In many countries around the world, drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses: torture and ill treatment by police, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, denial of essential medicines and basic health services. Drug control policies, and accompanying enforcement practices, often entrench and exacerbate systematic discrimination against people who use drugs, and impede access to controlled essential medicines for those who need them for therapeutic purposes.
This report captures the main outcomes from an informal expert seminar on harm reduction in relation to the rising problems with the use of Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) in Southeast and East Asia, organized by the Transnational Institute, with the support of the Western Australian Substance Users Association (WASUA). The aim of the meeting was to have an open-minded exchange of opinions and experiences about the situation in Myanmar, Thailand, and Yunnan Province (China).
The Prague Declaration is a statement of representatives of municipal governments, decision makers responsible for local and municipal drug policies, workers in the field of drug prevention, regulation, treatment, and harm reduction, and researchers in the field of drugs. It was prepared in Prague for the conference Urban Drug Policies in the Globalised World (September 30 – October 2, 2010) and it is open to be signed by anyone interested in urban, municipal and local drug policy.
In many countries around the world, drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses: torture and ill treatment by police, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, denial of essential medicines and basic health services. Drug control policies, and accompanying enforcement practices, often entrench and exacerbate systematic discrimination against people who use drugs, and impede access to controlled essential medicines for those who need them for therapeutic purposes. Local communities in drug-producing countries also face violations of their human rights as a result of campaigns to eradicate illicit crops, including environmental damage, displacement and damage to health from chemical spraying.
Published by the Open Society Foundations, this report looks at how evidence-based services such as heroin treatment, injection rooms, and needle exchange can lower HIV infection rates, improve health outcomes, and lower crime rates.
At a press conference in New York on Tuesday 26 October, 2010, at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the UN’s key human rights experts will call for a fundamental rethink of international drug policy. Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council.
This short film by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), a grantee of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program, outlines how the country successfully resolved these problems through the introduction of an innovative national drug policy based on scientifically proven methods, not rhetoric.
In July 2001, the Portuguese government introduced Law 30, setting in train a radical new approach to illicit drug use. In practice, it decriminalised the possession of certain quantities of drugs for personal use, instead referring users to one of the country’s 20 ‘dissuasion commissions’. Allied with decree 183 – which significantly expanded the network of harm reduction programmes – this meant that heroin users could seek help rather than face the wrath of the police.
The recent report of the Stoltenberg Committee, set up by the Norwegian Health Minister to review the country’s drug situation, included a recommendation to begin offering Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) to the most marginalised users. The government, while supporting the introduction of new harm reduction measures, is still considering whether to follow the recommendation.
Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories
06 August 2010
The current international system of drug control has focused on creating a drug-free world, almost exclusively through use of law enforcement policies and criminal sanctions. Mounting evidence, however, suggests this approach has failed, primarily because it does not acknowledge the realities of drug use and dependence. While drugs may have a pernicious effect on individual lives and society, this excessively punitive regime has not achieved its stated public health goals, and has resulted in countless human rights violations.
Experts and policymakers have gathered in Vienna for the 18th International AIDS Conference to evaluate current trends in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Despite the widespread attention given to the subject, countries around the world continue to maintain draconian drug laws that are increasing the spread of the disease. Several leading AIDS, human rights and drug policy reform organisations and leading scientists are calling for urgent action to change current drug laws and incorporate evidence-based approaches to drug and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention to reverse this trend.
Critics of the international drug control regime contend that supply-oriented policy interventions are not just ineffective, but they also produce unintended adverse consequences. Research suggests their claims have merit. Lasting local reductions in opium production are possible, albeit rare; but, unless global demand shrinks, production will shift elsewhere, with little or no effect on the aggregate supply of heroin and, potentially, at some expense to exiting and newly emerging suppliers.
Portugal's move to decriminalize illicit substances—Europe's most liberal drug legislation—turns 10 years old this month amid new scrutiny and plaudits. Portugal's decriminalization regime has caught the eye of regulators in Europe and beyond since it was implemented in 2001. Proponents credit the program for stanching one of Europe's worst drug epidemics. Approaching a decade in force, it is providing a real-world model of one way to address an issue that is a social and economic drag on countries world-wide.
This briefing paper explores the question of Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT), examines the growing body of evidence emerging from its clinical use in addiction therapies, and makes recommendations for policy makers.
According to the Transform blog, it has been confirmed that the Russian diplomat Yuri V. Fedotov has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). What will be the implications? Russia has one of the worst records on drug policy and human rights: it ignores scientific evidence on effective HIV prevention among drug users and its punitive drug laws push drug users to the margins of society. Afghan opium poppy farmers could suffer from this appointment as well. The Russians hold them responsible for the 30,000 drug deaths in Russia every year.
A top Russian diplomat, Yuri V. Fedotov, has emerged as the front-runner in the race to become the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – the world's new drug czar, according to Colum Lynch, a longtime Washington Post correspondent who reports on the United Nations for Turtle Bay.
The Vienna Declaration is a statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. We are inviting scientists, health practitioners and the public to endorse this document in order to bring these issues to the attention of governments and international agencies, and to illustrate that drug policy reform is a matter of urgent international significance. We also welcome organizational endorsements.
Recently, the UNODC has begun to take notice of the impact of its counternarcotics work on human rights. Antonio Maria Costa, the current executive director, has set out a series of recommendations for internal reform intended to improve the agency's human rights performance. This leadership on human rights is very welcome, and much needed, but it may already be under threat. Costa leaves his post at the end of July. Unfortunately, the current frontrunner for the role of UN drug tsar is the candidate being pushed by the Russian government.
This fact sheet explains the Safer Crack Use Program of the Public Health Department of Toronto (Canada). In Toronto, a range of community-based, government and institutional agencies deliver harm reduction services. As with other harm reduction measures, there is no evidence that the distribution of safer crack use kits encourages drug use. Only people who are already using crack cocaine participate in the Safer Crack Use Program.
Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs.