Home » Side event: Civil society and international drug policy in the context of the agenda for 2030

Side event: Civil society and international drug policy in the context of the agenda for 2030

Rokas Bernotas, Ambassador of Lithuania. Remind that UNGASS outcome document states that agenda 200 is complementary to addressing the world drug problem. Demand reduction, respect for human rights, support treatment and recovery, need to involve civil society. Supply side responses affect poor communities the most. Importance for alternative development solutions for Afghanistan, mostly semi-arid, alternative development programs hugely needed there.

Katherine Pettus, VNGOC. Presentation on controlled medicines, improving their availability will support 2030 agenda. Requires countries to set goals, efforts to achieve SDGs are complementary to goals of world drug problem. Many are unfamiliar with SDGs, cannot see how palliative care can help with SDGs. How do national policies developed to improve access to controlled medicines supports achievement of goals: 1. No poverty, debt slavery through medical treatments, pain management enables, 3. Health and well-being,  improving access to morphine, 4. And 5. , 8. Decent growth, require trailing of new providers, workforce shortfall for growing need for palliative care of older populations, 10. Reduced inequalities, increased availability of controlled medicines will close the pain gap, 17. Partnership with sectors, governments, private sector and civil society need to collaborate.

Natasha Horsfield, Health Poverty Action. Leave no one behind – Civil society partnerships with the Development Sector to align International Drug Policies with the SDGs.

– Health Poverty Action’s work on drug policy focuses broadly on advocacy to foster greater understanding within the international development community of the intersections between drug policy & development issues

– & to achieve drug policies which support rather than undermine sustainable development for affected communities.

  • This approach is based on our work to highlight the ways in which current punitive approaches to drug policy undermine the achievement of a large number of the SDGs
  • & that drug affected communities have in many areas been left out of mainstream development initiatives.

– Given this focus of our work, I’m going to discuss 2 examples of our approach to influencing the inclusion of vulnerable drug and drug policy affected populations in development sector-led efforts to achieve the SDGs,

– and influencing a conductive environment for the creation of drug policy that positively contribute to achieving the SDGs.

There are currently 2 initiatives that Health Poverty Action is particularly working on in this regard.


  • Is a research project to bring the voices of some of the communities negatively impacted by punitive drug policies and left out of mainstream development to the international development community to ensure their inclusion achieving in the SDGs
  • The first of 2 reports in this project will engage with communities who rely on the illicit drugs trade for their livelihoods – in both rural cultivation and urban drug trade settings
  • this report will highlight the need to formulate and implement development and drug policies in these communities focused on their inclusion in efforts to meet SDG goal 1 on Poverty, SDG Goal 2 on food security and livelihoods, SDG goal 5 on gender and SDG goal 8 on decent work (amongst others)
  • The second report will engage with populations suffering the heath and socio-economic impacts of restricted access to controlled medicines – highlighting the need to remove drug policy barriers which restrict access to these meds whilst expanding access to health care more generally
  • In order to specifically meet the SDG Health Goal 3 Target 3.8 on universal health coverage and access to essential medicines, as well as other aspects of Goal 3 and other relevant SDGs related to this issue as covered by Katherine.

2nd Creation of the Bond for International Development Working Group on Drug Policy

  • Coalition of UK based development NGOs working within the UK membership group for international development organisations (made up of 450 members)
  • to build understanding of drug policy issues in development sector and advocate collectively for the inclusion of drug policy issues in the work of development INGOs and Donor agencies – particularly in relation to the SDGs
  • And also to represent the voice of the development community in international drug policy debates

The intended purpose of these 2 initiatives in contributing to achieving the SDGs for key drug affected communities is 3 fold:

1st – for International development NGOs to include these issues in their relevant policy and programme work in contribution towards meeting the SDGs

2nd – To influence development donors to include these issues in their strategies towards achieving the relevant SDGs.

3rd – To achieve increased alignment of international drug policies with the SDGs to contribute to their success

Overall the aim of this approach is to ensure the inclusion of drug policy issues in the SDG process so that affected communities are not ‘left behind’ in other, largely mainstream development initiatives, to meet the SDGs

Beyond HPA’s work there are multiple opportunities for drug policy civil society to engage with development processes on the SDGs

  • Development sector civil society have been working for many years now to support the creation and now achievement of the SDGs – meaning there are a number of joint initiatives that drug policy civil society working with key affected populations can engage with to ensure the needs of these communities are included in existing spaces to support the achievement of the SDGs
  • International level there are several networks & task forces working on SDG implementation – not time to go into in the 6 minutes I have today – but if anyone is interested in learning more about these groups please take my card at the end and I’d be happy to discuss this with you
  • There are also national level processes happening in many countries where development civil society are already working with national governments to support SDG implementation – which can be a good way for drug policy civil society to partner with member states

In the previous event we discussed the need to develop new metrics to measure drug policy outcomes in terms of their contribution to meeting the SDGs.

