Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation

OPENING SEGMENT

H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly

Welcome to the IISC in support of the UNGASS meeting. UNGASS is a major event in the 2016 GA calendar. What we are facing in these discussions is a transnational threat represented by the world drug problem and representing the common challenge and shared responsibly of all MS. It is a problem that destroys lives, often of society’s most vulnerable. Tears families apart. Pits drug users against drug suppliers. Even pits countries where drugs are used against countries where drugs are consumed. Sustainable development, criminal justice, international law, human rights are all relevant. This is an example of a 21st century problem requiring long-term engagement across borders and action by government. That’s why I have been greatly encouraged by the open and inclusive preparatory process of the UNGASS. The IPU contribution to the preparatory process of UNGASS took place yesterday. Today’s consultation taking place just two months before the UNGASS is the opportunity for civil society, researchers, youth groups, and other stakeholders to provide input. You can enrich and help guide the negotiation process that is underway in Vienna. This is particularly the case today that UNGASS Board Chair H.E. Khaled Shamaa is here. Encourage you all to engage as openly and frankly as possible, and wish you all the most successful of meetings. I will return at the end of the day to deliver closing remarks.

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General of the United Nations

Implementing the 2030 agenda of sustainable development will require the bold and courageous assistance of civil society. This applies equally to addressing the world drug problem. Around the world, illicit drugs promote violence, undermine people’s health and interconnect with corruption and terrorism. Those who traffic in illegal drugs may also be involved in human trafficking. The world drug problem is also a health problem – overdoses, addiction, and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Effects are experienced by drug users and their families, and overwhelm health systems. UNGASS is a wide-ranging discussion in all its aspects. We must help in the development of drug policies based on human rights and the health and welfare of people. This will support the 2030 agenda. Ensure the delivery of balanced drug policies with a renewed focus on human rights and development. Encourage member states to hold the broadest possible debate at UNGASS, including alternatives to prison and punishment for minor offences, greater access to controlled medicines, and promoting alternative livelihoods for farmers and their families. In all of our work, the human rights of people must come first. UNODC is in a unique place to support this process through their work on both the supply and demand sides of this issue. Count on civil society to keep bringing their voice to this important debate and thanks civil society for providing continued leadership.

H.E. Mr. Khaled Shamaa, Chair of the Board, Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Over the past month, the UNGASS board has been tasked with helping member states with the UNGASS outcome document, and has met with a wide range of stakeholders. As mandated, we are producing concrete operational recommendations in areas including new and emerging threats, and also threats we have been struggling with for many years. The world drug problem is complex and needs to be addressed in a comprehensive and multifaceted way. International cooperation, development, human rights, and justice are relevant areas. Need to address a health approach, as well as human rights, as a focus of this consultation. Civil society can play a crucial role in implementation. World drug problem poses a major challenge to the health and dignities of millions of people. First and foremost, drugs must be considered a matter of health and welfare, as the preamble of the treaties state. Sustainable development goals are impacted by the world drug problem. Must understand the different realities and approaches of those working on the ground, particularly interested in hearing from those on the grassroots level, and from developing countries. Dedicated UNGASS website was created to collect views and contributions from all over the world. More than 40 civil society organizations have contributed their input. In addition, there have been multiple hearings, panels, and events organized by civil society. There is no one size fits all approach, but UNGASS has to be about human beings.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, UNODC

Distinguished participants,  Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by commending the Civil Society Task Force for their work in bringing grassroots NGOs to this important event ahead of the General Assembly special session on the world drug problem.

I welcome this informal consultation, which is very much in the spirit of the inclusive preparatory process that have been led by the CND Board Tasked with UNGASS Preparations, with the support of UNODC.

Diverse stakeholders, including civil society as well as UN entities and international and regional organizations, have enriched the process with their thought-provoking contributions.

A dedicated UNGASS website and regular events held in New York, Geneva and Vienna have helped to foster broad participation and debate on the multifaceted and complex challenges posed by drugs.

The UNGASS is also an important milestone on the way to 2019, when the international community will review the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem.

Moreover, with the adoption and launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we have a holistic and forward looking framework which underscores the importance of health and inclusive justice to development, and which can also help to address these challenges as part of integrated assistance.

As you know, the UN advocates a comprehensive and balanced international drug policy that focuses, among other things, on prevention, treatment and care.

As the UN Secretariat’s lead entity in assisting countries to address the challenges of drugs and crime, UNODC is supporting Member States to put such approaches into action, through our global, inter-regional, regional and country programmes, our quality research and analysis, and our network of field offices.

In all this work we cooperate closely with our UN and other partners, including, of course, civil society.

Together, we have supported the international community to take concrete steps towards a balanced approach between supply and demand reduction, taking into account the original spirit of the conventions.

This includes expanding evidence-based prevention, as well as treatment, social rehabilitation and social integration programmes, and considering alternatives to conviction or punishment for appropriate minor offences.

It also includes strengthening criminal justice responses to disrupt organized crime networks, as well as promoting alternative livelihoods and increasing access to essential controlled medicines, while preventing their diversion, abuse and trafficking.

More concretely, we have worked with you to increase access to evidence and rights-based treatment and care in more than 40 countries around the world, from Cambodia to Serbia, and from Brazil to Tanzania.

In Afghanistan, we are helping to build the capacity of over 10 civil society partners providing drug treatment services.

Globally, UNODC has worked with the Vienna NGO Committee, the Civil Society Task Force, the Union for International Cancer Control and Human Rights Watch to increase access to controlled drugs for medical purposes.

We are building on the work we are doing in this area with local NGOs in Ghana to start similar activities in Timor-Leste and the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year.

We have supported the meaningful engagement of civil society organizations to advance evidence-based HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs and people in prison settings.

This includes providing financial and technical assistance to over 350 civil society organizations worldwide for strategic initiatives in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people who inject drugs, and working closely with civil society networks in strategic HIV responses.

We are supporting civil society to promote evidence-based best practice in the area of development-oriented drug control, as well as propose policy options for consideration by Member States implementing alternative development.

NGO expertise has contributed to delivery of UNODC technical assistance in this area, for example in designing and implementing alternative development initiatives in countries of the Mekong sub-region.

The vibrant and inclusive discussions leading to the UNGASS have been invaluable in highlighting the importance of such balanced and comprehensive action, and the need to deepen and expand our collective efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen, The UNGASS has helped to galvanize and focus attention on the world drug problem at a critical time.

I very much hope that we can rely upon you, and work with you, to help the international community make the most of this opportunity, and better support Member States in implementing balanced, health and people-centred approaches to drug problems.

I wish you a very productive discussion. Thank you.

Ms. Asia Ashraf, Director, Rehabilitation and Head, Psychology Department, Sunny Trust International Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, Pakistan

May I speak this morning on a rather neglected area of drug abuse in many parts of the world including my own country Pakistan, the female drug abuse? Drug abuse in Pakistan is typically considered a male problem, although UNODC survey in 2013 found 1.5 million or 22% female drug users out of the total 6.7 million illicit drug users nationwide.

Female substance use is on the rise among the urban educated classes, in colleges, offices and homes with tranquilizers and painkillers more commonly used by middle class women and cannabis used by poorer women at shrines, tombs and slums. Their numbers may be under-reported with possible “hidden” population of female drug users, as noted by UNODC in 2010.

Female drug abuse in Pakistan remains under-studied, except for UNODC studies and briefs and some limited research. Overall drug treatment services are highly deficient, accessed by only 30,000 drug users, and do not address the needs of female drug users. Lack of female-friendly services and female drug users’ reluctance to seek professional/qualified help due to social stigma, family reputation, marital risks and cultural constraints makes them doubly suffer in silence or be exploited by quacks, dubious faith-healers, and untrained psychiatrists treating them as mental cases. There is dearth of expertise and understanding on female-specific drug abuse treatment & rehab. A female- focused response by the state and by NGOs have yet to address this critical need.

I personally got interested and involved in treatment of female drug users in Pakistan while actually serving a 50-bed male drug treatment & rehab facility, Sunny Trust International Addiction Treatment & Rehabilitation Centre in Islamabad.

In the course of my last 12 years of work at Sunny Trust, I often came across people initially making discreet enquires for treatment of a male family members, but later opening up and seeking help in confidence for a female drug users in the family. Our outdoor counseling and support was of some benefit, but not always enough, since they could not be admitted in a male facility and no female service around to refer them to.

