Post-UNGASS Facilitator. We will focus today on human rights, youth, children, women and communities.
Valerie Lebaux, Chief, Justice Section, UNODC. Given the focus of this third round of intersessional discussions, technical assistance and international cooperation needs, I want to provide updates on UNODC’s technical assistance in supporting member states to implement chapter 4 of the UNGASS outcome document. I will give a preview of what several of my colleagues will present later on today.
Chapter 4 of the UNGASS outcome document starts with a commitment to respect, protect all human rights and the rule of law when developing and implementing drug policies. In the course of the chapter, there are many references to the UN standards and norms in criminal justice, with references of the Nelson Mandela Rules, the Tokyo Rules and the Bangkok Rules, the Ryad Guidelines, and the UN Principles and Guidelines on access to legal aid. These have been developed by the Crime Commission and provide practical guidance to policy makers and criminal justice practitioners for fair and humane criminal justice systems and how human rights can be respected and promoted in the administration of justice.
UNODC is committed to promoted these standards and norms. We are equipped with drug related mandates and with the mandate on crime prevention and criminal justice. Therefore we can say that the office is engaged to support member states in the implementation of Chapter 4 of the UNGASS outcome document.
Chapter 4 contains 2 sets of operational recommendations: firstly, drugs and human rights as they relate to youth, children, vulnerable people and communities. A recommendation focuses on the need of children and specificities to be considered in criminal justice systems. UNODC has developed a global programme on children in the criminal justice system which is wider than just drugs. It involves interventions to support governments in the treatment of children with substance abuse problems when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. This is critical to promoting reintegration and reducing recidivism.
Another recommendation relates to mainstreaming a gender perspective in drug policies and programmes with addressing protective and risk factors that make women vulnerable to trafficking. UNODC has conducted activities bringing together experts to exchange practices and expertise on gender sensitive criminal justice practices. This is in line with the Bangkok Rules. We have done a criminal justice assessment in Panama to generate knowledge on men and women deprived of liberty for drug offences. We will have the benefit of a specific presentation by UN Women and the key findings of this assessment will be presented as well.
A final recommendation is around drug abuse by youth, children and vulnerable members of society. There, I want to present some more detailed information about one programme UNODC is conducting. The programme is under the Doha Declaration implementation, focusing on prevention, youth and sports. The benefits of sports are well known for health. They provide a sense of belonging and loyalty. They have been seen to foster positive changes in gender relations by encouraging collaboration and understanding between male and female participants. They are a means to reach out to socially excluded groups and can promote respect and tolerance at all levels. The programme uses sports as a vehicle to train life and social skills for adolescents and maximise protective factors against risky behaviours (crime, violence, drug use) and minimise risk factors. Specific interventions have been developed, a training curriculum was developed for coaches and trainers for youth at risk. There is a trainer manual and various media developed for youth in different languages and for different contexts. This has been piloted in Brazil, South Africa and Kyrgyzstan. There will be others in the Caribbean, Central Asia and the Middle East.
I want to highlight the recommendation on prison overcrowding and violence. There were extensive discussions at UNGASS establishing that drug offenders in many countries make up a disproportionately large segment of the prison population, leading to violence and violations of prisoners’ rights. The outcome document encourages the use of alternatives to incarceration and proportionate sentencing policies. We will present our global programme on prison challenges and activities to develop guidelines on the use of alternatives to imprisonment for drug offenders.
One last recommendation relates to legal guarantees and due process as well as access to legal aid. There are references to UN principles and guidelines in access to legal aid. UNODC has been promoting access to legal aid, especially for vulnerable groups and those having substance abuse problems. We have developed a Model Law on access to legal aid in criminal justice systems. Currently, UNODC is organising activities for the promotion of access to legal aid in specific regions.
Anna Grassa, National Institute of the Fight Against Drugs, Angola, Representative of the African Group. I am grateful to be part of this discussion on women and drug trafficking. One of the reasons why women involve themselves in drugs is because of financial dependency. They use drug money to sustain their children and family. African women are historically known for lack of education opportunities. To fill this education gap, they seek ways to find money. Women are victims of different discriminations and abuses, sexual harassment and domestic violence. I want to share that African leaders have not taken into consideration the skills of women. Women throughout time have realised that freedom and education are answers to change, giving them strength for social inclusion. It is possible to ensure gender equality. After the war, women should now be given education opportunity and more freedom. They now overcome obstacles in their way and are in a position nationally and internationally to make a difference in society. This contributes to national solidarity: our educated can help those who are less fortunate. This way, we can help our communities and families. The main problem is to save the community by providing them with good examples to follow, bestow health, honesty, growth in life. With both human rights and higher living standards, we are in the path towards greater society.
We provide electricity, right to water, food, health and schools. Nonetheless, the drug agency is now focusing on the fight against drugs which destroy society: creating political strategies based on economic evidence with programmes focusing on demand and supply reduction. We provide alternatives for women in prison. We also tackle drugs and HIV/AIDS to improve the lives of women and the communities.
Victor Sannes, National Drug Coordinator, Netherlands. I want to focus on examples of best practices in the Netherlands. We value evidence-based policies highly. Looking at research, one can conclude the long-running prevention programmes which are promising, focusing on school, home, leisure time, providing non-judgemental information, influencing attitudes and social norms, improving skills and involving communities (drug services, schools, club owners, etc.).
A recent study showed a recent trend that the off-set of alcohol, tobacco and drug use was later in years. This is important because later onset will lead to less problems. How did we make this happen? One example is the national school and drug project, a package addressing pupils, parental involvement, early detection and guidance for drug abuse, and the development of school drug policy. There are special parental meetings at school, to discuss the effects of drug abuse, people are encouraged to talk to their children about this. Research shows that sometimes they should not condemn their use but keep the contact and conversation open, with frank discussions with their children and other parents.
Another example is a Facebook campaign on education and nightlife so that parents are given the tools to discuss the issue with their children. Health, school and drugs programmes are looking at different levels of education. Although prevention messages for tobacco and alcohol were effective, it was not for drugs which led to more curiosity. So we introduced information about drugs at a later stage. Lessons also focus on resetting the social norm on the use of drugs and self-control against peer pressure. It’s important to be aware of the effects of our policies and that different age groups require different interventions. We are proud that our policies show positive results, but we continue to try and improve our programmes.
Zaved Mahmood, Rule of Law and Democracy Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) welcomes today’s thematic discussion on Chapter 4 of the UNGASS Outcome document regarding operational recommendations on cross-cutting issues, in particular drugs and human rights, youth, children, women and communities. The world drug problem is complex and has wide-ranging adverse impact. In his message on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Secretary-General, António Guterres, stated: “it is vital that we examine the effectiveness of the War on Drugs approach, and its consequences for human rights.” The Outcome Document of UNGASS provides blueprint for action that is rich and forward-looking. This document should be implemented in full compliance with all relevant international human rights norms and standards to avoid any adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights.
