Home » Item 11. Follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem held in 2016, including the seven thematic areas of the outcome document of the special session (Afternoon session)

Item 11. Follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem held in 2016, including the seven thematic areas of the outcome document of the special session (Afternoon session)

Indonesia: Nearly 3 years have passed since UNGASS – we have been committed to advancing promotion of human rights. In addressing the drug problems whilst protecting human rights the government has provided funding for therapy programmes for drug users and special needs populations such as women and children. It is important that human rights are protected. We are committed to rehabilitating drug users and helping them back into society. indonesia believe the implementation of UNGASS should be conducted in an appropriate manner.

Chair: Next is Norway

Norway: there are still serious challenges in ensuring health and welfare, The UNGASS document was a milestone and the problem is still continuing. the ungass outcome document welcomes the outcomes goals, we have remaining work to do to assess the effectiveness of our work, we value that human rights are more accurately reflected in UNGASS though we understand more work still needs to be done. The death penalty doesn’t deter crime and extrajudicial killings must stop. We are studying other countries to make improvements and have learned a health approach does not increase use like we originally believed. Legalisation and use of drugs is still not on the cards for Norway.

OHCHR: Mr. Chair, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (the UN Human Rights Office) thanks you for the invitation to speak. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, since the adoption of the Outcome Document of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016), the UN Human Rights Office engaged in supporting states, UN partners, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in the implementation of various human rights commitments of the UNGASS.

Throughout 2018, our Office participated several intersessional meetings of 61st session of this Commission held in Vienna. In October 2018, in cooperation with the Government of Belgium and the European Union, the UN Human Rights Office also organized a side event on “the drug related offences, criminal justice responses and the use of the death penalty”. This Side Event presented the latest trends and developments towards the abolition of the death penalty and effective criminal justice responses for drug crimes. In December 2018, in collaboration with Austria, Canada, the European Union, Norway, New Zealand, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, our office organized a High Level Expert Panel on the implementation of UNGASS 2016 commitments from a human rights perspective.

Our Office values the engagement of civil society organizations and effected communities, including people who use drugs, in the development and the implementation of drug policies. Civil society organizations should be supported. They should be protected from any intimidation, threat and harassment.

Dear Chair, most recently, the UN Human Rights Office extensively participated in the development of the UN System Common Position on drug related matters, which was adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board under the leadership of the Secretary General in November 2019. Our office is an active participant of the newly established UN system coordination Task Team on drug-related matters. We contributed to the preparation of the UN Briefing paper on “What we have learned over the last ten years: A summary of knowledge acquired and produced by the UN system on drug-related matters”.i The UN Human Rights Office looks forward to work with UNODC and other UN partners for advancing human rights in the drug policy discussion. We look forward to jointly work with UN partners and States at the national level in the development and implementation of evidence, human rights and public health and gender sensitives based drug policy.

The UN Human Rights Office is also cooperating with various UN Human Rights mechanisms on issues related to human rights and drug policy. On the occasion of the current session of this Commission, four such mechanisms have issued statements addressing relevant human rights issues in drug policy matters in the last few days. (They are: the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practiceii; the UN Working Group on the Rights on People of African Descentsiii and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentioniv and the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers. Findings, information and all relevant evidence produced by UN Human Rights mechanisms should guide all relevant stakeholders for the development and implementation of drug policies that put people, health and human rights at the centre. Our office also participated at EGMs, organized by UNODC, on measuring data on drugs, alternative development and opioid crisis, held in 2018; and provided expert contribution in the discussion.

Mr. Chair, in the following, I will briefly address one specific issue relevant in the implementation UNGASS 2016 from human rights perspective. Measuring drug policies with a human rights perspective. This issue was discussed in UNODC’s EGM in early 2018. Protecting human rights within drug laws, policies and strategies requires tracking data and conducting a regular assessment of the human rights situation as it relates to drug control. There is a growing realization that traditional indicators regarding arrests, seizures and criminal justice responses are inadequate to show the real impact of drug policies on communities. The success of drug control strategies should increasingly be measured through an assessment of the impact of drug control efforts on the enjoyment of human rights and other critical aspects such as security, welfare, health and social-economic development.

Human rights-based and gender sensitive indicators are being used in many areas, including poverty reduction, development and other critical areas, to ensure that States fulfil all obligations created by the various human rights, or at least that they can measure their progress in this regard. In 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health recommended three categories of indicators – structural, process and outcome indicators (nine indicators in total) for assessing the drug policy from the right to health perspective (A/65/255, paragraph 72). OHCHR has developed a set of human rights indicators for the realization of human rightsvi and a guidance on a human rights based approach to data collection in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.vii All these tools could be useful in strengthening and streamlining existing data-collection and analysis tools in drug control efforts.

Pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 60/1 of this commission, our Office stands ready to support States in strengthening existing data collection and analysis tool at the national level from a human rights perspective. Dear Chair, Drug policy of a country that lacks human rights and the rule of law can not be considered model by others. OHCHR stands ready to support States and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, in promoting and protecting human rights while addressing drug problems. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SAM: I speak today on behalf of multiple organisations, we stand firm on wanting a drugs free society, marijuana legalisation is dangerous and growing evidence reveals it is associated with mental health issues and 30% of users are dependant. Pregnant mothers are using cannabis more than ever before. A substantial amount of people around the world do not agree with legalisation. If this was about the war on drugs then it would stop at decriminalisation, the effects in Colorado have been truly devastating and over 70% of shops are offering it to our pregnant women. Arrest rates amongst African Americans have tripled in some states and consumption of alcohol and cannabis is higher in legalised states.  Impaired driving deaths rose over 100% in the first year and is the cannabis industry is setting up to be the new big tobacco. We want to emphasise rehabilitation and prevention. Cannabis is far more potent than it has ever been today. We request member states follow the three international drug conventions and implement their obligations. Legalisation is not allowed under the conventions. Thank you for your time.

Harm Reduction International: Thank you to the Chair for the opportunity to make this intervention on behalf of Harm Reduction International. Harm Reduction International is a leading NGO dedicated to reducing the negative health, social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policy. We promote the rights of people who use drugs and their communities through research and advocacy to help achieve a world where drug policies and laws contribute to healthier, safer societies.

Harm Reduction International welcomes the Ministerial Declaration on “Strengthening our actions at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of our joint commitments to address and counter the world drug problem”. We particularly praise member states for reiterating their commitment to respecting, protecting and promoting all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals and the rule of law in the development and implementation of drug policies.

We also welcome the acknowledgment that responses not in conformity with applicable international human rights obligations represent a challenge to the implementation of joint commitments. We underscore that international human rights law prohibits the use of the death penalty for drug offences. Since 2008, at least 4,366 people were executed for drug offences around the world, and over 7,000 people remain on death row today. This measure has failed to deter drug use or drug crime, and has enabled grave violations of fundamental rights. Harm Reduction International calls upon Member States to express their opposition to this practice, and urges all states applying the death penalty to immediately halt executions, commute death sentences, and abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences as a first step towards full abolition. The right to the highest attainable standard of health requires all States to provide national, comprehensive harm reduction services for people who use drugs – including in detention settings.

We note with concern that health services continue to fall short of need, and deaths related to drug use have increased; and that the rate of transmission of HIV, HCV and other blood borne diseases associated with drug use, including injecting drugs, in many countries, remains high. Only 1% of people who inject drugs live in countries with high coverage of harm reduction services. The speaks to a failure of political and financial commitment to save lives. Our research shows harm reduction investment from donors and governments in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) totalled $188 million in 2016 – just 13% of the $1.5 billion UNAIDS estimates is required annually by 2030 for an effective HIV response among people who inject drugs.

Harm reduction interventions for people who use drugs are evidence-based, cost-effective, protect against HIV and hepatitis C, and save lives. In the Ministerial Declaration, member states resolve to strengthen initiatives and measures aimed at minimizing the adverse public health and social consequences of drug use, in other words harm reduction. The situation is particularly dire in prisons: opioid substitution therapy is available in some prisons in only 58 countries around the world, while 10 countries implement needle and syringe programs in at least one prison. If the enormous shortfall for harm reduction funding and implementation in LMICs is not addressed, the commitments made by member states will continue to ring hollow and the global target to end AIDS by 2030 will be missed.

Accion Technica Social: Climate change also an issue. Human rights are an issue. Harm comes from abuse – war comes from abuse. Enough trickery and manipulation. Hell we have sold to young people is not what they see on the ground. Want action to range of treatments. Evidence based education. Never take substances if they don’t feel like they want to. Want clear commitment – believe in SDGs. New generation now what they want – drug markets should be based on evidence. Governments need to be realistic. You governments are exposing us to risks.

SSDP: Thank you Mr. Chair. I am here representing Students for Sensible Drug Policy, grassroots network with student-led chapters in more than 30 countries working to enact drug policies based in evidence and human rights. I am also here as a member of Paradigma, a global coalition of youth-led organizations working together to bring the voices of young people to the United Nations. We would like to share some of our thoughts on the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document from a youth perspective.