It set us thinking on the need for separate female-friendly drug treatment service within our socio-cultural setting. We got more female staff and trained them to deal with both in-house male patients and outdoor male and female counseling.

One evening, an educated, professional lady barged into our office along with her 18 years old daughter Tina, desperately insisting that we admit her for drug treatment. We regretted since this was a male facility. The standoff continued until she simply dumped her and left.

Tina was a high school dropout, with history of sexual abuse, whose alcoholic father and drug abusing brother drove her mad. She also turned to poly-drug abuse, now in chronic condition.

We were forced out of compassion to quickly create a temporary, one-patient separate female ward, making Tina feel at home and starting her treatment involving our female staff. Tina passed through different stages of recovery and rehabilitation, regaining control of herself, drug-free and smoke-free, to the joy of her mother and her own satisfaction. Back home, Tina persuaded her father and brother to get treated, and got both admitted to our centre. Back to school, she resumed her studies, married and moved on happily in life.

Later, Tina brought her former drug-buddy Bina (both changed names) for treatment at our centre. Bina came from a broken home, totally lost to drugs. We had to re-create the separate female-friendly arrangement and admitted Bina. She soon rehabilitated, strong and healthy, completed her studies. She had to fight out the stigma of her drug-ridden past including her treatment. We continued to extent her follow-up support.

Both cases served as our instructive piloting of female treatment. We decided to establish a separate Sunny Trust female treatment & rehabilitation facility. We have acquired the land and physical planning is underway. I am here in the US on a year-long Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship at the Virginia Commonwealth University to gain knowledge and skills for treatment of female drug users. I am working on the plan to set up a separate female drug treatment facility in Pakistan which will also serve as a resource and training centre for sharing of knowledge and skills and developing human resource for female-specific services in Pakistan.

Beyond sharing this very modest personal story, let me remind this worthy gathering that saving millions of men and women already lost to drugs remains a global obligation. And preventing many more from falling prey to drugs is an even bigger global responsibility. The horrific drug situation

Confronting the world is a result of collective global failure. It’s so easy and effortless falling into the drug trap, so terribly devastating living under drugs and so difficult coming out of drugs. The enormity of the drug problem is already a global nightmare.

UNGASS 2016 must take on this challenge head on and show the way to ridding humanity of this global drug menace. We have only two options: a drug-free world or a drug-doomsday—-which we cannot afford. Compromises and half-way measures cannot endure over time and are bound to eventually fall apart. If the world has to be truly safe and secure then UNGASS must lead the global campaign. It’s either now or never, so we must act.  Let UNGASS define the vision, and set goal, priorities and benchmarks, for realizing a drug-free world within our lifetime. Thank you.

Watch the full video of the first part of the Consultation
Watch the full video of the first part of the Consultation

 

ROUNDTABLE ONE: Drugs and health: Perspectives from the experts at the grassroots level

Ms. Marie Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General Health Systems and Innovation, WHO

We have not succeeded in delivering access to essential medicines. In alignment with the SDGs, we must build an agenda on drugs that has people at the core. Access to prevention measures and treatment is a human right. Morphine, the golden standard for pain management, is inexpensive and should be available.

Ms. Rose Kiwanuka, Palliative Care Association, Uganda

I am a palliative care nurse at the forefront of pain relief who has given morphine to people in their homes in poor areas for twenty years. No cases of abuse or diversion in her work experience. Uganda is the only country in the world where nurses are allowed to prescribe morphine, because there are so few doctors. Africa has more death in pain than any other region in the world because we are starved of opium. We need a new approach for access to controlled medicines. Uganda struggles from lack of funding and support, because this issue received so little support compared to supply reduction and demand reduction of illicit drugs. Need to teach medical professionals, police officers, politicians, drug regulators, etc. that morphine is an essential medicine, not a bad, addictive drug. Morphine must be made available for use by properly trained professionals.

Ms. Ma. Inez Feria, NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc., Philippines

The relationship between drugs and health, as we were taught, was: drug use, leads to problems, you go to treatment, and everything’s going to be okay. If not okay, then it’s your fault.

It is not that simple, or as linear. People have different lives, with different stories. And it’s tremendously helpful to understand, without judgement, each one’s.

Often, drug use simply does not take centre stage in someone’s list of concerns. So whatever concern they bring to us, that is what we work on together.

And at times, this means drug use shall continue during treatment. And that’s alright. We use this golden opportunity to engage that person at a point where they want to make positive changes in their life! It’s at that opportunity that change begins. And to deny treatment, as many do, because someone is still using is unethical.

Back home, many are forced — sometimes literally dragged and drugged — into treatment. But evidence and experience show that people do come on their own: when they know they won’t be judged or humiliated; they won’t be punished; when they feel understood. They come, they connect, they access treatment, they continue it, and they stay with it.

This is harm reduction. In an environment that allows it, this is what happens. When we had the needle syringe program, people lined up by the hundreds, infections stabilized, some even sought further treatment. This tells us that people who use drugs care about themselves, and they will access the services necessary — and relevant — to them.

But our needle syringe program was condemned and halted. And we lost the connection as soon as we had it, when we urgently needed it!

The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. Nearly every person injecting drugs diagnosed with HIV has Hepatitis C. And what they also have, is nowhere left to go.

Back home, drug use is a crime. In poor communities, the only response to drug use they know comes from the police. People are left with very few options, fear driving many further underground and into isolation, with families totally at a loss at what to do.

People targeted and brought to jail become exposed to traumatic abuses and health risks. People have died in prison before conviction, some before even reaching trial. We may not have the death penalty, but people are being sentenced nonetheless to silent executions.

It is very clear: to punish is to sabotage. Criminalization, compulsory treatment, and isolation do nothing to protect and promote health and welfare.

Government and Civil Society need to trust each other, and build on each other’s strengths and resources. It is essential that Civil Society, and especially the affected population, are unafraid for our lives when we take an active role, a role we need to have not as an accommodation, but as real partners.

Harm reduction is preventive treatment. Harm reduction is evidence-based treatment. Harm reduction — kindness — simply put, saves lives. And isn’t that the whole point?

Mr. Shakya Nanayakkara, Foundation for Innovative Social Development / Healthy Lanka Alliance for Development, Sri Lanka

According to the World Drug Report 2015, there are 27 million problem drug users in the world and a further 246 million people used an illicit drug in 2013, who are moving towards reaching the status of problem drug users. Almost all of us agree that 27 million drug users suffer and not enjoying their drug-using lifestyle. What about the situation of other 246 million drug users? If you look more carefully at their drug use behaviour, you will find that they are also not enjoying their drug use. Furthermore we must keep in mind that 95 per cent of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 do not use any illicit drugs.

Taking these facts into account, policy makers should question as to whether the use of illicit drugs is beneficial to the users or a hindrance to their progress. It is obvious that by entrapping themselves in a tedious cycle of drug use, people are limiting their scope of enjoying life and gradually increasing their level of sadness and suffering. It is therefore, necessary that scientific evidence based policies should be developed to prevent individuals, and especially children and youth, from initiating drug use as well as to release users from the habit of using drugs.

Reducing harm from drug use on the individual and societal level is the overall objective of drug policies. Demand and supply reduction measures that target and seek to reduce the prevalence of drug use and its social acceptance are the key to harm reduction at the highest level, because they work to minimize the first occurrence of drug related harm. Prevention is cost effective; it is sustainable and people – empowering; and it is the most humane policy option particularly in the context of assuring the best interest of the world’s children and young people.

According to the contexts of some countries, the existing environment may conducive to the approach of War against Drugs. However, when looking at other countries, there is still much that needs to be done towards developing policies that support the processes that are needed to reduce the suffering of drug users. Irrespective of what policies are available, there are certain issues that affect all countries, all societies and contexts alike; the tendency for children and young people to get drawn into drug use and the tendency for drug users to remain confined to their habit. These are the result of factors that make the use of drugs appear attractive and enticing and the social acceptance of such drug use. The scientific community is well aware that the so called positive effects of drug use are based more on psychosocial factors than on chemical factors. In fact, most of the chemical effects of these substances are unpleasant even at optimum level.

If proper policies are developed to reduce the attractive image of illicit drugs, and to reduce the social acceptance of such drug use, it is without doubt, possible to create a significant impact in reducing  the  overall  use  of  these  drugs.  It  will  in  other  words,  be  possible  to  prevent  people from  getting  attracted  to  drug  use  and  prevent  current  users  from  trapped  into  the  habit  of drug  use.  In  order  to  do  this,  we  must  first  raise  the  question  as  to  what  the  factors  that increase the attraction towards drugs actually are.

