Panel Discussion on the World Drug Problem – 30th Regular Session – Human Rights Council

A summary of the panel, produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, can be accessed here. A full recording is available at UN Web TV.

Opening Statement
Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (Statement)

Panel Moderator and the Panellists
Ruth Dreifuss, former President of the Swiss Confederation and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and panel moderator.

Mr. Javier Andres Florez, Director of Drug Policy of the Ministry of Justice of Colombia (Statement).

Ms. Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (Statement).

Dr Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Deputy Director and Academic Dean at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Mr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization (Statement).

Mr. Aldo Lale, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (Statement).

H.E. Mr. Arthayudh Srisamoot, Ambassador of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Vienna (Statement).

Council Members and Observer States
Switzerland (on behalf of a group of 16 States): The right to health should be guaranteed without discrimination. Yet harm reduction strategies and access to essential medicines are lacking in many countries, increasing the risk for users and society as a whole.

Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group): Drug harms violate the right to health. Drug users are a burden for society and for [much-needed] State resources, which undermines stability and development. Violence and crime are corollaries of drug use. Drug trafficking has fuelled terrorism, money laundering, corruption, violence, etc., which in turn undermines human rights. The humanitarian and border situation in the Arab region has exacerbated the drug problem and has had adverse effects on individuals and communities; which has had knock-on effects on morals and cultural heritage. Arab countries have committed to increase cooperation and stressed that penalties should not be reduced.

European Union: UNGASS 2016 is a key opportunity to take stock on the achievements and the enormous remaining challenges of the global drug control system, and to find solutions. Human rights instruments need to be fully implemented in relation to the world drug problem. The absolute priority should be the universal abolition of the death penalty. Ensuring access to a wide range of treatments and care options is essential. Prevention cannot curtail access to controlled medicines. States should implement alternatives to incarceration and coercive sanctions for minor non-violent offences. A gender perspective should be mainstreamed into drug policy too.

Ecuador (on behalf on CELAC): Counter-drug policy should respect both international instruments and state sovereignty. It should focus on the health and wellbeing of individuals. The UNGASS 2016 will contribute to assessing progress and challenge. We expect it will be an open debate, based on evidence and respectful of cultural specificities. We must seek alternatives to imprisonment.

Uruguay (on behalf of UNASUR): Drug policy should be person-centred. Countries of the region have been adopting alternative policies. UNGASS 2016 should be an open, frank and realistic debate. Practices that lead to discrimination and human rights violations should be abolished. Drugs should not be criminalised, since this limits access to treatment, work, education, etc. Drug sentencing should be proportional. We must promote the abolition of death penalty for drug offences and alternatives to imprisonment.

Pakistan (on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation): The particularities of different countries and how they impinge on the way states address the drugs problem should be taken into account. The world drug problem demands a common but differentiated response.

Algeria (on behalf of the African Group): Drugs is of great concern for the African countries given the transit role of these states. Drug trafficking is a major source of income for terrorism. Most drug users are young victims of this trafficking. The drug problem is a shared problem which should be addressed through increased cooperation. A balanced approach that prevents and punishes drug trafficking should be implemented. Information campaigns are very important. The Treaties must be respected.

Colombia (on behalf of a group of 10 States): Fundamental for UNGASS to be an open an inclusive debate. Discussions should be informed by the best available evidence to conduct a review based on measures that are working and do without those that don’t. The unintended consequences of drug control have greatly affected human rights. Policies must be person-centred and anchored in a human rights approach. Prevention should be prioritised, especially when dealing with vulnerable groups. The death penalty should be abolished.

Portugal: The current Portuguese model was inspired by the discussions at the last UNGASS. Drug addiction should not be an exception to the idea that disease should be addressed without discrimination or criminalisation. Drug use is harmful but not all means to counter it are proportionate, legitimate or effective. We need to have an evidence-based debate and one that respects human rights. States should halt the application of the death penalty and protect the rights of the vulnerable.

Sierra Leone: The country’s civil war was fuelled by drug use. Former combatants’ lives were destroyed by drug use. Increased trafficking leads to important costs to African nations. Worrying increasing use of cocaine and amphetamines. All states should embed development into their counter-drug strategy.

Singapore: We have been reasonably successful in countering drugs through a zero-tolerance approach. Drugs should be stopped before entering the country through interdiction. The death penalty has been an effective deterrent. Our streets are close to drug and crime free. We provide rehabilitation to avoid relapse. We support social reintegration of recovered users. There is no one-size-fits all approach. We respect other approaches, but our approach has allowed us to thrive.

Mexico: We endorse the positions of Switzerland and CELAC. We should explore innovative and alternative approaches. Mexico has a pragmatic framework to deal with treatment and prevention, anchored in human rights. Mexico expects panellists to discuss best practices and adequate implementation. Addiction courts, implemented in Mexico since 2008, take into account a non-punitive approach. We are curious about the outcomes of alternative policies.

Non-Governmental Organisations
International Lesbian and Gay Association (joint statement) (Statement).
International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) (Statement).
Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero (joint statement) (Statement).

