During the opening session, various country groupings entered collective statements into the record. This is in advance of the individual country statements which will be made today and tomorrow.
In general, these statements were of a kind, and offered little in the way of notable commentary. The G77 Group and China expressed its concern at the continuing increase of drug use (which appeared to undermine Antonio Maria Costa’s speech earlier today on the success of drug control). The African Union highlighted the need for increased data and focus on the African region. The statement from the Asian group of countries made specific reference to HIV in the region.
The most interesting contribution in this section came from the European Union (which was supported not just the EU 25 countries, but also a number of additional countries in Central and Eastern Europe). The EU opened by stating that the goals of the 1998 Political Declaration had not been achieved, and made the case for an evidence-based and balanced approach to drug policy.
The EU made a strong defense of harm reduction, all reference to which was stripped from the final text of the new Political Declaration. The EU stated that ‘Harm reduction does not replace demand and supply reduction, nor is it replaced by them.’ The statement highlighted concerns over HIV and other blood-borne viruses, as well as overdose, noting that programmes such as needle exchange and opioid substitution therapy are crucial to the European response to these public health concerns.
The statement noted that harm reduction is explicitly supported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Global Fund, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, and said that over 80 countries worldwide include harm reduction as part of their domestic response to drugs and health.