The  effects  of  certain  drugs  such  as  heroin  and  cannabis,  even  ATS  and  NPS  have  been promoted  as  pleasurable  than  there  actual  physical  effects.  Various  experiments  conducted around the world have repeatedly revealed that the real effects of drugs, and even alcohol, are unpleasant  even  at  optimum  level.  By  using  these  drugs  at  occasions  that  are  in  themselves pleasurable,  the  image  that  has  been  created  around  these  substances  even  before  they  are used, and the pardoning and sanctioning of drug induce misbehaviour on the part of society are a few of the many factors that contribute to the  social  learning that drug use is pleasurable. If we challenge and unlearn this learning and expose the true face of drug use, we could prevent individuals  from  being  drawn  into  the  use  of  drugs.  Similarly,  there  are  positive  outcome expectancies  that  make  drug  use  appear  more  attractive.  As  certain  people are  exposed  to these  expectancies  since  they  are  young,  they  are  very  likely  to take  to  using  drugs  at  some point  in  their  lives.  It  is  necessary  to  develop  policies  that  facilitate  the  challenging  and changing  of  the  attractive  image  of  drugs.  By  bringing  about social  change  in  this  direction,  it would be possible to prevent people from initiating drug use and to release current users from their habit of using drugs.

For  example,  the  idea  that  heroin  and  cannabis  enables  one  to  relax  is  a  belief  that  has  been planted  even  in  the  minds  of  children  and  young  people.  However,  in  reality,  these  drugs increase  the  rate  of  metabolism  so  that  the  user  experiences  more  fatigue  and  is  unable  to reach  the  state  of  deep  sleep.  It  has  been  found  that  those  who  used  heroin  or  cannabis  or other  drugs  to  relieve  fatigue  in  fact,  end  up  being  more  tired  than  they  were  before.  When investigating  the  actual  situation  of  those  who  used  these  drugs  with  the  aim  of  forgetting problems, it was found not only that the users  have been unable to  forget their problems and the problems still exist, but also that the problems faced by the users have in fact, increased. It is  therefore  possible  to  conclude  that  drug  use  does  more  harm than  good  and  that  there  is nothing that one could gain from using drugs.  When formulating policies related to drug control or prevention in any country, it is mandatory to  formulate  policies  that  seek  to  challenge  and  change  the  false beliefs  and  expectances  as well as the socially constructed positive image pertaining to these drugs. All countries have the responsibility,  and  are  bound  by  the  Child  Rights  Convention,  to  protect  children  from  the  use of illicit drugs. We have observed that some of the interventions and educational programmes that  seek  to  prevent  drug  use  among  children  from  are  not  only  ineffective,  but  are  on  some occasions, counterproductive. Children have the right to accurate information about the world and  the  various  burning  issues  therein.  The  reason  why  children  and  young  people  become enticed by drug use is that they are being deceived by the drug mafia and by the society at large.

Mr. Julian Andres Quitero Lopez, Cooperacion Accion Tecnica Social, Colombia

Ladies and gentlemen, Just a week ago here in United States, the Colombian and the Unites States governments celebrated 15 years of Plan Colombia: a bilateral agreement between the governments created of to fight Colombian guerrillas disguised as a war on drugs. For us (ATS), the Colombia Plan was the corroboration, once again, that military action to deal with the drug do not work. We hope that the Plan Colombia will be remembered as the last great military crusade against drugs.

Today we have more cocaine in Colombia and less guerrillas. That same Cocaine is the main threat to the “post-conflict” in our country. When the FARC lay down their arms, many drug.  When the FARC leave the weapon, many groups of drug-traffickers will dispute to blood and fire these territories to control his production, trafficking and distributionaround the world. Then, drug trafficking and cocaine will jeopardize post-conflict in Colombia. As Colombia President Santos said “It’s time to remove that money from drug traffickers.” We call on the governments of North, Central and South America to begin dialogue in order to regulate the cocaine market, not only for public health and human rights but for the security of our continent.

But the production of cocaine would be no problem if there is no demand for the product. That cocaine began to be consumed; almost always, at parties and in nightclubs, places nowadays come with innovative programs strategies and interventions to reduce damage on the recreational use of substances. These programs are run by the new generations of users of substances and are the result of drug policy reform; little interested in the great speeches, and are sure to pass on to our generation and the ones to come a sense of responsibility on the drug, you can change your relationship with them. Those are conscious and aware consumers  of the XXI century.

These projects are present at parties and events; and in a  discreet and quiet way  share information on risks and harm of  the use of psychoactive substances: no judgment, no prejudice,  not exclusion, discrimination.

Before sending out messages about prevention or improvement or rehab consumption work for consumers to make more informed decisions and with less negative impact on your health.

For example, in Colombia, the program “Echele Cabeza Cuando se Dé en la Cabeza” Technical Corporation Social Action, has made animportant  impact as drugs are becoming less adulterated, after analyzing more than 1,200 samples over the past three years and made public results. this has resulted in the reduction of drug poisoning emergency in the areas of party and at emergency romos at hospitals. For us it is vital to work with recreational users in leisure and parties, from pairs methodologies, promoting the reduction of risks and harm, looking for responsible consumption and above all preventing abuse and dependence on psychoactive substances.

Now when the geniuses of drug policy recognize that Colombia went from being a producer country  to a consumer country, we  are witnessing an explosion of drug injection, needle exchange, HIV, hepatitis and overdose deaths. The HIV invades Russia and the catastrophe that kills thousands of young Americans overdose.

In Colombia, we are having the opportunity to go one step further but public policy and “moral” standards are maiking it difficult.

In our country, we also started with the first program to access medical equipment for injection, and it is called “Cambie”- “Change”. Since the Corporation Technical Social Action- ATS , with the help of national and local public institutions, we have initiated a strong work in three cities and now we are consolidating as a comprehensive program of care for people who inject drugs. The state continues to put into question the evidence that reduce HIV and the use of Naloxone is only allowed in hospitals in Colombia. For this reason, it is vital to enable, support and expand the actions of harm reduction for people who inject drugs, you need to change the laws so that Naloxone is in the streets.

Colombia is starting to experience the injected drugs problema, primarily injected heroin. Our present is as follows: Average age of injecting drug use 22 years, more than 50% of syringe exchange between consumers, 60% is the average purity of heroin on the streets, 70% of consumers homeless living on the Street, or extreme poverty and one gram of heroin worth $ 10. What future awaits us if politicians refuse to acknowledge the evidence of access to syringes, whether naloxone can only be used in hospitals or refuse to believe supervised consumption rooms that are the gateway to comprehensive services for drug users . ATS Social and  Technical Action Corporation actually is posible thanks to 30 brave young fellows that I know are closely watching the streaming and changing drug policies in my country and the continent. For example we assist over 1,000 injectors in three cities and in the last six months we managed to save 21 lives making Naloxone available near consumers.

While governments can take control of drugs regulation, consumers demand quality drugs and information for your health, is not only the need of information as new drugs appear, but we are as well allies to a new generation of  responsable consumers for the XXI century, it is time to pay them more attention and more support, we are not problematic users organized to demand health services, we are recreational users building a cultural change and opening political space from the evidence provided.

Ms. Maria de los Angeles Lobos, Dianova, Chile

Addressing challenges of women who use drugs that are facing stigmatization and are on the margins of society. Pregnant women and mothers who are facing challenges associated with costs of children, and shame. Society identities being an addict with being a bad mother. We have to look at social and economic issues and come up with polices that tackle social inequalities that lead to vulnerabilities of these women. We have to move away from punishment towards control and look at drug policies to come up with a comprehensive plan. Need to look at real needs of users, and not just focusing on abstinence. Have to move away from the drug centric approach. Have to look at harm reduction, which is part of a comprehensive approach. Have not seen enough uptake of harm reduction in government policies. Many drug users are not ready to stop their use, but just reduce the harm done to themselves. Trying to move away from utopist vision to a comprehensive approach. Health system needs to offer these women more options.

Mexico

We have been in favor of the active participation of civil society and have made a plea that the inputs from civil society should be considered with greater openness. The panel shows the importance of the dialogue given the diversity in points of view. To have more humane, fair, and comprehensive drug policies, we need the vision of coil society. We welcome this preparatory process.