In the Preamble of the Outcome Document, all Members States of the United Nations reaffirmed their “unwavering commitment to ensuring that all aspects of demand reduction, supply reduction and related measures, and international cooperation are addressed in full conformity with the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human rights, fundamental freedoms, the inherent dignity of all individuals and the principles of equal rights”.
The human rights approach in addressing the world drug problem is further elaborated in Chapter 4 of the Outcome Document, which is the key topic of today’s discussion. Previous speakers discussed various elements of Chapter 4, which I shall not repeat. Allow me to simply focus on two issues that are critical in the implementation of Chapter 4 from a human rights perspective.
- Technical cooperation, prospects and challenges in implementation of recommendations of Chapter IV;
- Human rights based data and information collection in the implementation of UNGASS
Technical cooperation in the implementation of chapter 4 recommendations: The Outcome Document recommends that efforts be made to enhance the knowledge of policymakers and the capacity of relevant national authorities in order to ensure that national drug policies fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms and protect the health, safety and well-being of individuals, families, vulnerable members of society, communities and society as a whole. In this respect, the document encourages cooperation with and among the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Narcotics Control Board, the World Health Organization and other relevant United Nations entities.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stands ready to provide full support to States and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, for the promotion and protection of human rights in addressing drug problems. Such support could be provided in different ways. For instance, in the implementation of the Outcome Document, several States have taken reform initiatives, or are planning to do so. To make sure that the new or reformed programmes, policies ad laws are fully in compliance with all human rights and fundamental freedoms, OHCHR extends its support, commits to provide technical expertise and to share relevant good practices with all stakeholders involved in reform processes.
The United Nations human rights mechanisms such as special procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council, are also well placed to support States in this endeavour. Several special procedure mandate holders have addressed human rights concerns related to drug control efforts for many years. We encourage States to fully cooperate with special procedure mandate holders, provide them full access as requested and implement their recommendations. At the national level, national human rights institutions can play a critical role to provide guidance to relevant national authorities involved in drug control efforts. The knowledge, experience and expertise of such institutions should be used to the full extent.
The UNGASS Outcome Document has identified a number of critical human rights issues. It encourages the development, adoption and implementation of alternative or additional measures with regard to conviction or punishment in cases of an appropriate nature. In the implementation of this recommendation, two issues should be taken into account from a human rights perspective. First, the right to life of persons convicted of drug-related offences should be protected and, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, such persons should not be subject to the death penalty. I also refer to the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB)’s position on this issue. In its 2016 annual report, the INCB has “continued to encourage States, that retain capital punishment for drug offences, to commute death sentences that have already been handed down and to consider the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences”. Second, taking into account the severe impact that a conviction for a drug-related offence can have on a person’s life, consideration should be given to alternatives to the prosecution and imprisonment of persons, in particular for minor and individuals accused of non-violent drug-related offences. Reforms aimed at reducing over incarceration, and decriminalization of certain acts should also take into account such alternatives. Furthermore, the Outcome Document also recommends taking practical measures to uphold the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention and of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. States are urged to eliminate impunity, ensure timely access to legal aid, the right to a fair trial, and to ensure proportional sentencing for drug-related convictions.
In his 2015 report on “the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights” to the human rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights discussed various forms of human rights violations related to arbitrary arrest and detention. For example, persons who use drugs or who are suspected of using drugs may be confined in compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres without trial or any evaluation of their drug dependency, often for months or years, and frequently outside the supervision of the criminal justice. Non-consensual experimental treatment, torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence have also been reported in compulsory detention centres. Pursuant to human rights commitments of UNGASS, compulsory detention centres should be closed.
In terms of practical measures for the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to eliminate impunity, States should implement their obligations under the Convention against Torture. As of today, 162 countries had ratified the Convention. OHCHR urges all remaining States to move to ratification, and for States that have not already done so, torture should be made a crime in domestic legislation. National mechanisms for the prevention of torture as well as national human rights institutions should be established (where they don’t exist), empowered and supported to investigate all allegation of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and human rights violations.
Since UNGASS, the right to life has continued to be challenged in some States. In one State, in particular, there has been a notable and dramatic upsurge in extra-judicial executions of suspected drug traffickers and drug users. Extra-judicial executions are among the most serious human rights violations, and they must be subject to a prompt and effective investigation by an independent and impartial body with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice. Otherwise impunity will prevail. The right to life should be protected by law enforcement agencies in their efforts to address drug-related crime, and only proportional force should be used, when necessary.
Human rights defenders, including members of the legal profession, health workers, journalists and other stakeholders, who are involved in the promotion and the protection of human rights in drug control efforts, should be provided with full protection from any threat, harassment or reprisals.
Human rights approach to data and information collection: One key issue of the implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document is how drug policies are measured, including their impact on human rights. The Outcome Document recommends to consider – when furnishing information to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, pursuant to the three international drug control conventions and relevant Commission resolutions – the inclusion of information concerning, inter alia, the promotion of human rights and the health, safety and welfare of all individuals, communities and society in the context of their domestic implementation of these conventions, including recent developments, best practices and challenges.
In its resolution 60/1, this Commission requested UNODC, in close cooperation with pertinent United Nations entities and other stakeholders to continue to support States in strengthening their capacity to develop their reporting mechanisms, including by identifying gaps in the current drug statistics and by exploring possibilities to strengthen existing data-collection and analysis tools at the national level.
There is a growing realization that traditional indicators regarding arrests and seizures are inadequate to show the real impacts of drug policies in communities. The success of drug control strategies should increasingly be measured according to the impact of drug control efforts in the enjoyment of human rights and other critical aspects such as security, health and social/economic development. In this context, intersections between the SDGs indicators and the measurement of drug policy implementation should be considered; and should also be strengthened by adding a human rights approach in data collection. OHCHR has developed a set of human rights indicators for realization of human rights and guidance on human rights based approach to data collection in the implementation of SDG. Both could be useful in strengthening and streamlining existing data-collection and analysis tools in drug control efforts.
In conclusion, I would emphasize that a human rights approach should be considered in the implementation of all nine chapters of the outcome document, as appropriate. Without such approach, the aim of the UNGASS – to protect the health and welfare of humankind- will remain unfulfilled. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is committed to continue supporting works of this Commission, UNODC, Members States and civil society organisation in the effective implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document.