Drug control policies continue to be major causes for concern, impacting the health, well-being, and development of young people. Protecting the world’s youth was a central theme during the UNGASS. Chapter 3 of the UNGASS outcome document discusses how exposure to drug-related violence and crime has a negative impact on the health and well-being of young people. Chapter 4 discusses empowering young people to lead healthy and self-sustained lives, and emphasizes the right to education for all young people. We believe in order to achieve these objectives, member states must recognize that the harm caused by drug prohibition is worse than the harm caused by drugs themselves.

We believe harm reduction measures should be embraced by Member States, and enshrined in the international drug control system as a matter of urgency. Young people are often in close contact with drugs and the past 60 years of drug prohibition have done little to change that fact.  Our work has demonstrated access to evidence-based education and health services without fear of punishment can create a culture of safety around drug use. Such a culture is necessary for member states and UN agencies to successfully implement the ideas discussed in the UNGASS outcome document.

Considering all of this, SSDP and our allies in the Paradigma coalition would like to ask the following of all member states and UN agencies concerned about the health of young people:

Model a balanced approach to drugs and drug education

Young people use drugs, and assuming a drug free world is possible is irresponsible and ignorant of the situation on the ground. The best way to ensure youth are able to properly respond to the presence of drug use in their lives is to give them honest, evidence-based information about drugs in a language they can grasp, instead of leaving them to learn for themselves in a potentially dangerous environment. Member states should also remove barriers presenting research related to medical benefits of psychoactive substances such as cannabis, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine, and MDMA. By allowing and investing in this research, we can uncover the beneficial uses of many controlled substances while also properly educating young people on their risks.

Ask #2: Shift drug policies towards public health and human rights based approaches

We see decriminalization of drugs as a necessary first step to reversing the harmful effects of prohibition on young people. Member states should acknowledge and implement harm reduction initiatives which help people who use drugs deal with the potential harms of drug use. Studies have proven harm reduction initiatives such as syringe exchange programs, drug checking, and safe injection facilities can save lives. These initiatives should be implemented without age restrictions and prioritize communities which are most impacted by harmful drug use.

Ask #3: Leave no one behind

The implementation of drug control policies has led to stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, making it difficult for them to participate in society. To address this issue, the UNODC should align their approaches to addressing harmful drug use with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. By recognizing the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who use drugs, we can put people first in our collective efforts to counter the world drug problem. All member states and UN agencies should ensure the active and meaningful participation of young people in the development, implementation, and evaluation of drug policies. Young people are too commonly excluded from discussions regarding their own future, and we believe there is room to further open the debate and include more diverse youth voices. We invite all member states to include a youth member on any delegation to future sessions, meetings, and events regarding drug policy and request side events focusing on youth are prioritized. Thank you for your time.

IDPC: Madam Chair, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for giving me the floor. I am making this statement on behalf of the International Drug Policy Consortium – a global network of more than 180 NGOs that come together to promote drug policies based on human rights, human security, social inclusion and public health. The majority of our members are working at the national level and many are representatives of the most affected communities.

The 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document represents a forward-looking framework that provides a strong basis for the coming decade, especially given it 7-themed broad structure. We have previously noted the important progress in the UNGASS Outcome document, which includes a greater focus on implementing health and development orientated drug control in full compliance with human rights obligations, including the principle of proportionality. In particular, the thematic chapter on improving access to controlled medicines for medical purposes is especially critical. The mention of specific life-saving harm reduction interventions such as needle and syringe programmes and medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence as well as the provision of naloxone to reduce preventable deaths from overdose additionally represents significant progress. The emphasis in the UNGASS Outcome document on aligning drug control objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals is also key given the global commitment to “Leave no one behind”.

We also welcomed the emphasis on improved UN system-wide coherence on drug policy and better cooperation between the relevant UN entities. Towards this end we welcome both the UN common position developed under the auspices of the Chief Executive Board for Coordination at the request of the Secretary General and adopted through extensive consultation among over 30 UN entities as well as the policy document, of the UN system coordination Task Team on the Implementation of the UN System Common Position on drug-related matters presented last week called “What we have learned over the last ten years: A summary of knowledge acquired and produced by the UN system on drug-related matters”. Mechanisms for collaboration, coordination and information sharing between UN entities is essential for progress. In this regard, the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use which brings together UN entities, donor governments together with civil society, community representatives and the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria represents an innovative initiative to progress and improve the HIV response for people who inject drugs.

In terms of the operational implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, much work remains to be done, although we recognise that several countries have already made some progress in this regard. In the ministerial declaration adopted last week, member states noted “with concern persistent and emerging challenges related to the world drug problem” including a robust and diversifying illicit drug market, the dire lack of availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, including for the relief of pain and palliative care, and that drug treatment and health services continue to fall short of meeting needs, and deaths related to drug use have increased; and that the rate of transmission of HIV, the hepatitis C virus and other blood-borne diseases associated with drug use remains high in many countries.

The inconvenient truth is that unless there is a significant shift and genuine re-orientation of drug policies, in ten years’ time, these persistent and emerging challenges will only have grown and become even more intractable. The policy brief from the UN Task Team makes this point in no uncertain terms: ‘Punitive drug policies continue to be used in some communities, despite being ineffective in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing non-medical drug use and supply, and continue to undermine the human rights and well-being of persons who use drugs, as well as of their families and communities.’

The global community cannot afford another decade of failure to meet the stated goals of achieving “a drug-free society.” As IDPC highlighted in our ‘Shadow Report’ released ahead of last week’s ministerial segment, in which we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the last decade of drug control, the pursuit of such goals are not ‘aspirational’. The pursuit of such goals is devastating for communities worldwide and has resulted in devastating and widespread violations of human rights that have been highlighted by many speakers here at this CND and by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, as well as four Special Procedure Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council in the past few days.

However, as last week’s ministerial declaration commits member states to striving towards ‘all aspirational goals’ this means that member states can choose to prioritise the goals included in the UNGASS Outcome Document and the SDGs, which are explicitly mentioned in the UNGASS outcome document. Towards this end for the “single track” approach, member states should ensure that future discussions on drug policy are framed under the 7-themes of the UNGASS. In closing, we strongly recommend ending punitive approaches towards vulnerable groups and individuals – as is recommended in the UN common position, the task team brief and by the latest UNAIDS report ‘Health, rights and drugs: harm reduction, decriminalization and zero discrimination for people who use drugs’.

Ending punitive approaches towards those most vulnerable will require that global drug control going forward puts people and communities at the centre, and seeks to improve their living conditions, address their situations of vulnerability and protect their human rights, in line with the SDG vision of ‘leaving no one behind’. Thank you for your consideration and your continued commitment to the meaningful participation of civil society.

New Zealand Drug Foundation: On behalf of civil society in New Zealand, we wish to thank the Commission for the opportunity to make this statement today. Firstly, on behalf of New Zealand civil society can I thank everyone present at CND for their kind words, and condolences since the tragic events that unfolded in Christchurch last Friday. It has been a difficult week and we are a very long way from home, but your heartfelt support has meant so much to us. Salem aliakum.

This week in New Zealand, our people have been reaching out to our Muslim brothers and sisters. From our Prime Minister through to the shop keeper we have stood in solidarity, rejecting the ideology that drove this attack. You are New Zealanders and you should have been safe in our country. This week in Vienna New Zealand civil society has stood for a health-based approach. We acknowledge and support the statement by our government to CND this year. We commit to continuing our joint work with them in ensuring that we build a New Zealand free from drug harm. This year, our country’s Parliament is committing to measuring success by the wellbeing of our country’s people. That wellbeing is paramount in the collaboration being undertaken by government agencies and civil society, including the recently released Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry.

We believe it is important to adopt evidence informed approaches. In this light the goal of a drug free world is unobtainable. Drug use has existed throughout history. It continues today. The vast majority of people who use drugs do not experience difficulties as a result of their use. When problems do occur, they are often the result of poverty, social exclusion, trauma, oppression and the impact of colonisation.  The research is clear, social and environmental factors drive poor mental health and drug related problems.

In New Zealand like in many countries it is the poor, our young people, our first peoples and our rainbow communities that bear the greatest burden. They are all however, New Zealanders. Our first people, our Maori community have a concept of whanau – whanau is family but in Maori culture you do not have to be related by blood to be whanau. This week in New Zealand we are seeing a demonstration of this principle, we are all one we are all whanau. As our Muslim brothers and sisters are one of us and so are people who use drugs.

How does this principle of family apply to drug policy? People who use drugs are our family. They are amongst us and beside us.  And we sit beside them. They are us and we are them. If we apply such thinking we see that responses to drug use should not be about blame or punishment. Where problems exist like families do we should show that we care, wrap our arms around those experiencing pain and grief. We support our family to cope with the challenges that they face. This is the policy of kindness that we have seen emerge in New Zealand. This can transcend to the issues discussed this week. So, it is does not work to solely focus on removing the drugs if we want to remove the problem. The problem is not the individual people who use drugs, but the poverty, marginalisation, the trauma, oppression and colonisation people face. These are the problems we should look to eradicate if we want to rid the wold of drug harms. As we have so painfully learnt this last week we cannot rid the world of hate. But we can love in return. We can support those who need it, provide them with opportunities for empowerment, stand beside our family as they find solutions to the challenges that they face.