Penal Reform International

The problem is that the current criminalization approach scares people away from accessing health care program. In prisons, we are lacking harm reduction and drug dependency treatment. In 2014, there were only 43 countries that provided OST in prison settings, even though evidence shows this is highly successful. Since these people move out of prisons, it impacts broader communities as well. Patients have the right to inform consented. There cannot be non-consensual medical treatment.

Harm Reduction International (HRI)

In 1998, the international community gathered here in New York under the slogan ‘A Drug Free World – We Can Do It!’ Since that time, rather than achieving a world without drugs, what we have witnessed instead is the increasing damage caused by punitive drug control in all corners of the world: a catalogue that includes human rights violations against people who use drugs, the spread of HIV and HCV epidemics driven by unsafe injecting, high levels of overdose in many countries, and mass incarceration as a direct result of punitive drug laws.

The world needs alternatives to these failed and counterproductive policies. In April 2016, leaders will again meet here at another UNGASS on drugs, an event that offers the opportunity to learn from the policies of the past, and build an alternative response to drug use that is rooted in science, public health, human rights and dignity.

We already know the world is going to miss the UN target of halving HIV among people who inject drugs by 2015. In fact, we’re going to miss it by a staggering 80%. The world has failed people who use drugs and we must refocus our efforts. To do this, we need leadership on harm reduction. Harm reduction leadership means increasing political support and funding for harm reduction. An estimated $100 billion is spent each year on drug control, whereas harm reduction investment amounts to only $160million per year – this is only 7% of what is needed. Harm Reduction International estimates that just ten cents of every dollar spent on drug enforcement could fund the global HIV and Hepatitis C response among people who inject drugs twice over. A 10% reinvestment of current drug enforcement spending by 2020, or 10 by 20, is the collective demand of the harm reduction movement.

Harm reduction leadership also means ending the criminalisation of people who use drugs.

Finally, while we often talk about the drug policy as a shared responsibility we must also understand human rights obligations as a shared responsibility. Given the lack of prohibitions to harm reduction within the drug treaties, and the explicit endorsement of harm reduction within the UN human rights system, provision of harm reduction services cannot be seen as a policy option at the discretion of States, but must instead be understood as a core obligation of States to meet their international legal obligations. We cannot be serious about human rights if we are not serious about harm reduction.

European Union

We recognize the role of civil society and the scientific community in drug policy. Broad and integrated involvement of civil society is critical to success of the UNGASS. Risk and harm reduction measures have proven their effectiveness and we need to recognize this in 2016. We can no longer deny this aspect of drug policy is we want to move forward.

Benin

Underscore importance of civil society. Problem of drugs in my region has become bigger over the past few years and governments are looking for how we can step up the fight against drug abuse and trafficking. On the issue of drug use, there is a need to fine-tune our drug strategy. We adopted a regional strategy as well as a plan of action that enables us to harmonize the activities of countries in the region. UN should continue to support our efforts and pay special attention to this issue. There are gaps in how we approach drug policy, underscoring the need to adopt measures to strengthen our strategy. The mere use of drugs should not be seen as a crime nor should it be a cause for prosecution. If it is for individual use, it should not be considered a criminal act. We need decriminalization and depenalization of use and purchase of drugs for personal use. Treatment and education should be in place of criminal sanctions. Need the principal of proportionality used in drug policy. Death penalty should never be applied.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

In the US, a large focus of the war on drugs is on how it affects men. However, there has been very little attention to how the war on drugs plays out in family court. These courts are vacuums for constitutional protections. Women go through these systems for two years without an attorney. There is no science in these courts. Judges make decisions without a basis in the evidence. Full statement: Women’s Declaration Calling for Global Drug Policies that Support Women, Children, and Families.

Dana Beal

Ibogaine is an addiction interrupter. Acts quickly to help people combat their drug dependence. Ibogaine is currently in the process of being banned in the UK. This is the closest thing to a silver bullet for dealing with drug dependence. With such a deficit of treatment, why are we allowing this to be banned in one country or another?

Youth Rise

Since 1998, when the campaign “drug free world – we can do it!” had started, one fact has been clear: drug free world – WE CAN NOT DO IT.

Teenagers have been exposed to drugs on daily basis. We need to accept the fact that suppressing any drug will only lead to it being replaced by something worse. To prevent our kids from using we should fill the informational void with absolutely honest education and let them choose on behalf of their own best interests.

Drug prohibition comes from a time when homosexuality was considered to be an illness, abortion was a crime, first computer was decades away and the internet simply did not exist. The authorities made drug policy based on a dismal knowledge base. Now all information is universally available and our world is becoming totally globalized. We have to reconsider our old fashion perspectives on failed conventions which have been proclaimed as functional–but have failed. We need to restructure strategies governments have implemented, realize the problem of drug abuse boils down to individual attitudes.

Reports from United Nations suggest that alcohol use starts at a young age: 14% of adolescent girls and 18% of boys aged 13–15 years. Risk begins early. In 45 countries reporting youth data since 2009, HIV prevalence among young people under 25 years old who inject drugs was 5.2%. Lack of support and clear information on harm reduction has led youth to be effectively marginalized. In Pakistan women in school start injecting drugs at the age of 15, and there are no services available to assess the situation and raise awareness.

Young people who use drugs are on the front lines of the problem. Many countries have age restrictions on harm reduction services (if services are available at all)–so the kids don’t have access to clean needles. A young person gets a used needle from someone a little older, so they automatically face higher risks of HIV, HCV and other diseases. Protecting the safety of individuals and communities and fulfilling the right to health are key State obligations under UN drug control conventions and international human rights law.

The draft outcome of UNGASS 2016 has no clear language about the promotion of harm reduction. Harm reduction is a key tool for HIV prevention among people who use drugs. There need to be a radical change in the zero draft. Harm reduction should not be excluded from the draft recommended by CND for UNGASS – and needs to be accepted as a fact and as a part of the progress of the society.

On behalf of whole population affected by wrongfully imposed policies, Youth RISE calls upon the member states in UNGASS for policies that actually suit our needs. We recommend to:

  • Add harm reduction in Convention of the child rights: Promotion and accessibility of harm reduction should be considered as ‘Protection rights’ of children and youth. Children and youth who use drugs are being abused and beaten, families are unable keep their drug user child due to immense stigma we have built around this matter. The current policies and abstinence approach undermines human rights. Inclusion of a harm reduction approach towards drugs for children will enable schools and communities will to remove the stigma and increase accurate knowledge about drug use among children and their families in order to protect them from marginalisation and better access to education and health care.
  • Make decisions for youth with youth: Article 3 of Convention on the Rights of Child emphasise on ‘Best interest of the child’, therefore, it should be assured by the member states that this is respected while making any decision affecting children and youths’ life. Youths who use drugs recreationally or are dependent on drugs are the most affected and demonised population. They must be part of decision making and their voices should be listened to. They understand better what works for them and what decisions should be taken to suit best their situation.
  • Invest in more youth friendly health services for drugs: Youth who use drugs require access to health care and harm reduction services. Forced rehabilitation centres or other centres have clearly put more harm and have made young people to lose trust in those services. Lack support towards harm reduction threatens public health, spreads disease and causes deaths before they can even grow to adulthood. Harm reduction is one of the main health intervention in order to protect youth from health related problems from drug use. HIV, HCV and overdose mortality can be prevented by early implementation of harm reduction among youth who use drugs.

Lack of harm reduction services in grass root level have deeply damaged our youth. It has created stigma and discrimination. Lack of support and stigmatization have led them to stop believing in services and made them reluctant to talk about their drug problems. This UNGASS should bring a new step towards the drug problems of youth who use drugs. We cannot afford to lose time and lives because another important meeting of the member states fails to act.

From the vantage of human rights, access to the highest quality of health care – as well as from the point of view of politicians making decisions on behalf of the BEST INTEREST of the youth–harm reduction is a key element to be discussed and accepted in UNGASS 2016. In order to protect the youth, member states, UN agencies and other stakeholders should support harm reduction and promote it in UNGASS 2016.

Colombia

We have the highest drug seizures of any country in the world. Despite our efforts, there is no solution to the problem in the short term. That is why we have promoted an open and inclusive debate based on scientific evidence, which should come up with a new global consensus on an innovative and efficient approach to this problem. We are not seeking to change the conventions, but the current trend is to interpret these in lens of human rights and to strengthen states autonomy to target their local and national needs. UNGASS is a time for us to revise and review how we set our goals and strategies in the way we combat the world drug problem.

