Mexico recently achieved an important triumph in the United Nations that has largely gone unnoticed. With the invasion and war crimes occurring in Ukraine, it is natural that most of the attention centers on how member states attempt to bring Russia into line. Yet, the United Nations is more than the Security Council even if at times it may appear that the only relevant decisions are made there.
In March, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held its 65th session in Vienna, Austria. To recall, the CND “reviews and analyzes the global drug situation”. During this session, Mexico presented the resolution “Strengthening international cooperation to address the links between illicit drug trafficking and illicit firearms trafficking”. Mexico’s resolution was one of four adopted at the CND’s session this year.
Why it matters?
1. As obvious as it may seem for scholars and citizens, especially those living in Latin America, that there is a link between drug trafficking and firearms trafficking, the resolution advances the conversation for governments around the world so that both issues are addressed in an “integrated manner”. If this seems like a minor achievement, recall the ongoing legal action of Mexico against US gun manufacturing companies. This is to say, that Mexico is spearheading a conversation at the international level about the relationship between the two and places the lawsuit in the larger context of an international instrument. Therefore, this is not exclusively a US-Mexico challenge but one that is reproduced in different regions across the globe and where Mexico is assuming a key role in bringing positive change even if this happens incrementally.
2. The resolution also “recognizes the need to further address the negative impacts of the links between illicit drug trafficking and illicit trafficking in firearms on the lives of women, men, girls, and boys and calls on Member states […] to mainstream a gender perspective in preventing, combatting, and eradicating those crimes”. Of course, this does not happen with the stroke of a pen, but it is a step in the right direction in recognizing the differential impacts on distinct populations. As civil society has documented in Mexico, for example, the increased availability of firearms as a result of the “war on drugs” has also changed the way women are victimized. On average, of the 10 women who are killed daily in Mexico, six are murdered with a firearm.
3. I can understand that for those who already see the UN as an arena for feel good exercises these are considered pyrrhic victories at best. Yet, the CND takes places in Vienna, a city where the distinguished delegates of member states can enjoy a wonderful schnitzel but also have to conduct negotiations bearing in mind the “Spirit of Vienna”. Meaning that resolutions are adopted by consensus rather than voted on, which is to say that Mexico had to get the US to agree to its resolution and have countries like Iran accept language discussing gender mainstreaming.
A year ago, in the context of the 64th session of the CND, I wrote about the dissonance that existed between “United Nations Mexico” and “Domestic Mexico”. To be sure, I still think some of the challenges I outlined then persist to this day. Yet, I also think it is important to recognize, for the robustness of our analyses and as intellectual honesty, when the gap between how Mexico acts at the international level and domestically is closing in benefit of its citizens. Is there more than Mexico can do domestically on firearms trafficking? Absolutely. Is this resolution a step on the right direction? Without a doubt.
P.S. A year ago I also wrote that “if you cannot be aspirational at UN meetings where else can you live your best life?”. During the 65th session of the CND, member states also adopted the resolution Promoting alternative development as a development-oriented drug control strategy, taking into account measures to protect the environment. In light of President López Obrador’s program Sembrando Vida, it will be important to evaluate how Mexico incorporates into its domestic policy the text contained in this resolution. Will it be another case of UN Mexico living its best life or will it be a useful tool for the success of the program in drug producing regions?