Council Members and Observer States
Australia: Concerned by the global disparity in access to controlled substances for medical purposes. It is possible to reduce these barriers where there is political will to reform. The death penalty should not be applied for drug-related offences. Curiosity about reform towards health-oriented approach and its potential for positive impact on human rights.

France: The scourge of drugs remains a threat to the enjoyment to human rights, rule of law and security, which is why increased action is needed. The death penalty contributes nothing to this goal. The right to health must be respected; addiction is an illness. We must stress prevention and treatment. Each state must adopt a balanced and integrated approach: fighting trafficking, preventive action and adequate care.

Egypt: The Treaties are and should continue to be the backbone of global drug control. Supply and demand reduction should be the primary aims of this regime. Every country and region has particularities, and the sovereignty of states must be respected. Consolidating the security aspect is a fundamental necessity. The UNGASS 2016 should stress international cooperation, as well as development roots to the drug problem.

Council of Europe: The Pompidou Group, set up in 1971 in response to the heroin crisis, has explored the unintended social and economic consequences of drug policies. Questions: Is there evidence that the different drug policies may prevent undesirable situations? Are there adjustments that would save lives? Is there evidence for it? Are states expected to always take the most appropriate measure? What is the extent of the duty of the state to avoid preventable deaths? Are there least undesirable consequences such as confusing messaging about drug harms?

Paraguay: The Government has been exploring evidence-based alternatives within the UN Treaties. UNGASS 2016 will be a good opportunity for increased cooperation on this problem. The global approach should be holistic, balanced multidisciplinary and sustainable. Any drug strategy must be person-centred.

Tunisia: Human rights should be a part of the response to the world drug problem, which is a shared and joint responsibility of the international community. Some policies of harm reduction jeopardise the right to health and may give the impression that illicit drugs can be safely consumed. This idea is dangerous for society and the most vulnerable. These policies, just as appeals for legalisation or decriminalisation, or for exceptions in the name of tradition and culture, not only go against the UN Drug Conventions but also undermine efforts to limit the supply and demand for drugs. It may jeopardise the right to health of our society.

Kyrgyzstan: Our balanced approach is focused on reducing supply, demand and harm to drug users. Humanism is at the core of our counter-drug policy. We aim to reduce demand by providing more information and general/specialised health services to addicts, as well as rehabilitation. A reintegration programme is also in place. More international cooperation is needed.

Austria: Human-rights based approach with a strong focus on health, including harm and risk-reduction measures. We must promote higher focus on evidence and science. Access to controlled medicines is perfectly possible within the Convention and must be pursued. Austria strongly supports alternative development. The death penalty should be abolished and proportionate penalties should be implemented. Alternatives to incarceration should be explored. Evaluation and monitoring of new policies is also key.

Nicaragua: Drugs undermine our society, and it is doing so with increasing impunity. A person-centred and human rights-based approach does not equal a more permissive context for drug use. We want a society free of drugs. UNGASS 2016 is a historic opportunity to address the real cause of the drugs problem: selfishness and collective indifference.

India: India has a robust legislative framework and strong political will to tackle the drugs menace. Drugs cause darkness and destruction. Everyone must come together to move towards a drugs-free India. Important to highlight demand reduction. Greater emphasis on harm reduction and rehabilitation needed.

Sweden: Human rights includes the right not to be exposed to harmful substances, but also harm reduction.

China: The world drug control issue is complex and grim. Cyber-crime is a concern. Drug use affects people’s rights to health and life, but also spread infectious diseases. People seeking profit harm society. Criminal networks threaten social order. China attaches high importance to drug control. We fight drug-related crimes to protect human rights. The international community should maintain the authority of the global drug control regime and effectively implement the Treaties, opposing the legalisation of drugs. The HRC should make practical recommendations for the UNGASS 2016.

Non-Governmental Organisations
Penal Reform International (Statement).
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Asociación Civil (Statement).
International Educational Development, Inc. (Statement).

Council Members and Observer States
Bolivia: Our country is strengthening drug policy, with increased accent on prevention and eradication programmes, on a sovereign basis and with increased success after the withdrawal of the DEA. We have been able to recognise the specificities of indigenous peoples. Our Constitution enshrines the duty to protect the ancestral coca as a part of our heritage and a vector of social cohesion. Our next goal is to remove the coca leaf from the list of narcotic drugs.

Albania: A better drugs approach requires an evidence-based perspective. The right to life and to health must be the primary concern. Policies in this regard must be proportionate and non-discriminatory. Drug users in vulnerable situation should be given priority. Special training of this sort should be given to service providers. We particularly condemn the death penalty to drug-related offences.

Greece: We support moving away from punitive approaches to human-rights based approaches. A higher emphasis on health and public care should be stressed. This is why we have expanded programmes of drug-replacement therapies, harm-reduction, social reintegration, among others. We must share good practices.

El Salvador: Human rights perspective should be at the core of any action on drug control. We should highlight convergences in terms of national policies. We must promote an open and transparent dialogue and disseminate results of innovative practices.

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