UNAIDS

UNAIDS welcomes the stronger focus on a people centred health and rights approach to the world drug problem, that is emerging globally from the ongoing debates in the context of the UNGASS.  This is consistent with the overarching purpose of drug control to ensure the health, well-being and security of individuals, while respecting their agency and human rights at all times.

Whilst we very much welcome this positive feedback we have to go an extra mile to really change the lives of people.

In practice we are still far from the preferred situation.

Let me give you a few figures to illustrate realities on the ground:

  1. Looking at the HIV burden among people who inject drugs we see that:
    • From the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs about 1.7 million are living with HIV.
    • People who inject drugs are 28 times more likely to acquire HIV than others in the general population.
    • The target of 50% reduction by 2015 in HIV incidence among people who inject drugs, set at the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in 2011, has been missed by 80%.

And to complete the picture:

  1. Considering the access to internationally controlled substances, many of which are essential medicines for the relief of pain and for palliative care, the situation is also dire:
    • Only 15% of people who need it receive palliative care, and
    • 83% of the world’s population live in countries with low or non-existent access to controlled medicines for pain. This includes people with cancer and AIDS patients.

We cannot just turn around and close our eyes for people’s suffering. Inaction is no option. And it will cost much more.

The good thing is that we know what works.

  • Harm reduction interventions, and especially a combination of needle exchange programmes and opioid substitution therapy, bring the best results and are cost-effective. We have seen very promising results where countries have been able to move in the direction of harm reduction interventions in diverse settings and parts of the world, such as in Asia, Western and Eastern Europe.
  • Naloxone is a life-saving public health measure to enable timely and effective prevention of deaths form opioid overdose among people who use drugs.

However, despite the evidence base, the majority of countries are leaving behind people who inject drugs and we have already heard examples her today.

Harm reduction and other services, like ARV treatment, are often absent or the coverage is not at scale due to structural barriers, such as criminalization, punitive law, social stigma, discrimination, and lack of funding.

Therefore UNAIDS believes that this is the right time to take courageous steps and seize this unique opportunity to restore the balance.

Our five key messages are:

  1. Recognition that the main purpose of drug control is to ensure the health, well-being and security of individuals, while respecting their agency and human rights at all times.
  2. Ensure accountability for the delivery of health services for people who use drugs by including public health and human rights pillars in the framework of the UNGASS outcome document.
  3. Commit to fully implement harm reduction and HIV services.
  4. Commit to treating people who use drugs with support and care rather than punishment à UNAIDS believes this objective can only be achieved by implementing alternatives to criminalization, such as decriminalization, and stopping incarceration of people for consumption and possession of drugs for personal use.
  5. Ensure integration of HIV services with other health and social protection services for people who use drugs.

UNAIDS hopes that these policy recommendations will be reflected in the UNGASS outcome document in order to reach better outcomes for people and societies. These policy and operational recommendations can be found in the document we have made available for distribution*.

Together with our partners UNODC and WHO UNAIDS will continue to engage in dialogues to exchange information and perspectives between drug control agencies, ministries of justice, health, social affairs and foreign affairs, and civil society and community organizations to support better mutual understanding of the complexity of issues.

Together we can make it work. THANK YOU.

Americans for Safe Access

Medical cannabis policies should be on the agenda for UNGASS. Haven’t seen the reports we were hoping to see out of WHO. 18 countries have passed medical cannabis laws. 2/3 of the US states allow medical cannabis. Positive impact for patients and impacts on society as a whole, such as reducing opiate deaths, which is an epidemic in the US currently. The UNGASS should address the scheduling of cannabis. WHO should replace the INCB.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana

There is a false dichotomy between prohibition and legalization. Massive industry is selling high THC candies that are attractive to children. These policies are in violation of international drug conventions. Need more emphasis on recovery.

Help Not Handcuffs

Drug criminalization has brutal outcomes on people they are supposed to protect. Arrest-related deaths, police brutality, sexual exploitation, etc. Involving the criminal justice system, even drug courts, increases risk of an already highly vulnerable population. The same is the case in compulsory treatment. Look at models that take responsibility over criminal markets and take control via regulation, such as in Colorado and Washington State. Regulation should be considered as well as decriminalizing all drugs.

StoptheDrugWar

Support calls for harm reduction and decriminalization. Important to realize much of the harm is from the drug policies, not drugs. Illicit drug trade funds criminal organizations, and fuels poverty, violence. In order to pursue health and security, UNGASS should pursue discussion on alternatives to the drug trade. Support proposal for expert advisory group to study tensions in the drug control regime.

Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation, Pakistan

Focus on prevention. Help teenagers to understand adolescence.

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)

Clear that the existing approach to drug control has not been effective in its aims of demand and supply reduction. Enforcement efforts have also had the effect of eroding youth’s trust in authorities and creating reluctance to access treatment. We support existing calls for accurate education on drugs, and to end criminalization for drug use. Approaches to reduce early use are crucial, but we need harm reduction for youth as well. Broad consultation including youth is needed.

DC Cannabis Campaign

We have legalization without commercialization. We have a model to look at for those who are concerned about a for profit model. 70% passed the legalization of cannabis in Washington DC. Prohibition is unpopular with the public. There has not been a signal overdose from cannabis ever in Washington DC. Prohibition is a civil rights issue.

Ms. Rose Kiwanuka, Palliative Care Association, Uganda

Pain is the worst enemy of man. Morphine must be accessible by all patients.

Ms. Ma. Inez Feria, NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc., Philippines

Don’t be afraid of harm reduction. It gives back people their dignity and saves lives.

Mr. Shakya Nanayakkara, Foundation for Innovative Social Development / Healthy Lanka Alliance for Development, Sri Lanka

Need for improvement in non-medical treatment of drug users because physiological dependency is a major factor that influences drug use. Must concentrate on psychological and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Mr. Julian Andres Quitero Lopez, Cooperacion Accion Tecnica Social, Colombia

Regulating medical cannabis. This and other policies testify to the will to innovate. Youth and new generations, we must listen to them. Reducing risk and harm is not a substitute to the new structure of drug policies that we need.

Ms. Maria de los Angeles Lobos, Dianova, Chile

Focus on people and not drugs. Harm reduction has to go hand and hand with prevention. Look at inequalities and inequities in society. Decriminalizing use of drugs does not mean we regulate the markets. Drug users are not children. They shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

ROUNDTABLE TWO: Drugs, human rights, community and development: Creating synergies between member states and civil society to empower communities

Watch the second part of the Consultation
Watch the second part of the Consultation

Mr. George Ochieng Odalo, Slum Child Foundation, Kenya

Dear Chairman, Consultation Participants. Thank you for allowing me to speak. Our organization has been very active in the field of assistance to children, Allow me to share our experiences, and thoughts on drug policy interventions and human rights. Having been a street boy in the slums of Korogocho in Kenya gives me a chance to share experiences from a group of children whom often have no voice. The hopeless future and the lack of education, makes them vulnerable to a number of issues listed in the UNCRC as ‘special protection issues’. Among these are the issue of drugs, which  lead to a spiral of bad events in their lives including health, poverty, no education, unemployment, and crime.

The poorest communities globally are the most vulnerable towards the impact of Illicit drug use which undermine the frail societal structures. Inadequate resources in such countries as mine makes it hard to provide these services that are provided in a rich country.

We have an obligation to provide health services to children as much as we help addicted ones recover, this is hard to do in a poor country like mine. As was the case with the consequences of AIDS and AIDS orphans we have to find community based solutions grounded in the strong civil sector organizations we have, notably the Churches.

But where are we going with regard to drug policy? My Reflection is: UNGASS 1998 set out to create a world free of illicit drug use, in a statement undersigned by Kofi Annan. I can not see that guiding aim reflected in the documentation I have received for the UNGASS 2016. Kofi Annan have now changed side.

Other considerations are more important. Unlike 1998 we are not trying to commit ourselves to an overarching goal. Is this progress ? It is necessary to talk about immediate health problems in relation to drug policy, and we are all concerned about the health aspect.  But when did we stop being concerned by illicit drug use overall and the link it will have to health in the long run ? When did we stop being concerned that children will grow up in an environment where recreational drug use is something normal?

September 2015, Human Rights Council in Geneva had a session on drugs and human rights. A report under the name “High Commissioner of Human Rights”. This Report is listing nine items, starting with the right to harm reduction, defined i.a. as “illicit drug use shall not be discouraged”. After that follows rights of prisoners, women, minorities etc. Only in the last paragraph are children mentioned, and then not all children, but only children who are doing drugs. Overall people who are not illicitly using drugs are not considered at all in this Report.