Christine Brautigam, Director, Intergovernmental Division, UN Women. I want to extend a warm thank you for the opportunity to contribute in this discussion. As the UNGASS outcome document states, efforts to achieve the SDGs are mutually reinforcing. We reaffirm gender equality and the crucial role of gender mainstreaming. The interlinkage represents an opportunity for governments to commit to tackling the drug problem with a gender perspective, with women considered as actors of change. There are critical gender differences in women’s involvement in drugs. They face stronger stigma related to drug use, reinforced with gender inequalities and stereotypes. Women who use drugs face violence and criminalisation when they are pregnant. Women who inject drugs are at higher risk of contracting HIV. They have reduced access to harm reduction and health services (including sexual and reproductive health). Lack of gender-sensitive services reduces women’s right to health.
Women may enter the drug trade for various reasons: lack of economic prospects, poverty. Women are imprisoned for drug offences than for any other crimes. It constitutes the fastest part of the prison population with disproportionate penalties. Women in prison can experience sexual violence by prison personnel.
The Outcome document provides recommendations to address these challenges. First, discrimination against women and drugs must be eliminated as included in the outcome document and SDGs. Structural barriers in access to treatment should be removed to leave no one behind. A human rights-based approach in the administration of justice is critical to remove criminalisation. Criminal courts and sentencing should address these barriers. Women’s participation in decision making, monitoring and evaluation should be conducted. The role of feminist organisations in advancing human rights and gender equality is well recognised. Third, mainstreaming a gender perspective is crucial for drug policy coherence in health, law enforcement, etc. This was reconfirmed at the High Level Political Forum to promote greater coherence. This will require targeted action and mainstreaming gender in all efforts. The empowerment of women and girls will have a catalytic role at national level to shape policies that contribute to gender equality. Lastly, gaps in gender statistics in the drug problem should be addressed. Quality, accessible disaggregated data are needed to ensure progress so that no one is left behind. More data will improve knowledge of the impact of drug policies on criminal law and women. This will ensure more targeted responses and that women are not particularly adversely affected.
We provide support to governments, lead to ensure the UN accountability in ensuring gender mainstreaming. We work with civil society as well. UN Women country offices bring together all stakeholders to share lessons and elaborate steps towards gender equality on HIV. Country and regional offices support greater coordination and strategic planning for greater impact in the context of women’s networks working on HIV/AIDS, including women who use drugs. We assist countries in improving financial resources in the implementation of the SDGs. This strengthens the use of gender disaggregated statistics. We collaborate with UNODC to facilitate cooperation with the Commission on the Status of Women. We look forward to the continuation of this beneficial sharing of knowledge in the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document.
Canada. Could you tell us more about your work at country level, especially in the context of the criminal justice system?
UN Women. We make efforts at country level to ensure that criminal justice systems take into consideration gender-specific obstacles are eliminated. For us, it’s a critical effort to ensure that stigma, gender discrimination and stereotypes and harmful practices are addressed so that women have the opportunity to seek treatment and that services are in place to cater to their needs. We work with various parts of the UN system to address HIV among women, also in the context of drug-related activities.
Rashmila Shakya, Nepal Concerned Center (CWIN Nepal). I want to talk about a 14 year old child in Nepal. He decided to go to a neighbouring country to find work with other youth. He agreed to carry a bag to return to Nepal and was caught with drugs. He sat in many counselling sessions for 3 months before he was reintegrated to his family. He is now finishing his education in the same school he was before. We learned a lot from this – drug problems are preventable. With time and right interventions, children can be held out of the drug problem. Empowering children is effective. Services are multifaceted to address drug issues. In relation to this, we want to remind all governments about the provisions of the UN convention on the right of the child, with measures to protect children from the use of narcotic drugs. This should be given prominence in our drug policies. There are examples that can contribute to achieving the UNGASS outcome document. Integrated life-skills and interventions are effective to empower children against drugs. This has to be tailored and interesting for children. A rights-based approach with children and for children is important to empower them. Life-skills models are important for children and youth who are our of school or vulnerable in Nepal.
Another way of empowering children against drugs is creating activities and comics with their own stories. At the end of three days’ workshops, they come up with beautiful stories discussing drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other problems. Some will come up with stories of how families have coped with these problems. These stories work as a tool to raise awareness among the general public. They discuss with people in the communities and their parents. They create comics on other issues than substance use. Children create stories on the effect of alcohol use. Children can become role models.
We use dance therapy, vocational training, support to start small businesses. Another important component is a helpline to provide rescue, psychosocial counselling, family reintegration support. We help connect people to rehab centres.
I want to finish by providing recommendations: take measures to ensure children’s rights to achieve a drug-free environment, the best interest of the child should be ensured primarily through protection measures, in countries like Nepal drug problems are connected to other social issues so this should be taken into account to ensure basic human rights. Click here to read the full statement.
India. India is committed to the prevention of drugs. We have affirmative discrimination for women. We enable education for women. Our development agenda is enshrined in the SDGs. We focus on the use of drugs for medicinal and scientific purposes and prohibit other uses. Our 1985 drugs law prohibits misuse and illicit trafficking. Illicit drug trafficking promotes also human trafficking and sexual trafficking. Apart from criminalising trafficking offences, we also aim at ending human trafficking. We provide rehab and protection of the victims. We have 162 rehabilitation homes all over the country.
Women experience more issues with misuse of drugs than men. This aspect needs to be addressed. It puts women in disadvantaged positions regarding HIV, financial burden, vulnerability, violence. To prevent violence against women, centres and helplines have been established. To deal with drug prevention we have a multisectoral approach. There are rehab centres all over the country with the help of NGOs assisting the government. We have awareness and sensitisation programmes in schools and colleges, we involve the communities too. We consider drug trafficking as organised crime. India is a transhipment towards other countries too. Human and drug trafficking require a multidimensional approach. International cooperation, sharing of experiences and trafficking are key challenges today.
Malaysia. We ensure that treatment is provided by those affected by drug addiction. We have a psychosocial model, including religious support, vocational training, fitness to be included in treatment facilities. We focus on protecting individual rights and the rule of law in promoting drug policies. To improve our treatment programme, for the last few years we have developed better treatment. We have introduced voluntary comprehensive treatment systems and clinics. This is meant to provide alternatives to existing treatment facilities. However, we still need mandatory treatment for users whose abilities have been impacted by drug abuse. Treatment is also provided to people in prison and pre-trial detention. We also provide treatment for youth and vulnerable members of society. On women, we have a dedicated treatment centre for women, ensuring they have access to counselling, including during pregnancy. Likewise, children are vulnerable and Malaysia has established a treatment programme for them, including opportunities for schooling. To ensure quality of treatment and human rights, visits and supervision by human rights bodies are welcome. To ensure comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach towards drugs, we have coordination between criminal justice, law enforcement and health sectors we have a task force on drugs. We will continue cooperation with UNODC, INCB, WHO and other UN entities within their respective mandates, as well as regional organisations, civil society and the private sector.
