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Harm Reduction International

I represent Harm Reduction International but am speaking on behalf of harm reduction organisations from around the world. In recent months we have been discussing what outcomes we want to see from the UNGASS on Drugs in 2016. We have condensed these into two main calls:

First, the time has come for harm reduction to receive the international political recognition it deserves.

At the last UNGASS in 1998, the international community gathered under the banner of ‘A drug free world by 2008: We can do it’. Well, we couldn’t. And we can’t, not this decade or any other.

Since 1998 harm reduction has been an approach that has consistently proven itself as both a policy framework and a range of interventions.

Harm reduction has saved lives, improved health and demonstrated cost-effectiveness at the same time that efforts to reduce overall demand have clearly failed and have cost billions of dollars. 
So it’s no wonder that support for harm reduction has continued to expand in every region of the world, despite the failure of this Commission to fully endorse it.
In 2016 a new decade of drug policy should be set, and it should be harm reduction decade. A new focus based on what’s worked.That requires resetting our goals and rethinking what ‘success’ looks like, and undoing decades of unnecessary damage in pursuit of that drug free vision.

That brings me to our second call:

If there is to be true ‘balance’ if health is really the cornerstone of drug policy as we so often hear, this is our challenge:

Scale up harm reduction funding to just one tenth of what is currently spent on drug enforcement, and do so by 2020.

10 by 20

A tenth of what’s currently spent on policing, border control, prosecution, imprisonment, probation and so on.

With just ten cents for every dollar of what’s spent on enforcement, we could easily cover the HIV prevention needs for people who inject drugs. Twice over.

We could save lives lost unnecessarily to overdose. We could develop innovative responses to ATS, cocaine and novel psychoactives. We are not seeking new money. 10 by 20 is about spending existing funds in better ways – funding what works. Put simply, we are tired of public funds being wasted

Overspending on drug enforcement that this Commission acknowledges has had very limited success.

Billions spent keeping people in prison who do not need to be there.Tens of millions on mass media campaigns that have been proven to make no difference.

We can do better with the funds already available to us. That’s what 10 by 20 is about.
We thank you for the opportunity to speak today and look forward to these important debates leading up to the UNGASS in 2016.

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