What signal is this sending ? And is it in line with Commentary 14 from the Monitoring Body for the 1966 Covenant on Economic, Social, and Political Rights, stating that states shall prevent and discourage illicit drug use ?

UNCRC is the only human rights instrument to talk about drugs I.e Article 33, setting out to protect children from any illicit drug use, or from involvement in trafficking and production of drugs, making it a special protection provision.

Article 3 in UNCRC sets out that children’s rights shall be a primary consideration for all policy making. Can we say that the UNCRC is being respected in the Report from OHCHR when Children are ranked last in the list of considerations ?

Are not rich countries letting down poorer countries here for the least noble of reasons ?: “We know that drugs are bad for children and for the society – Nonetheless we think it is worth it to accept drug use, and we will no longer aspire where we aspired in 1998.”

Ms. Daria Mogucheva, Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs, Lithuania

I’d like to start by saying that it’s a great honour for me to be invited to such an event. I’m going to present not only the community but also the overall views of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries towards upcoming UNGASS 2016.

Current drug policies of the region not only fail to prevent drug use, production and trafficking of illicit drugs but also contribute to increase in violence towards people who use drugs, health crisis, spread of HIV and Hepatitis C infection and abuse of human rights. Government action in harm reduction in our region has been unsystematic and due to certain political and economic reasons, is possible only with support from international donors and technical agencies.

Criminalization of people who use drugs caused by stigma and discrimination has led to systematical violation of human rights all over the region. As a result, people who use drugs face violence, including sexual violence and physical and mental torture in prisons and rehab centers, they are forced to go through drug withdrawal in detention, experience breaches in medical confidentiality; can be denied access to antiretroviral therapy, harm reduction services or opiate substitution programs.

Rehab centers often use torture, unpaid and forced labor as means of so called treatment of drug dependency.

Substitution therapy programs in some CEECA countries lack the needed coverage and quality. In three countries of the region OST programs are prohibited by law. As a result of Russian drug policy towards OST, former Crimean clients of opioid substitution program are currently denied access to methadone and buprenorphine, which lead to their relapse to illicit drug use or even suicide.

Speaking about UNGASS 2016 possible outcomes for our region, it is essential that all

UN member states must commit to incorporating human rights, public health and harm reduction principles firmly in their drug policies, as well as allocate sufficient funding for harm reduction interventions, including needle exchange and opioid substitution therapy.

CND and the UNGASS should encourage the adoption of successful practices, namely, OST, and public health approach to drug use in all countries of our region.

The right of people who use drugs not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment should be officially recognized. All administrative and criminal sanctions for drug use and the possessionn of drugs for personal use should be removed, as well as  legal and financial barriers to harm reduction and OST programs to those in need, including women, young people and prisoners.

Governments should address the stigma faced by women who use drugs and ensure the provision of gender sensitive treatment, harm reduction, legal and social services.

And finally, meaningful role of civil society in international drug policy should be recognized and the experience of individuals or communities affected by drug use should be taken into account.

Ms. Sumnima Tuladhar, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center, Nepal

Ensure health as human rights and a dignified life for marginalized communities:

  • Public health must be recognized as a fundamental human right. For the people living in many developing countries like Nepal, it’s a far-fetched dream to live a healthy life and to attain all potentials in their lives. It is also a responsibility of the developed nations and the donors to make health rights a reality for people.
  • Global drug problems affect multiple sectors of society, including (but not limited to) health care, education, employment and productivity, gender based violence, law enforcement and crime, and child development.
  • ‘Legalisation’ or ‘war on drugs’ may not respond to the wide-range of issues related to the drug problem. Ensuring all fundamental human rights of people including their health rights and productive education would allow the marginalized and underprivileged population to live a dignified life where they are not forced to fall prey to various traps of drug use and into the trap of criminals.

Prevention is the most viable option:

  • Prevention must be the overarching strategy to reduce drug problems.
  • Preventing problems from occurring or expanding represents by far the best approach to reducing drug-related harm. Prevention is a most cost-effective policy option; it is the most sustainable and people- empowering alternative; and it is the most humane policy option, particularly in the context of assuring the best interests of the world’s children.
  • Prevention is the only sustainable approach for developing countries like Nepal. Our health services are already challenged by having to attend to existing health problems and we have no resources nor the systems in place to attend to increasing number of drug addicts.
  • Early interventions can prevent enormous human suffering – among drug users and the many people around them.

The child rights perspective:

  • Childhood and adolescent period are when children get exposed to the drug habits due to various personal, social and psycho-social adverse conditions. What is more, drug use in their respective families and communities also directly impact on the overall development of children. Many children of drug using parents not only face deprivation but also social stigma.
  • Children living and working in extremely risk situations like children on the streets and in urban poor areas are unwantedly exposed to the drug use due to their vulnerability. Most of these children are also coerced into commercial sexual exploitation for their survival. It is not their choice.
  • It’s a double jeopardy for children who have been exposed to the drug use and then are criminalized. A progressive juvenile justice system should prevail for children who come in contact with laws due to their forced involvement in drug use or are exploited for drug peddling.
  • Children cannot wait. Children’s right to grow up in drug-free environments must be ensured as stipulated in the Article 33 of the The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Further, it is the obligation of every state party to protect and defend this particular right. Hence, UN CRC Article 33 must be the starting point for any discussion of drug policy and human rights, internationally as well as nationally.
  • The UNGASS Outcome Document should declare that a top priority in national drug policies should be to promote drug-free environments for children and adolescents.

Engaging with young people, communities and civil society:

  • The governments and donor agencies should work with local civil society organisations engaging with grassroots to address the prevention of drug use among families and children for a result oriented intervention.
  • The policy makers should also allow the voices of children and young people impacted by the drug use to be heard when any interventions or policies are being formulated. They have many things to say and their experiences will be valuable inputs to local, national and international policies.
  • Civil society organisations have direct contact with the grassroots people, can mobilise communities and they can play a role of a catalyst between the governments and people by taking the message and programmes right at the heart of people to create a drug free society.
  • UNGASS should call upon national governments to establish national systems for the support and coordination of local initiatives and civil society organisations including the organisations of children and young people.

Ms. Tripti Tandon, Lawyers Collective, India

Speak about the challenges in implementing a health approach to drugs, drawing upon my experience as a lawyer and findings of Special Rapporteur of the right to health and recent OHCHR report. We need to rely on evidence and science in the approach to illegal drugs. Despite overwhelming evidence, OST is prohibited in many countries. OST is not only denied, but non-scientific treatment is forced on people who use drugs. This cannot be considered a health-based approach to drugs. Despite clinical guidance and training, doctors administer less than the recommended quantity of OST. Treatment is not an option. Treatment is a right. The decision to use drugs is a personal choice, which so long as it does not harm others, must be respected as a right of privacy. When the conventions themselves recognize that drugs are necessary for pain management, how can we envision a world free of drugs? Long and disproportionate sentences are incompatible with a health-based approach. The use of the death penalty for drug offences is absolutely unacceptable. Member states cannot get away with arguing sovereignty, as drug policy is a matter of international cooperation. As a minimum, the UNGASS outcome document must reflect a commitment to the abolition of the death penalty for drugs. This will elevate our humanity.

Ms. Vicki Hanson, St. Catherine Ganja Growers & Producers Association, Jamaica

UNODC said yesterday that we must not leave growers and cultivators of prohibited plants behind. I am representing not just cannabis growers in Jamaica, but also coca growers and opium growers. These people have a place in this discussion. They need to have an active role in the amendment of drug policies. As is related to health care, growers are asking for recognition of the traditional use of these prohibited plants. Treat pain as it relates to severe pain with HIV or cancer. Traditional use of these plants should be recognized in whatever policy is developed. These plants should be removed from prohibition, as they are used in various health and religious ways. So from a Rastafarian community, that is something we want recognized. Community development is important. These growers have added value to their communities through the growing of these crops. Women are involved with growing as it helps them take care of their families and contribute to the development of their community. Asking not to see them as criminals, but as important to sustainable development. We have not seen the value of alternative development. Means that growers of illegal plants have gone back to this activity, despite alternative development. There must be an inclusion of the value of these plants in terms of traditional uses when educating young people. Criminal and law enforcement approach has forced growers into other criminal activities, such as guns to protect crops. If we move from a war on drugs to an inclusive approach, we can reduce the possibility that these people will move into other criminal activity. Need a drug responsible world, not a drug free world approach.