We support the UNGASS 2016 declaration. We call for a greater investment in harm reduction and treatment services. We call for healthy drug laws that respect human rights and treat drug use as a health issue. We call for an end to the criminalisation of people who use drugs. We welcome the resolutions on Hepatitis C and the prevention of transmission of HIV for women who use drugs.

This week in New Zealand we have stood with our Muslim brothers and sisters, this week in Vienna we have stood with people who use drugs, people whose families are affected by drug use, the children whose parents use drugs and people who choose not to use drugs. We stand in solidarity with you and say we reject the war on drugs, you are citizens of the world and you should be safe in our world. We commit to continuing to stand with you, we are all family and we commit to working with government, international bodies and civil society to build a New Zealand and world free from drug harms.

We have a word in Te reo Maori, kia kaha – it means stay strong and has been widely used this last week back home. We finish this statement in this spirit – kia kaha – stay strong and together let’s build a world free from drug harms.

Women and Harm Reduction International Network:

The Barcelona Declaration on women who use drugs was developed collaboratively by women who use drugs and various harm reduction and feminist agencies. Representing women who use drugs, I will read an extract from our Declaration while announcing the increasing growth and strength of our movement. Member States might be reminded that the women who use drugs movement exists and must be included in your deliberations on policy and programming that impacts our community. We further note and welcome the new International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy – which aligns closely with the stated objectives of our movement.

‘Despite living with multiple forms of violence, Womxn Fighting back Against the War On Drugs are resourceful, enterprising, creative, and strong. We possess remarkable resilience. We fight back against prohibition with solidarity, mutual support and leadership, building our networks from the grassroots to the global, from immediate action to long-term strategies to end this war on womxn who use drugs. We embrace intersectional and anti-prohibitionist feminism that integrates queer/trans-inclusive and non-ableist approaches, radical justice and the right to use drugs and experience pleasure. We work to reclaim our body sovereignty, including rights to the full range of sexual and reproductive health, gender-sensitive health services, and rights to use drugs. We do not ask for charity but for solidarity. We demand to live in safety and freedom.’

This declaration is an invitation to join forces with unstoppable womxn like us, womxn who demand an end to the War on Drugs and the negative impact it has had on all of our lives.

Harm Reduction Coalition: Before I start, I’d like to acknowledge, and pay respect to indigenous and first nations peoples. The world has failed people who use drugs and we must refocus our efforts. To do this, we need leadership on harm reduction. Harm reduction leadership means increasing political support and funding for harm reduction. Harm reduction leadership also means ending the criminalization of people who use drugs. Harm Reduction Coalition welcomes the recent unanimous endorsement by the Chief Executives Board, representing 31 UN agencies, common position on drug policy that endorsed decriminalization of possession and use.

People who inject drugs have been left behind in the global response to HIV and viral hepatis. The 2011 target of halving HIV among people who use drugs was missed. It was missed by a staggering 80%! —and there been no decrease in the annual number of new HIV infections among people who inject drugs since. Countless more lives have been lost to overdose, violence, the death penalty, and extrajudicial killings.

Moreover, people who use drugs lack access to health care, harm reduction and legal services, both in the community and places of detention, because of stigma and discrimination. Recent research indicates that less than 1% of people who inject drugs live in countries with high coverage of both Needle Syringe Programmes and Opioid Substitution Treatment—two interventions in the WHO/UNODC/UNAIDS ‘comprehensive package’ of interventions to reduce HIV among people who inject drugs.

At this time, we urge member states to pledge to intensify meaningful participation of, and provide support, training and funding to, community-based organizations and civil society organizations (including organizations and networks of people who use drugs) in designing and implementing services and advocacy programs for people who use drugs.

Given the explicit endorsement of harm reduction within the UN human rights system, provision of harm reduction services cannot be seen as a policy option at the discretion of States, but must instead be understood as a core obligation of States to meet their international legal obligations.

In closing, we need leadership on harm reduction. Leadership means increasing political support and funding for harm reduction. It also means centering the voice of people who use drugs in the global drug policy dialogue. Finally, leadership on harm reduction means ending the criminalization of people who use drugs.

Item 11 finished. Item 12 starting.

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