Estonia, on behalf of the European Union. At the onset, let’s remember that the UN Secretary General shared his experience on how a human rights based approach can yield progress, and that we should work together to reduce drug abuse, illicit trafficking and the harms of drugs, ensuring security, human rights and development. We reiterate our commitment to human rights, freedoms and dignity, and the principles of the rule of law in drug policies. We strongly support the work of UNODC and other UN entities. We regret that the UNGASS outcome document lacks mention of the abolition of the death penalty and we condemn the use of capital punishment. We also reject any use of extrajudicial killings. These constitute violations of human rights and the UN conventions. Conducting an investigation of human rights violations is in accordance with human rights law and the rule of law. We find the collation of information about the death penalty and other violations of the rule of law by the CND as crucial.
We promote proportionality of sentencing including the upholding of human dignity and human rights. The world drug problem cannot be resolved by prosecuting people who need support for drug dependence. This is in line with the UN drug conventions which state that people can have, as an alternative to conviction and punishment, access to treatment, care. All EU member states are implementing at least one alternative to coercive sanctions. 17 member states have alternatives available to promote treatment. 15 apply suspension of sentence linked to treatment. 8 states report availability of alternatives with no drug treatment but involve diversion away from criminal justice systems and sentencing. The recently adopted EU action plan on drugs calls on member states alternatives to coercive sanctions. It also calls for evaluation of these measures, acknowledging that these are effective tools. We also call for more information on gender, age, and other factors in the implementation of this policy.
The gender perspective should be incorporated in all aspects of drug policy, not as a separate track. To conclude, national drug policies should fully respect human rights and freedoms, and the well-being of individuals, families, communities and societies. Alternative measures and proportionate sentencing should be expanded. Suspension of sentences, risk and harm reduction measures, treatment, social reintegration should be implemented.
Australia. Our approach to drug policies emphasizes health and human rights, as well as the criminal justice system in the framework of proportionality of sentencing and due process. We have prevention and treatment as alternatives to incarceration. Minor and non-violent offenders receive alternatives and suspended sentences. The death penalty is inhumane. The international community should implement drug policies in full respect of human rights. We were pleased to support a resolution of gender mainstreaming at the 59th session of the CND. It articulated how women face structural barriers to accessing services and are vulnerable to violence. Going forward, we want to draw attention to the needs of other vulnerable groups: indigenous people and other marginalised groups. We ensure respect for human rights in drug policies at the UN, with support from Vienna based UN agencies, but also others such as OHCHR, UN women and civil society.
Randy Thompson, Help. Not Handcuffs, USA. Our organisation aims to reform drug laws through recovery. We place the importance on the person’s health. If you impose coercive policies, it could destroy their opportunities for recovery. I want to explain some of the key obstacles in my country. I experienced problematic drug use. But most harms came from the effects of drug prohibition. This started when I entered treatment through the hands of drug law enforcement. I experienced violence because I was not seen as a human being. Prohibition and drug-free ideals are seen as key in drug policies. This led to institutional betrayal for people suffering from violence because of those ideals, and removed the trust they had with their community. My organisation seeks to address these institutional betrayals. It is well documented that intensive drug law enforcement is related to police violence and police sexual assault. In the USA, the data we received was that overdoses were the 3rd leading cause of death in treatment programmes. I saw many participants die as part of the drug courts scheme too. Drug court programmes have grossly inflated their success rates. Despite this information being known that there are many human rights violations related to drug court systems, nothing has been done. This requires political will. These points are important because we are quick to assume that people who use drugs all need treatment and that this should be done via criminal justice and drug courts. These notions are wrong. The majority of drug users do not need treatment. Many of those who use problematically can overcome their use on their own. Prohibition means arresting somebody with a clinically recognised health issue. I want to highlight the increase in fentanyl deaths. Prohibition policies have removed all legal institutions that could address the issue – harm reduction, drug consumption rooms, heroin assisted programmes. Legalisation instead of prohibition would ensure that fentanyl is no longer resulting in such harms. There is an opportunity to ensure the human rights of people as protected in the UNGASS outcome document.
Mr. Sven Pfiffer, Justice Section, UNODC. I will use my time to present one specific UNODC activity to support member states to implement UNGASS recommendations. This is a study implemented in Panama on a criminal justice assessment of people deprived of liberty for drug offences. This is around prison reform and the implementation of the Bangkok Rules. The objective was about generated knowledge on people in prison, prison management, etc. The key findings of the study were that 85% of drug offences were committed by men, but twice as many women as men were in prison for drug offences: 55% of women were there for drug offences as compared to 33%. This is similar to other countries in the region. Mostly this is for drug possession, followed by sale of drugs, followed by drug trafficking. We also looked at risk factors, highlighting that offenders were young (below 35), had 4 or more children, the education level is very low, working conditions were precarious (informal sectors, housewives, working in construction). The study looked at health, with drug use disorders being a major factor of vulnerability, with lack of access to health programmes. This was also linked to recidivism. The study focused on the social context: most offences were conducted in areas where drug trafficking and use were normalised.
The study had a gender sensitive approach and found that organised criminal groups benefit from exploiting both women and men, living in poverty and suffering from drug dependence. But women faced more vulnerabilities: unequal power relations men/women, women involved in activities developed by their husbands, ignorance of what the husband was doing. Many mothers are involved in activities committed by their sons (involved to help, or just offence committed in their house). Women were involved in trafficking, but coerced, used as ‘mulas’. When we look at the role women plan, mules are 35%, they are the biggest group and they are vulnerable to organised crime and coercion. Others are involved in low-scale activities. Others are girlfriends of the drug kingpins who are predominantly male. Others are caretakers, custodians playing traditional gendered roles and don’t even know about drug activities. Only 5% were in leadership roles.
The study provides recommendations: there should be a focus on dismantling higher level traffickers, rather than focus on the low-level poor and vulnerable, not only for human rights but also for efficiency. Another recommendation was to focus on the marginalisation and social context, as well as the gender dimension, including the trafficking/exploitation factors. There should be proportionality of sanctions, gender-sensitive non-custodial alternatives, legal aid, social reintegration. This is a short overview. The study is not yet published but there is a video summarising the facts I have mentioned here. It is published by the prison authorities and I will show it here. To access the slides of this presentation, please click here.
Czech Republic. Human rights protection is a priority for the country. We put human rights at the top of the drug policy agenda. We must focus on the human rights of drug users. We are afraid of worsening security situations that destabilise the region. We should consult entities related to human rights, such as OHCHR, at the CND meeting in 2018. We will use our experience of public health and scientific evidence. We believe that drug policies should care for all in the context of human rights.