Julius (young person representative)

Last year we adopted 17 SDGs. Young people are at the forefront of implementing these. World drug problem cannot be discussed without the SDGs. Young people are asking for a public health centered approach. Early prevention is crucial. Policy and action preventing young people from starting to use drugs is necessary. Need to tackle the many development challenges we face. Demand preventive and proactive measures. Children have the right to grow up in a drug free environment. Article 33 CRC.

Evangelical Protestant Church, El Salvador

War against drugs and monitoring of substances has proven to be harmful in many cases such as leading to stigmatization. Despite the physical and psychological consequences form the use of drugs, there is scientific evidence on the ineffectiveness of repressive drug policies. Effective policies are based on public health and human rights. Violence could be reduced with the regulation of substances, so highly addictive and toxic substances aren’t provided by organized criminals.

Moms United to End the War on Drugs

Families are the casualties of the war on drugs. Families have lost their children to drug war violence, overdose, and incarceration. We must develop strategies that are evidence-based. Harm education strategies are very effective. We must move away from policies that stigmatize and criminalize people. I’d like to see a world where we have treatment on demand. This is a global human rights issue.

Broken No More

Love of a parent for their child has no limits. The loss of that child cannot be described. I lost my son to an overdose. Too many families are suffering that loss. Those who use drugs suffer from the pain and stigma of others. Addiction is a medical disorder. My son was forced into ineffective treatment again and again. USA has higher rate of addiction and overdose deaths than ever before. Criminalization does not protect families. It perpetuates the extreme profits by those involved in the illicit drug trade. Recommend eradication of stigma by promoting the reality that those who use drugs are worthy of respect and compassion. Harm reduction principles should replace policies currently used. Recommend access to science based treatment. Emphasis on abstinence produces judgment on those that do experiment. We must keep our children safe.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Thank those that made reference to how drug policies impact women. Please see our recommendations from the women’s declaration. Have to ensure a gender analysis. Complete absence in the current zero draft. Harms of separating children from their parents are essential. We don’t have the data we need on women and children. Call for inclusion of women who use drugs in program planning and implementation.

Civil society from Burkina Faso

For most young people in my country who are my age, it is remarkable to be here. There is so much poverty in my country. People cannot come to this meeting. As I am sure you are aware of, my country faces serious challenges in terms of poverty, education, and jobs. Young people want to do something new. They need jobs and health care. We have moved from being a country in transition to one that is a consumption country and even a production country. Police forces are seizing cannabis. The African Union adopted position for 2016. Our organization would like the voice of Africa to be heard. At a time when there is no education or health care, how can you help us to develop these kinds of programs?

Health Poverty Action (HPA)

Impacts of the current approach has failed to achieve a drug free world but has also undermined health, human rights, and development, damaged the environment. UNGASS should recommend new metrics and indicators that reflect the SDGs. Current drug control measures deepen poverty and increase insecurity. UNGASS should ensure sustainable livelihoods and improve sustainable economic development, improved infrastructure. Given that violence and insecurity are associated with the drug trade, there is a real need to reduce militarized responses to the drug trade. Support decriminalization of users, small-scale traffickers, and small scale cultivators. Does the panel have suggestion for improving alignment between SDGs and drug policy?

Recovered Users Network

Importance of recovery in policies. Recovery is worth promoting as an achievable outcome. Recovery should be the aim of treatment. Need for mixed economy. Provide best clinical models with best recovery models. Social investment in individuals. Integrate prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction.

Ms. Vicki Hanson, St. Catherine Ganja Growers & Producers Association, Jamaica

Issue of poverty. From the growers’ association and growers’ forum, we would like to be included in discussion on sustainable development. We have been criminalized by the current conventions. This has only led to more poverty. Alternative development programs have failed. Still have growers involved in environmental degradation, moving into preserved areas. Need to include them in the conversation and not criminalize their activities. There is an important role that these growers play. Women are active cultivators in some states. They are growing these plants because they want to survive. Need to recognize cultural rights and traditional rights.

Ms. Daria Mogucheva, Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs, Lithuania

Recovery does not mean compulsory treatment, which is one of the main challenges for imposing a health-based approach.

Ms. Tripti Tandon, Lawyers Collective, India

Don’t think sending children or their parents to jail is the solution. Low resource countries, do you invest those limited resources into health, education, or law enforcement? If the decision to use drugs is a personal choice, so is the decision to discontinue drug use.

International Centre for Science in Drug Policy

As has been conveyed by today’s panelists, given the broad consensus that global drug policy does not occur in a vacuum and has an impact on at least, health, peace and security, development, and human rights, there is increasing interest in reprioritizing the indicators used to evaluate the impacts of drugs and drug policy.

To date, UN agencies and Member States have in general prioritized a small set of indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of drug policy, such as the number and volume of illicit drug seizures, number of drug-related arrests and incarceration, and price and purity of illicit drugs. Even using such narrow indicators, the scientific evidence shows that drug policies have failed to demonstrate sustained effectiveness.

Furthermore, the narrow set of evaluative indicators provide little insight into how drug policies affect peace and security, development and human rights, and the health issues that intersect all three of these pillars. Measuring these ‘real-world’ outcomes would enable Member States to assess the diverse impacts of drugs and drug policies, to place drug policy more effectively within wider national and international policy goals, and to implement more targeted and effective drug policies and interventions.

The UNGASS represents a rare opportunity to move towards drug policies informed by health concerns and that effectively address the three UN pillars of peace and security, human development and human rights. This meeting is also a unique opportunity to ensure system wide coherence, specifically between the goals of drug policy and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We therefore call on Member States to commit to a formal revision of the metrics used to evaluate drug control policies, and to prioritize indicators that provide specific evidence on the health, peace and security, development, and human rights impacts of drugs and drug policies on communities. Further, we call for the creation of an expert advisory group to conduct a formal revision of drug policy metrics as an official outcome of the UNGASS.

POW420

We are dealing with an unjust law, namely cannabis prohibition. Police departments are using extortion and coercion. What can we do to counteract this?

Marco Perduca

It’s 2016 – we don’t have a world drug problem – we have problem, and the problem has been caused by the 3 conventions. I am in favour of the legalization of all drugs, in the same was that I was in favour of the legalisation of divorce, abortion or same sex marriage. We have to find alternatives to discriminatory policies If the UNGASS can have a real debate – we need to review what has been achieved and what has not been achieved.  Flexibility is not a matter for the UN, it is for member states. We should take stock of what is happening around the world…. And good things are being achieved.

México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD)

Acknowledging two things. Structure of the panel. Celebrate that Vicki Hanson is there. One of the main issues is that 70 countries are not represented in Vienna and therefore are not part of the decision-making that happens at the CND. Moderator as the Youth Envoy. Drug policies have been forced on our countries in the name of young people. In the name of protecting the rights of young people, we should not continue to criminalize vulnerable groups. Decision-making mechanism should be in a multi stakeholder way. The fact we are here represents this, but not enough. There are not enough member states in the room. Our dialogue is just among civil society. Need member states and UN agencies to also take the floor and reflect on what we have been saying. Use of the input provided by civil society is encouraged. Opportunities for engagement are controlled by just one agency, UNODC. Drug issue is sitting in the UN under the mandate of the ECOSOC. It is about human rights, health, peace and security, and development. Drug policy reform is not just about legalization. It is about alternatives to incarceration, access to essential medicines, etc. Extend the vision of harm reduction into those of drug policy itself.

Open Society Foundations (OSF)

Advocating for drug policies based on evidence, human rights, and health. Many of the interventions are calling for reforms of the current system. Civil society travelled from all over the world to come here. To those member states who are still here, what steps will you take to encourage further civil society participation in the UNGASS process? Too often civil society is not heard from. It is evident that civil society brings a lot of expertise.

International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies (IDHDP)

Fed up with the term unintended consequences. We must ensure controlled medicines are available. Any restricted access constitutes a violation of the right to health. Doctors are being prevented from being able to do their jobs by a lack of access to these medicines. Richest 20% of the world consumes almost all the morphine. Out of UNGASS should come an unambiguous statement that member states should prioritize removing the barriers to access to essential medicines, include treatment program and public information programs about this issue.

