Undoing a decade of neglect: International drug policy and access to essential medical and harm reduction services

IHRA, Human Rights Watch, International AIDS Society and YouthRISE held a joint satellite event on the morning of Thursday 12th March. The speakers highlighted the failings of the past decade of drug control in ensuring access to health and essential medicines for vulnerable populations and expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the new Political Declaration that will shape the next ten years of drug control. Craig McClure, Executive Director of the International AIDS Society, condemned the new Political Declaration as ‘fundamentally flawed, without a clear call for evidence based approaches for reducing drug related harm’. Sujan Jirel of YouthRISE called for harm reduction services for young people and the realisation of the right of young people to participate in decision making processes that affect them. Human Rights Watch advocate, Rebecca Schleifer, argued that a major negative consequence of drug control is the lack of access to essential medicines for pain relief. Access to pain relief is part of the right to health and member states must be called upon to uphold their obligations. The final speaker, Professor Gerry Stimson, the Executive Director of the International Harm Reduction Association, referred to the limited references to health in the Political Declaration and called into question UNODC’s role as the lead UN agency on harm reduction.

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