China. We respect the various basic rights of drug offenders as citizens and ensure they are not discriminated in school and employment. We support protection of human rights and the safety of whole society. It is necessary to promote cooperation and respect the differences of states and sovereignty. We maintain that a balance should be struck on protection of human rights and the safety and social problems caused by drug abuse. We oppose turning a blind eye to drug abuse and harm reduction measures. For the protection of human rights of drug offenders, but these should not be stressed overly. It should be balanced to minimise drug demand and abuse and minimise the harms caused by drug use and trafficking to society. We protect the majority to enjoy the right to be free from drugs. For the protection of the rights of women and children, we adopt alternatives measures to women who are pregnant until they have given birth, then they return to prison (after 6 months). We are opposed to the legalisation of drugs in any forms. In the area of criminal justice, member states propose alternatives for minor drug offences based on their own judicial systems and cultural contexts. States should be given full respect for their sovereignty based on their national context. As for capital punishment for drug offences, China believes that member states have the right, under the UN conventions, to determine the punishment for drug offences in accordance with domestic laws. Many countries retain the death penalty. This is a choice made under the human rights conventions and their national context. Based on China legal practice, using the death penalty as the maximum punishment for severe drug offences has played a positive role in countering and deterring drug offences. But we are prudent in using the death penalty and we limit its use on the basis of the principle of proportionality.
Ecuador. Our public policies are oriented towards dealing with the socio-economic factors of involvement in drugs, focusing on health, education, social inclusion, culture, recreational activities, etc. Public policy includes drug programmes and projects with a gender focus and the implementation of drug policies which guarantee equality between men and women in the distribution of resources and access to economic opportunities away from the use of drugs. We never discriminate for sexual beneficiaries, we grant priority to access to health services in general to reduce demand for drugs, adopting strategies that will enable us to provide training for the health of individual groups.
Venezuela. We have listened closely to the initiatives presented in the last few days in combatting the scourge of drugs in our countries. We want to discuss our own experience. We conducted a study which was published in a journal in 2016: effect of musical training on children’s development in Venezuela. This is a social and cultural initiative focused on participation, prevention, training and rescuing of children and youth. It focuses on the development of youth using music as a tool for social development. It also provides family and community developments which foster solidarity and moving beyond the cycle of poverty. These children learn music and gain social mobility through an instrument considered exclusive to the elite. We are in pursuit of measures that can improve the situation. 20 years ago, Funda Musical worked with the Development Bank. This contributed to the funding of El Sistema 2011-2017. We compared a group of children admitted to our programme and another group of similar people outside of the programme. One year later, we compared 26 variables including behaviour, cognitive skills, etc. We are proud to present the first results of the study. The group admitted in the programme had fewer behavioural problems. The effect was better for children with mothers with low education levels. The programme also helped reduce violent behaviour. El Sistema can play an important prevention strategy. The Venezuelan experience has proven scientifically that music can help young people, making them stronger and more resistant to the dangers of drugs. We have trained more than 800,000 children through El Sistema. This means that these children are involved in the programme and training strategies. I want to highlight some of the programmes for children and youth with disabilities: hospital programme, Simon Bolivar Programme (choirs in schools), orchestra programmes, etc. Our research is available on springerlink.com. This is people-focused with respect for human rights, multidisciplinary in nature.
USA. The UNGASS outcome document highlights the need for drug policies involving all relevant stakeholders. The USA believes that promoting collaboration is essential to facilitating alternatives to incarceration. Finding ways to involve drug addicts in treatment is key. We welcome the expert working group on alternatives to incarceration and to the report. The USA supports international assistance programmes and expanding availability of treatment and prevention and ensuring that WHO and UNODC have access to information on these programmes. We collaborate with UNODC, WHO and academia to develop protocols on treatment for children, youth and pregnant women and will share our experience. Domestically, we promote health and justice system collaboration. Drug-free communities are a key example of integrated prevention and treatment work. It has 2 goals: establish connections among communities and prevent drug abuse by identifying local solutions to local problems. Grants are provided by the Drug Free Community Support Programme. They bring together health, law enforcement, youth, families, religious organisations, tribal governments and other organisations to achieve long term success. This is a fundamental goal of our drug control policy.
UK. We have a long experience in providing prevention, treatment and alternatives to incarceration. We reiterate our call to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances and despite national contexts. We also condemn the use of extrajudicial killings, they are a violation of human rights and the UN drug control conventions we have signed on to. I also want to focus on youth. As part of our conversation on drug policy and human rights, we must pay attention to the needs of youth. They require a different response focused on preventing more problematic use. This starts with universal action to promote health and confidence. In partnership with civil society, we have developed the Alcohol and Drug Education and Information Services for schools and other settings to reach out to young people, including a repository of actions and interventions. Youth drug use overlaps often with other vulnerabilities which exacerbates risks of abuses. We promote a wide range of responses that are instrumental to recovery. Supporting vulnerable families affected by dependence is part of our strategy to reduce use and promote recovery. We will continue to promote drug policies with human rights at their core, ensuring that national drug policies around the world are in agreement with human rights, gender equality and proportionate responses.
Turkey. Our national drug strategy focuses on an integrated and balanced approach. We show zero tolerance to inhumane treatment. One of the main pillars of our drug policy is to address the needs of youth, children and women. Prevention starts in the family. Punishment cannot solve this. Our Ministries of Family, Education, Youth and Sport carry out joint actions. We have addiction treatment and prevention programmes for youth and families. The Turkish Green Crescent Society is supporting us in this regard.
Koka Labartkava, GENPUD, Georgia. My childhood friend died of drug overdose. He was a promising person but he was detained because of drug use, was a victim of violence and abuse. He was arrested many times and almost half his life was in prison and he was finally killed. Unfortunately, my country said that we had a choice and were aggressive and deprived because of drug use. The zero tolerance policy which was declared in 2007 has given tens of thousands of people a criminal record. Georgia remains a country in which people are cruelly prosecuted for drug use activities. They are ‘criminals’ and not treated as having a health problem. By the initiative of the Georgian Network of People Who Use Drugs, we were able to establish a national drug policy platform with actors working in the field of drug policy, with the active participation of drug users networks. In 2014, with the initiative of GenPUD, the law was changed, so that medical service providers don’t have to report overdoses to the police. That way we saved many lives. Michel Kazatchkine helped us with this. With the help of GenPUD, assistance of doctors and Society Georgia Foundation, we now have universal hepatitis C treatment. We conducted a litigation to abolish criminal responsibility for drug use. The courts have made many judgements stating that the criminalisation of drug use was ill-treatment, but this was only related to cannabis. Please tell our government in Georgia and the region to change the punishment, to implement harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation programmes, putting forward dignity, health and human rights. This is not only about drug policy but about all public aspects.