Vera da Ros from REDUC

Race in the context of violence and criminal justice is a central issue in Brazil and other countries where drug policies have fueled violence and incarceration. Effect of this is borne by black and young men. Adopting harm reduction as cornerstone of drug policy. Stop death penalty for drug related charges. The flexibility of the conventions is a problem, and if they are not flexible it is a problem, so the conventions are the problem. Why do you need them?

Dana Beal

Drug users have the right to effective treatment. In this country, half the treatment is prison-based 12-step programs, which is notoriously ineffective. OST is well intended but often people use stimulants while on OST.  Drug users helped develop ibogaine. I am for opiate access, but it would be better if people could easily get off opiates. Listen to the users.

Ms. Vicki Hanson, St. Catherine Ganja Growers & Producers Association, Jamaica

Civil society engagement is important. Today a grower was not able to speak on this panel because of visa issues. He is being left out of the conversation

Ms. Daria Mogucheva, Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs, Lithuania

Sanction based approach leads to a large number of people in prisons or compulsory treatment centres and don’t reduce drug use or dependency. The whole point for UNGASS is to make a change and if we continue to implement old strategies there will be no changes. Old approaches lead to high rates of HIV infection. There are at least three cases of suicide of cancer of patients because of unavailability of access to controlled medicines that actually work to alleviate pain.

Ms. Tripti Tandon, Lawyers Collective, India

India recently amended our law to allow access to essential medicines for pain relief. But when the law is very restrictive, it is hard to carve out an exception for medical use. So long as the framework remains excessively punitive, we won’t get very far in ensuring access to essential medicines.  Hope that UNODC and other international bodies will provide guidance on what constitutes the most serious offence, as right now some countries interpret this as possession. Too much of a generalization that any one who uses drugs has not hopes in their lives, and hopelessness will not go away by locking people up.

Virginians Against Drug Violence

How can we bring law enforcement into this conversation, and improve their methods? Training. Techniques could be rolled back. Law enforcement in many countries uses techniques that many of us wouldn’t approve of.

American Society of Addiction Medicine

Support harm reduction, but a lack of conversation of treatment. Losing sight of millions of people in recovery. We need more physicians and nurses trained. Decriminalization with contingencies.

Andrea Huber, Penal Reform International
Relevant human rights include right to health, right to not be arbitrarily detained, prohibition of torture. Human rights need to be central to drug policy. There is a problem with the indicators what do we consider to be successful. How can we ensure that the UNGASS is used to reformulate the indicators that are used to measure success? To bring human rights and SDGs together with drug policy.

Ms. Asia Ashraf, Director, Rehabilitation and Head, Psychology Department, Sunny Trust International Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, Pakistan

There is no harm dreaming of a drug free world. Eradicated most of the opium in Pakistan. Involvement of community collation. Communities are real agents of change.  Invite them to meetings.

Youth Rise

Zero draft does not include most of the civil society recommendations. The UN conventions are from a time past. Drug policies based on knowledge we had many years ago. We have to reconsider our old fashioned objectives. We need to restructure strategies that governments have implemented. Young people who use drugs don’t have access to harm reduction services.

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) / International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)

I am in favor of being optimistic, but as someone who has worked on drug policy, it has never been clearer that a drug free world is not possible. We need to develop policies based on scientific evidence, not on hopes for a drug free world. We need to make sure that voices of civil society are heard as we continue to negotiate the outcome document. A document that is negotiated behind closed doors will have less validity than one that is public. Need mechanisms for input from civil society and affected communities at the UNGASS. The outcomes from the TNI meeting with growers in January 2015. Women around the world being incarcerated at alarming rate for low level drug offences.  Need operational recommendation in regard to the gender dimension in the outcome document.

Tunisian association fighting HIV/AIDS

We have a law from 1990 that those who use drugs are fined very much and often imprisoned. To get around this law, many consumers have been using more dangerous drugs. This law also bans methadone. Drug users women suffer doubly compared to men. At national level no program for women. We need to put the drug user at the center of all the decisions. Need to change the repressive law. Risk reduction approach is obviously the way we should go to improve the health and quality of life of drug users. Only when we have done that can we ask drugs users whether they want to stop using.

France

We consider the UNGASS and preparations for it as an opportunity to reaffirm the international consensus around a balanced and integrated approach to illegal drugs. Risk reduction, alternative care, range of treatments possible. France and UNODC event on prevention on sidelines of the UNGASS. Need to promote a truly balanced approach. Of course we don’t agree on everything, but we will take into account what we have heard today in preparation for the UNGASS. T

Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access

Access to medicine is a basic human right. Regulated access for cannabis is needed to enhance safety peace and security.

Ms. Maria de los Angeles Lobos, Dianova, Chile

Why is there no hope for people who use drugs? We all take drugs. People eat chocolate, and drink coffee. We have to define what we mean when we says drugs. Everyone has the right to be optimistic and wish for a world free of drugs, but we need to be pragmatic for a human right and health-based approach.

Families For Sensible Drug Policy

Role of family is missing from the drug policy debate. Drug policy that criminalizes substance use and is prohibition based ensures the cultural narrative that disempowers families. Harm reduction approaches already in place for other fields. Can apply that. To ignore harm reduction is to reject life.

Institute for Policy Studies

If you go back a few generations, there were no such things as pharmacies. Sacred plants were pharmacies. We have thousands of years of experience with sacred plants. Practices of transitional and indigenous societies must be respected. They have much to teach about concept of medicine.

Heroin user

Keep hearing the same things we heard in 1998. Not too much has changed.

International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

Ask all the panelists how they suggest fixing access to essential medicines?

Pharmacist from Kenya

Inadequate access to OST. Heavy focus on supply reduction and criminalization.

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Last panel has been about empowering communities and in the spirit of inviting reflection on what the UNGASS is supposed to do, invite everyone to reflect on the relationship between prohibition and organized crime. Prohibition generates revenues that sustain organized crime.

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)

What structures are in place to ensure that today’s input is fed into practical changes?

Ms. Vicki Hanson, St. Catherine Ganja Growers & Producers Association, Jamaica

Traditional use and cultural use is important. Conventions do not allow for that. Need to recognize that. Community development measures. Incorporate community of growers. Drug free world not possible, we need to look at moving away from thinking that we can get away of drugs. If you try to do that, you are trying to get rid of indigenous ways of life. Need a drug responsible world.

Ms. Daria Mogucheva, Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs, Lithuania

Current guidelines for controlled medicines should be removed. Pilot OST program in countries that still have no methadone. Harm reduction programs reach out to most marginalized communities, and without doing so we cannot treat hepatitis C or tuberculosis. Treaties encourage member states to adopt health-oriented approach. As long as there are people who need drugs to live and to alleviate pain, drug free world will never exist.

Ms. Tripti Tandon, Lawyers Collective, India

Arrogant to make some plant illicit and try to eradicate them. Problems we are addressing today could be addressed when reason and humanism prevail, not fear.

Ms. Sumnima Tuladhar, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center, Nepal

Children rights perspective should take central stage at the UNGASS.

Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

We heard from more than 40 speakers. Thank you.

H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly

Overall the notion of putting people and young people first was the overarching them of today’s discussion. From roundtable one, many highlighted there is an urgent need to recognize the voices of youth and to challenge the stigma against drug users. Many called for provision of drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services to be comprehensive and inclusive. Need for increased use of a pubic health based approach. Called for responsible regulation for drugs, increased access of prevention programs, reintegration of drug users. Roundtable two participants requested that government commit to incorporating humane rights and harm reduction principles into their drug policies. Important role that civil society plays. Several of you emphasized need to acknowledge and promote human rights of people who use drugs, and address social and economic harms when deciding drug policies. SDGs cannot be achieved without significant progress also on the drug problem. These contributions will be of great value to the preparatory process underway in Vienna. Clear that interest in participating in the preparatory process and UNGASS itself is very high. Expect there will be ample opportunities for civil society engagement at the UNGASS.

2 comments

  1. It is wonderful to see that so many reform NGOs are involved now as compared to 1998, when there were but five of us
    I’m not sure that i can let myself get too hopeful about what might happen thre this year at the UNGASS, but at least already we know that increasing nations are finally getting access to syringes and other injecting paraphernalia.

    All power to us: there has been change albeit limited But NOT Insignificant:-)

    http://www.usersvoice.org

    delighted that there now are many more reform NGOs AT THE 2ND UNGASS in My Life. Back in 1998, there were but four of us and we were like pioneers blazing a little trail

    May the DrugWar END Soon

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