Side event: Aligning drug control efforts with the 2030 sustainable development agenda

Side event organised by the United Nations Development Programme. 

Moderated by: J.V.R. Prasada Rao, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia and in the Pacific. Good afternoon and welcome to this session. I am happy to be heading this side event. There is telling evidence that the world is planning to protect people that use drugs. There are a higher number of users cocaine and amphetamine type stimulants than 1999. In September 2015, members of the UN got together to provide the sustainable development agenda. The outcome document that came from CND mentions specific references to naloxone and  injecting equipment services. Alignment of the SDGs needs to be done at the UNGASS 2016. The outcome document is silent on important things in development, such as harm reduction. Capital punishment is another important element that is not mentioned in the document. We still have an opportunity to make significant changes to the document, addressing the needs of sustainable development and your people. Alighnment of drug policy is feasible and can be an outcome of UNGASS 2016.

Mandeep Dhaliwal, UNDP. The 2030 sustainable development agenda provided a comprehensive and rights based document for development. It’s clear with such an extensive agenda we need to collaborate to achieve these goals. We will miss targets to end AIDS without prioritising people who use drugs. In 2015 we released a discussion paper, and today we are releasing a follow up document with measures make drug policy more development sensitive. We should use this agenda provided by the SDGs – current drug control strategies aren’t working. It’s important to learn from countries, from science and evidence to realise the ultimate aims of the drug conventions and to leave no one, especially people who use drugs, behind

Dr Kathy-Ann Brown, Ministry of Justice, Jamaica. I am focusing on SDG 16 – promotIng peaceful development. Jamaica we have changed our laws. Ganja related cases are clogging up the RM courts – over 414000 unresolved cases. We needed to relieve the courts. We need proportionality in sentencing . Just for having a spliff you would have your career put on hold. Dennis Forsyth case – police were using the law to hit the most vulnerable parts of society. Jamaica has a history of understanding the benefits of Ganja – for example glaucoma. We talk about inclusive societies – we want to bring people into a legal market for medical and scientific purposes. There has been a significant drop in number of arrests between 2013-14 since the law that was amended in 2014. We decided to fast track the way you could expunge a criminal record for possessing a spliff. There are challenges inin promoting respect for the rule of law at national and international levels – quote: a law is valuable because there are rights in it – laws are like clothes, the laws are tailored to fit the people they are meant to service.

Pithaya Jinawat, Ministry of Justice, Thailand and Inspire Project of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha.

Today I will talk about the role of civil society in law change in Thailand. I have a framework to compare your country to my country, with the  implementation of policy and laws. ‘Inspire project’- for the problem of female inmates to policy development, right now the Bangkok rules are being implemented – we are trying to solve the problem of crowded women in prisons. We are trying to disseminate inform and knowledge and create a new paradigm and innovation in drug policy in Thailand. We are trying to focus in the prevention side, and on the results of the study. Main causes of overcrowding of female inmates – ineffective policy evaluation and implementation. Undesirable impacts when you put people in jail – stigmatisation, broken family, poor quality of life . Conceptual framework to solve these problems: enforcement of the law is unfortunate for the transparency of policy in Thailand and other countries. We are trying to focus more on the prevention side to have a more humane and transparent drug policy. We have or gross in the dissemination of research and knowledge management. Leadership from the princess and the ministers have been driving forces.

Daniel Brombacher, GIZ, German Development Cooperation.

The German approach to alternative development. Thank you very much for convening this side event. Germany has been an advocate of development and health oriented drug policy. We always struggle to combine the drug control and development efforts but I will try to give you some insight on how we do it. The first German project was implemented in Thailand in 1981. We use the term alternative development (AD) as it is used in the drug conventions. We have implanted ad projects in 7 countries, and have cross regional projects. Within the EU, AD is an new important element. We don’t believe that illicit drug cultivation can be solved by substitution. We should address the underlying problems. We try to understand the root causes – why do farmers grow illicit crops? What do they have in common? Before we work in countries we try to identify the push factors, the core issues – how does AD contribution to the sustainable development agenda? Where is the overlap? We found that most of the issues we’ve identified as push factors are covered by the SDGs . We need to promote access to land and develop infrastructure and local markets. Other push factors include statehood with corruption and violence, drug crop cultivation causes severe environmental damage.

Dr Zipporah Ali, Kenya Hospices and Pallative Care Association.

Good afternoon everyone, I am going to shift from what others have said. Our focus is scaling up through policy development to ensure care is available in Kenya. Fred’s story. Fred was very sick and to go home, as there is nothing more I can do for you. Fred was in severe pain and had no means for fighting for his own rights, but we managed to cure Fred. He lived for 10 years and his pain management let him live to achieve his dreams. Kenya doesn’t have a cancer registry, and HIV/AIDS prevalence is quite high. We are seeing a steep rise in NCDs. Why do we allow patients to live and die in pain? We have very stringent and punitive laws and not much access to drugs, we are told not to prescribe opioids as they make patients addicted. We have lack of knowledge and skills in pain assessment. Access to health is about best standard to health, and access to pallative care. We have done a lot of advocacy and teamed up with others to do this, for access to medication. This drew a lot of interest from the government. In 2008 we didn’t have access to Pallative care, we only had 3 and now we have 70. The minister purchasing 50kgs of morphine to distribute. We train departments in hospitals on how to assess and treat pain. We also have priority patients, culturally we are not supposed to talk about pain. Because of the training we are having many improvements in hospitals. We are hoping the next doctors will be trained into pain management.

Rao: Thank you very much. We have 10 mins of time for questions.

Steve from focus group USA. Invented methadone 45 years ago – why hasn’t methadone been mentioned?

Ali: methadone is a very important drug, but we have more access to morphine in Kenya.

James Caine UN university: question on outcomes document it soeaks of member states flexibility to adopt – does is mean there is flexibility for crop cultivation?

Brown – the flexibility paragraph is out of place. The notion that you would treat canna bis on the same terms of morphine. Cannabis is schedule 4 drug which means there are no medical advantages of it, which we know is untrue. What’s going on in the U.S. Does not abide by the conventions. We want to society that respects the rule of law, which means the law has to make sense. We realise the outcome document will not be reopened. Where do we go from here? That debate is what we want civil society to take place.

Brombacher – flexibility of cultivation issue – if you look at source countries for organic based drugs, India, there is quite extensive licit cultivation of opium poppy, and illicit. The work of external agencies are still governed by the legal situations in the countries. I don’t see anything beyond what we’ve got in the outcome document.

Russian Federation – question for future – how to align drug polices with sd agenda – both areas deserve mutual reinforcement .

Dhaliwal –  Many of the SDGs help addressing root causes – poverty eradication, health and wellbeing, to addressing the goals of drug control

Rao. Thank you to all the speakers.

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