The 10th Asian Informal Drug Policy Dialogue
From 15 to 18 November 2018, the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) jointly organised the 10th Asian Informal Drug Policy Dialogue (IDPD). It was organised in collaboration with the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) of Myanmar and held at Inle Lake, Southern Shan State, Myanmar.
- In the past year, some countries in Southeast Asia have adopted drug policy reforms, notably Myanmar with its recently launched National Drug Control Policy, and Malaysia and its shift away from the use of the death penalty for drug crimes.
- Key challenges faced by the region include: limited access to essential medicines, criminalisation of people who use drugs, human rights violations associated with compulsory drug treatment, and extrajudicial killings (Philippines and Indonesia).
- Governments in the region, especially of Malaysia and Thailand, have recently expressed interest in legally regulating the medical uses of psychoactive plants such as cannabis and kratom.
- AD programmes aiming at improving the general framework conditions of smallholder farmers in drug crop cultivation areas still face numerous challenges on the ground. These include dilemmas about how to ensure that such programmes are inclusive, how to achieve a proper balance between development-oriented and supply reduction approaches, as well as how to design programmes that take into account local needs and priorities.
- With regard to drug consumption, methamphetamine continues to be one of the most common substances of choice among people who use drugs in Asia. This trend calls for embracing pragmatic strategies aimed at minimising the risks related to drug use, including the distribution of evidence-based information and exploration of innovative harm reduction approaches such as drug checking and peer support activities.
- The limited availability of funding for harm reduction services remains a problem in Asia, including in Central Asian countries, where notable risks associated with heroin injection prevail. In the meantime, valuable lessons can be drawn from Malaysia, where collaboration between civil society, community organisations, and government agencies have helped expand and sustain harm reduction programmes in the country.
- Due to broader gender inequality issues, women are disproportionately affected by poor socio-economic conditions in the region. Furthermore, there appears to be a missing link between drug policy matters and debates on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, which needs to be addressed alongside other problems such as stigma, human rights violations, and criminalisation.
- Participants at the Dialogue welcome the increasing role of UN bodies such as the OHCHR and the UNHRC, which illustrate the UN’s increasing acceptance of a much-needed synergy between human rights principles and drug policy approaches.