Anna Judiche, Justice Section, UNODC. Children who use drugs should not be prosecuted in the criminal justice system but should receive adequate treatment and child assistance. UNODC works with countries around the world and have identified a number of challenges: research shows that children with substance abuse problems are vulnerable to recruitment by criminal groups. There are criminal justice systems that are not in line with standards, and it is not enforced properly for children. The first point of contact of children is often the police who are not specifically trained to deal with children. There is still an overreliance on punitive approaches, especially for children. This has an impact on the number of children in prison for minor offences, especially drugs. Prison should only be used as a last resort and for the smallest amount of time. We see a lack of institutional collaboration and coordination between the health, social, juvenile justice system. We have evidence of high levels of violence against children that remain unpunished. Little accountability exists on how they are treated. Another aspect we have noted is that there is a lack of engagement by media, civil society. When children are in the criminal justice system, they are no longer considered in the community. Families and communities should be involved in juvenile justice to support reintegration. The same applies for engagement of the media and civil society to promote positive change. Finally, there is a lack of data and statistics, for example on children who abuse drugs in the criminal justice system. UNODC recommends a systematic approach.
We need a paradigm shift towards a more systemic approach to protecting the rights of children with substance abuse problems, taking into account the following recommendations: integrate children’s issues, treatment for children and juvenile justice reform should be child-based, recognise inter-connectivity of rights, emphasize prevention of children involved in drugs and crime with coordination between different government institutions. It is necessary to collect data and information on young people, and on gender. We need to establish a clear mechanism on health providers and receivers. We need to take communication with the media and civil society to change the approach towards youth. We must promote children’s participation in the development and implementation of policies and programmes. We must include treatment in juvenile justice programmes (access to community-based treatment programmes, access to treatment in detention). We must offer specialised training courses for children who have committed drug offences. The substance abuse treatment programmes should contain individual screening and assessment and provide the child the opportunity to be accountable. It should include vocational services for the child. There is a need for legal reform and adoption of secondary legislation to provide treatment and support services in children facilities, with staffing and training. We are working on this issue with the programme on violence against women which supports SDGs 3, 5, 16. We focus on substance abuse for children in contact with the criminal justice system, but we hope this will have an impact to ensure that children are less criminalised. We developed an action plan for providing drug prevention for children in detention. Within the programme, we are at the disposal of member states on this subject area. We have countries that do require assistance but we have limited resources.
Post-UNGASS Facilitator. We will now break for lunch and reconvene after to listen to around 15 interventions from member states, NGOs and UN agencies.
El Salvador. Our new drug strategy is based on human rights, inter-sectorality and access to health. We opened first centre for youth at risk of drug abuse in San Salvador in 2014. For 2017, we will undertake actions for implementation of the UNGASS operational recommendations taking into account intersectoral issues, human rights and the needs of women, children and young people.
Russia. The Russian delegation attaches great importance to today’s discussion. This discussion should develop upon provisions in the UNGASS Outcome Document, on human rights, young people, women and children and vulnerable people in society. In New York in 2016, we confirmed that the conventions are the cornerstone of international drug control. We believe that a world free of drugs must be seen as fundamental human freedom, and must be ideological foundation for the global community to overcome the drugs challenge. In the Russian Federation, we use the guidance from WHO’s definition – drug addiction is a psychiatric illness – so those who take drugs without a prescription are addicts with an illness. This issue needs early identification and treatment, increased accessibility and quality of care. We seek to provide flexible sentencing for the illegal trafficking and use of drugs with harsher sentences for trafficking and sale, and lower sentences for those offences that do not involve sale and trafficking. There are provisions for treatment and rehabilitation. We value civil society and this year 16 NGOs won the first presidential grant competition to step up their activities which are high demand. The drugs strategy which goes up to 2020 notes that solutions by government bodies must be based on due process, equality of all before the law. UDHR every individual has the right to life. It is concerning that in the latest World Drug Report for 2017, we read that 190,000 people die annually from drug overdoses – we need to protect the right to life from the attack from drugs. We must note that the UN has noted that terrorism in all forms is intended to extinguish human rights. The role of upholding human rights is played by legislators that creates a sound buffer to the global drugs threat. In December, we will host ‘parliamentarians against drugs’ meeting in Moscow with participation from UNODC, WHO and other UN specialised agencies as well as leading NGOs to discuss how to tackle drugs and drug addiction. This event will help create the anti-drugs capacity of the international community and operationalise the UNGASS outcome document.
Colombia. We have incorporated the human rights approach into our drugs strategy. We reiterate our commitment to solve the drug problems. Supply has decreased but consumption has increased. We are taking these actions:
- We want to deal with drugs as a human rights and public issue and protect people from drugs.
- We want to address socio-economic weaknesses that lead to involvmenet in the drug trade. We will do this through focused, comprehensive and coordinated activities.
- We aim to reduce crimes linked to drug trafficking by breaking up criminal groups by trying to catch the upper echelons of these groups. The guerrillas/FARC are also a factor here and we need a sustainable response to the drugs problem in our country.
- We included drug aspects in the peace agreement with the FARC. We are also worked on the preparation on UNGASS, we made our stance clear. Article 4 of the peace agreement refer to the commitments made by Colombia at the UNGASS.
- With respect to social rights of groups involved in illicit cultivation we are promoting voluntary substitution of these crops to help people overcome poverty . 18,000 families will benefit. We are trying to get them involved in productive activities via regional development programmes and regional training programmes. This is being done at national, regional and local levels as well as with different ethnic groups.
- We have granted priority to involvement of communities with young people and women. We have included a gender perspective in our national programme for crop substitution. We have a technical bureau with UN, NGOs as well as the FARC in a multi-sectoral approach.
- We provide alternatives to prison for small scale growers and we aim to build a lasting peace. We refer to the weak and strong links with the illicit drug market.
- Selling drugs has had a big impact on our population. We aim to treat the weakest links with leniency but we have a special policy for other links. We want the punishment to fit the crime and ensure alternatives to prison for farmers involved in illicit cultivation of drug crops.
- We have a transitional justice plan which includes small scale growers who will not go to prison but will get alternatives. There is a bill in parliament on this – which we hope will benefit 8000 families so they can benefit from the crop substitution programme.
- We hope to reduce the number of people in prison for minor offences. If they do go to prison, we hope they will go to prison for less time. We want to develop economic alternatives for these communities.
- We want different treatment for women who are involved in the drug trade and that the socio-economic vulnerability is addressed.
- We want a multi-sectoral approach to deal with this problem from all sides. We want alternative crops to drug crops.
- We need to take into account the specific needs of women and girls in relation to the world drug problem.
- We have a special court and alternatives to prison for non-violent adolescents. We also take their own drug use into account and we would prefer to integrate them into society rather than put them into prison.
- We have a special guidebook for the human rights provisions and a work plan for a mechanism for the human rights approach. Throughout 2017 we are reviewing documents on the subject and will complete a consultation with Colombian citizens to safeguard human rights.
Jan Stola, Youth Organisations for Drug Action (YODA).