Add to this by saying that in the absence of such metrics, and even once they are developed –

Civil society have an important role to play in terms of monitoring how policies and interventions on the specific drug issues relevant to their work contribute to and impact the SDGs both at international level and national level

  • and that engaging with existing initiatives or creating new avenues to partner with
  • development focused civil society and member States to ensure the needs of affected populations are included in efforts to achieve the SDG Goals and targets
  • will be one of the best ways to ensure that drug policies and programmes contribute positively to the sustainable development Agenda.

Jurgita Poskeviciute, I Can Live. Civil society organisations set up to provide service to disadvantaged, but also think tank watch dog organisations, too often hear that planning is a matter of state decisions, NGO input is generally considered burdensome confusing and not welcome, human rights and health oriented drug policy, governments and NGOS need to work together. Civil society has to be prepared to take decisions at policy level, few suggestions of civil society involvement. Lithuania civil society involvement in government consultations with newly elected government to review national strategy and drug dependence system, current availability very limited, drug tobacco and alcohol department, joint cooperation platform, civil society important ally. Inclusion NGOs into state delegations is a good example, target 3.3, covers need to depenalise drug use, HIV and hepatitis prevention for people who use drugs, evidence based public health oriented, SDG compliant drug policy. EU funded project, civil society contribution by performing impact assessment, hard to believe not done so far, obvious example is provision of services by NGOs, needle syringe programs. Prospect of ending HIV epidemic seems unattainable, UN agencies need to be more proactive specially in the context of high vulnerability. Civil society should be proactively informed about implementation of SDGs in their countries. UNGASS outcome document highlights the needs of civil society.

Ngüyen Minh Turang, SCDI. How SCDI supports the implementation of SDGs, non-governmental and non-profit organisation, every individual has hidden potential, individuals who benefit from programs but those who lead them, use SDGs are a tool to pressure government, people who use drugs face stigma in Vietnam, in PWUD communities there is very little health insurance, no papers or no familiar support, face health problems and cannot get treatment for them, cover for hepatitis does not cover treatment and testing, drug user community raise their voice through SCDI, PWUD need more, shouldn’t be forgotten in policy making process. Receiving funding from Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Addiction treatment not a real concept in Vietnam, compulsory treatment centres have existed for a hundred years and nobody cares about them, civil society coming to support our government. Goal 3. SCDI addiction treatment services are humane, not isolated, can support their families with business, they can heal themselves, aim of program, support of our government to achieve SDGs. Goal 17. Cannot walk alone, many partners, governmental and non-governmental.

Randy Thompson, Help not handcuffs, NYNGOC. Drug policy that prioritises health and well being of people, help policymakers reduce harms associated with prohibition through the SDGs, use some US based statistics, SDG 16. Reducing drug related arrest will lead to healthier relationship between law enforcement and the populations they serve. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is a result of prohibition because heroin is not regulated no quality controlled. Prohibition has removed all legal institutions removed all support services for drug users. Very little money to support harm reduction programs despite very powerful financial incentives. Listen to affected populations. Transforming world towards agenda 2030.

Isaac Morales, Mexico. International drug policy, civil society and SDGs, three important concepts that are mutually reinforcing. Government of Mexico has favoured plural views of civil society in international settings, supportive view of civil society an evolution, positive in all regards. Have to align those efforts with SDGs, recognise progress made during recent years made by the VNGOC and NYNGOC. Mexico government encouraged to maintain and to expand participation not only within the UN but also regional and inter-regional organisations. Inclusion of civil society in drug policy debate, Mexico working group with civil society with periodic coordination meetings, result is always strengthening, good practice of including civil society representatives in our delegations. Furthermore, national dialogues to better formulate proposals, has counted with representatives with national and international civil society organisations. Solid collaboration goes hand in hand with multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional approach which is related with SDGs agenda. Cross-cutting approach coming from UNGASS outcome document enables us. Own review of domestic opioid prescription in an effort to make difficult their diversion. Finish inviting colleagues with civil society engagement. Two final key words, plurality, civil society does not have uniform voice need to incorporate whole spectrum, second key word, continuity.

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