and Southern Africa Commission on Drugs (ESACD) hosted a high-level event on the sidelines of the 67th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. The event, titled ‘Catalyzing responses to the expanding and diversifying range of drugs and drug markets in Eastern and Southern Africa’, examined regional drug trends and provided a formal introduction to the commission, which was launched in February 2023 under the leadership of former South African president H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe.   

This was the third high-level meeting convened by the ESACD, following the inaugural event in South Africa and a second conference in Mauritius. The commission is supported by the EU-funded ENACT programme (implemented by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, INTERPOL and the Institute for Security Studies) and seeks to address some of the most pressing issues in Eastern and Southern Africa related to drug policy and the associated public-health risks. 

At the event, participants discussed the outcomes of the previous ESACD meetings, proposed ways forward and heard perspectives from speakers from the region to inform discussions at the CND and its mid-term review of drug policy commitments.  

The event was co-sponsored by the EU, the African Union, South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Sudan, Ghana, the UK and the US. It was attended by high-level officials and other stakeholders, including H.E. Motlanthe, chair of the commission; H.E. Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique; Hon. Henry Quartey, interior minister of Ghana; H.E. Ambassador Carl Hallergård, head of the EU delegation to the international organizations in Vienna; H.E. Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; Dr Olubusayo Akinola, head of the African Union’s social welfare, drug control and crime prevention division; H.E. Howard Solomon, deputy chief of the US mission to international organizations in Vienna; Bernice Apondi, of the Kenyan harm-reduction organization Voices of Community Action and Leadership; and Charity Monareng, of the South African NGO TB HIV Care.  

The ESACD also organized an informal exchange between H.E. Motlanthe and H.E. Chissano with African and global civil society experts attending the CND. The discussion was fruitful and confirmed the importance the commission attaches to civil society participation in the drugs debate.