Phillip Meissner and Jamie Lee, Justice Section, UNODC Division for Operations. I refer to paragraph 4(m) of the outcome document on reducing prison overcrowding and violence. 115 jurisdictions worldwide go beyond the acceptable level of prison populations and many are 150% overcapacity. Drug related offenders are often the majority and include not only high profile traffickers but also consumers, street level dealers and drug couriers. UNODC Justice Section has a new global programme on addressing prison challenges to assist governments in crime prevention, legal aid programmes and alternatives to incarceration. I highlight three publications – UNODC’s handbook on Strategies to Reduce Prison Overcrowding in Prisons, Checklist to Assess Compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules and Roadmap towards the Development of Prison-based Rehabilitation Programmes. These publications take into account the needs of drug dependent prisoners.
Portugal. I would like to thank the different speakers that shared their countries’ and organizations’ experiences on this issue. These are important contributions to our shared purpose of tackling drug related problems. We consider the inclusion of a chapter on human rights in the outcome document of UNGASS as a crucial milestone in the drug control issues. Alternative sanctions to punishment and proportionality of sentencing are direct reflections of a human rights perspective on this theme.
Proportionality of sentencing means ab initio the non-imposition of the death penalty as we see it as a violation of the basic human right to life, but it also avoids grossly disproportional sentencing of individuals for drug use or possession for personal use, particularly when more efficient and human alternatives to conviction or punishment are available within the framework defined by the three international drug control conventions.
The Portuguese approach to drugs policy is rooted in the principle of alternatives to imprisonment for drug use and possession for personal use. As you know in Portugal drug use and possession for use remain illegal, but they are not considered criminal offences, well within the spirit and letter of the Conventions. That is also to say that Portuguese drug policy is based on the respect for human rights, through an integrated, multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach, assuring that each component of the model reinforces the other. But it is not only principles. It is also effectiveness!
In Portugal, levels of drugs use were consistently reduced and stabilized in recent years, blood borne diseases infections were also reduced, and we testified a decrease in the incarcerated population for drug related offences (44% of those incarcerated before the reform of 2000, against less than 20% today). In fact, for an addict who is caught in possession of drugs, prison is most of the times counterproductive, bearing a negative impact on health and possible new barriers for rehabilitation and reintegration in society, with the risk of creating a vicious cycle of stigmatization.
In Portugal someone caught by law enforcement agents in possession of a small quantity of any drug, which does not exceed the amount defined by law for a period of ten days use, is referred to a multidisciplinary Drug Addiction Dissuasion Commission (which is managed by the Ministry of Health). These Commissions try to establish if the offender is addicted or an occasional consumer, and have the power to impose decisions and administrative sanctions, such as community service, interdiction to travel abroad, prohibition to attend certain places, and other similar measures. More importantly, the Commissions are oriented by health and social goals, and their paramount objective is the well-being of the individual and his or her integration in society. That means that they also advise and guide the offenders, by referring drug addicts to treatment and pointing out those that are not addicted but need a specialized intervention. They also try to help them to understand the avenues they can explore at professional and personal level.
This careful balance between decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use without legalizing it, allowed for very good results, even on cannabis users, as these offenders are influenced and guided by the Drug Addiction Dissuasion Commissions to halt their consumption. In 2016, 85% of the offenders were cannabis users and the Commissions referred them to counseling, treatment structures or other responses within the community. We believe the promotion of alternatives to conviction and punishment is not only the most principled approach from a human rights perspective, but, I repeat, the most effective way to achieve our goals. But decriminalization and alternative sanctions to punishment are only a part of the humanist based Portuguese comprehensive approach in tandem with prevention, treatment, harm reduction and reintegration, and so en passant, I must underline that:
- Universal drug prevention is part of school curricula in a cross cutting way, in sciences, biology and civic studies.
- On the law enforcement side, we have in place, since 1992, the “Safe School Program” through which the metropolitan police patrols the areas surrounding schools to raise awareness and protect the students from criminal activities, such as drug trafficking. These agents participate in awareness and in other activities in schools, involving all stakeholders: students, parents and staff. This program today covers around 3000 schools and more than one million students. Indeed, law enforcement officers support and recognize the Portuguese drugs model as the most efficient approach, as it allowed for a decreasing of criminal activity in the short and long term, and allowed them to focus on the combat on more serious criminality such as drug trafficking.
- Harm reduction programs, in particular regarding syringe exchange, and structures, are widely available throughout the country, with the stated goal of preventing drug- related risks such as infectious diseases, social exclusion and delinquency.
- By the way, treatments for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis are included in the range of the universal National Health Service of Portugal (and it is free). The decrease in number of HIV/AIDS cases associated with drug use reflects the results of our policies: between 1995 and 1999 around half of HIV diagnoses were related to injecting drug users. In 2016 this represented only 3% of the total number of diagnoses.
- We achieved a 40% decline in the number of injecting drug users since the beginning of the century. Considering the new patients in the treatment system in 2015, only 3% were injecting drug users.
- In line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrined in the Portuguese Constitution the dignity of human beings is paramount in our model. And a figure that we believe is demonstrative of the results achieved is the sharp drop in overdoses (318 in 2000, to 27 in 2016).
In fact, the drug-induced mortality rate among adults was 5.8% deaths per million in 2016, one of the lowest in Europe and in the World. There is no silver bullet in the combat against the drug addiction problem. However, we believe the reforms we enacted in the year 2000, allowed us to create a model anchored in the human rights of each individual, and that through a health-based multidisciplinary approach we could achieve excellent results in prevention, treatment, harm reduction and reintegration areas, thus contributing to a healthier society in general.
In line with the UNGASS outcome document we believe the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the canvas for the implementation of the outcome document. And in that respect we believe that a holistic model such as the Portuguese – which has yielded progress in the fight against poverty, promotion of health, education and cohesion of our communities –, might be a positive contribution to that end. We stand ready to learn from others’ experiences and approaches, and to share ours in a spirit of close cooperation that ultimately will help us all to achieve more sustainable development rooted in the respect of human rights.
Philippines. Policies and programme of Philippines on drugs are anchored on our duty to promote fundamental rights and freedoms. Our country has a very young population, who are the most vulnerable to the temptations and evils of drugs. We have adopted the international standards of drug use prevention, investing in programmes for the youth. This assures our aspiration to become a drug free society will be realised. With the needs of women in mind, the government and civil society launched CBT for women – which seeks to aid female drug dependence. Last year, our third exclusive women treatment facility was opened and we hope to open more soon. Rights must be protected in the fight against drugs. The Dangerous Drugs Board regularly convenes judges and law enforcement officers to regulate and coordinate efforts. This reflects our vowed duty to ensure that legal protections are in place to protect those who are accused. We shall spare no effort in addressing the drugs menace, while protecting the most vulnerable. We look forward to avenues for support and technical cooperation with UNODC and member states.
Mexico. Mexico welcomes that the UNGASS outcome document includes this section on cross-cutting issues. It seems obvious that we must take into account the needs of different populations. The UNGASS document reiterates the need to respect all human rights and the dignity of all people in implementing drug policies. We have to develop fairer policies that are coherent with the three UN pillars. Dealing with the world drug problem with a gender perspective is essential. My country acknowledges the usefulness of alternatives to imprisonment for minor offences along the whole chain of the market. However, evidence of the constant growth of the prison population allows us to see that prison has been the most frequent response in our region. But we believe that we should explore alternatives to imprisonment and other measures that do not deprive people of freedom, but provide opportunities for social reintegration. Although we know that recent debates on this topic have been positive, but sometimes the alternatives do not deal with the causes and are not aligned with decriminalising minor charges. The implementation, evaluation of these policies must be focused on. We see that women are affected by this, especially for minor crimes and we acknowledge the contribution of UNGASS to tackle this problem. In Mexico, we have organised several multi-sectoral panels to address these concerns, with federal government, civil society, academia and international organisations. We have presented a draft reform to the Mexican congress in favour of women convicted of drug-related crimes – which includes practical criteria for non-discrimination and include the gender perspective in justice penalties and acknowledge that there is inequality between men and women. My government will pay a lot of attention to this process, and will inform CND of the results of our deliberations. I also want to refer to the need to improve the way which we compile and generate quantitative data, which should be disaggregated so that we can launch initiatives to marginalised groups. Mexico, in 20917, joined the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, and we will be including the gender perspective in this Group’s discussions. In February 2018, we will convene an international conference on drugs, violence and women.
Canada. Support today’s chapter and the exchange of ideas between member states. Canada has a mandatory assessment process for any proposal going to our Government for decision. This tool factors in sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, mental and physical ability and sexual orientation among others. This is to ensure effective public policies are made, and the tools are available online if any member states are interested and I would be happy to discuss it further. Canada stands alongside many of the comments made today, including on the need for human rights based drug policies, and our steadfast opposition to the death penalty for drug offences. I have learned a lot and will take these back with me as Canada seeks to implement its new approach to drug policy.
Slovenia. Addiction is a serious and sometimes chronic disease, so people need treatment and not prisons. Punishment is not a good option for drug users to solve their problems. Prisons are not a good environment for people to change their behaviour. Drug users need treatment and rehabilitation, so we fully support alternatives to punishment that allow for rehabilitation. Of course, we are also against the death penalty, as sanctions should be proportional with full respect of human rights.
Belgium. We align with the Estonian statement on behalf of EU, including on the unacceptability of extrajudicial killings and the death penalty in all circumstances. This is a long-standing priority for Belgium, and we will be hosting the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in 2019. In Belgium, gender mainstreaming is mandated by law. But in drug policy we found out that various blind spots exist in terms of responses for alcohol and drug users. In order to be evidence-based, a large scale study has been launched assessing the availability of, and need for, gender-sensitive services and people’s experiences of using them. This is applied along the continuum of care – including harm reduction and aftercare. Results will be available at the end of this year, and we will share with the CND at an appropriate time.
Amaya Ordorika Imaz, Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights.
Lisa Sanchez, on Behalf of Luciana Pol – CELS. NGOs working in Latin America know that the inclusion of human rights concepts and principles in the implementation of drug policies is a key necessity. As such, we value the elements in the UNGASS outcome document which have sought to do so. We welcome also the participation of OHCHR and UN Women and their willingness to bring their technical knowledge to this Commission with the view of improving the design and implementation of our policies.
I will refer to one of the human rights problems in the region which represent an increasing trend in the rest of the world. Women in the Americas are being incarcerated for low-level drug offences at an alarming rate. Various countries in the region have more than 60% of women incarcerated for such offences.
The incarceration of mothers and caretakers in particular can have devastating consequences for women but also their children and communities. These women are rarely a threat to society, the majority are detained for low-level, high-risk activities.
Point 4.d of the UNGASS outcome document requests improving the study of the conditions that make women vulnerable to exploitation and engagement in illicit drug trafficking. In Latin America, we have brought together our forces to collaborate on this task: women organisations and human rights organisations have joined forces to create a working group along with government officials, advocates and researchers to promote alternative policies to incarceration to protect the rights of this vulnerable group.
The Guide on Alternatives to Incarceration which we produced has been presented and discussed with governments and justice practitioners in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico, among others. We have also compiled good practice in a series of briefings called ‘Innovative Approaches’ which we can put at your disposal.
But the difficulties that we encounter to study this population and understand the phenomenon is the lack of reliable statistics with a gender perspective which take this group into account. We don’t know either how to mitigate the impacts on their families and kids. The indicators which measure the results of drug policies should be broadened to introduce the dimensions of human rights with a gender perspective. We welcome the work of the Commission in this regard and believe that the technical collaboration of OHCHR and UN Women will be invaluable. Thank you (Read the original statement in Spanish).
Zaved Mahmood, OHCHR (Closing Remarks). Thanks to all delegates who have participated. Myself, I have learned a lot about the measures being taken by member states with regards to human rights, and we have also heard about the challenges. We are ready to cooperate with member states and other organisations to overcome these challenges. I want to also mention indigenous peoples right. In the UNGASS outcome document, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People is mentioned, which includes their rights to use certain substances. This has to be taken into account when rethinking or reforming policies. Many delegates also spoke of the use of the death penalty. Those countries who are not using death penalty for drug offences, please share your experiences to try and move other countries away from this penalty. The OHCHR position is here to support member states and others in this endeavour.
Christine Brautigam, UN Women (Closing Remarks). I want to mention the importance of policy coherence, so when applying the UNGASS outcome document other policies such as gender quality etc do need to align. In the context of such a coherent approach, there is a need for targeted attention to gender mainstreaming in line with SDG 5. It is important to have a comprehensive approach that does not just deal with the symptoms, but also the causes of gender inequality including gender stereotypes, discriminatory social norms and unequal gender power relations. Fourthly, the importance of institutional cooperation across governments, between ministries and government agencies leading on drug policy and those leading on gender, health, etc – as well as with civil society and other governments. The last point did not come up enough – the question of resources, and how these need to be allocated and most effectively targeted. From a gender perspective, we have been concerned for many years in the under-investment in this area, so as member states continue to look at this in the context of the 2030 agenda, ensure that resources are allocated to this issue.
UNODC Closing Remarks. We can do much more, and are happy to have cooperation within UNODC and with the other UN agencies. I started at UNDCP many years ago, when there was no discussion of gender or human rights. When we go to countries, we see a large proportion of children in detention are there because of minor drug offences. There is a lack of knowledge among criminal justice personnel about drug use, addiction – and there is a heavily punitive approach and people are often asking for help and explanations on how to better deal with these children.