Side Event: 10 years of drug policy in Asia: How far have we come? A civil society shadow report

Organised and supported by IDPC, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, ANPUD and Frontline AIDS.

Bangyuan Wang, Frontline AIDS Alliance (formally International AIDS Alliance)

This event is to look at the past decade and what we’ve achieved in Asia, if there has been any progress. IDPC report – looking at the impact in Asia.

Gloria Lai, Regional Director: Asia, IDPC

Highlights of the report:

  1. Analyse progress towards achieving objectives of OP36 PD and work plan
  2. Evaluate progress of MS towards achieving broader UN priorities – protecting human rights, advancing health and security, promoting development
  3. Recommendations for next 10 years in drug policy

Progress made:

  • Demand and supply has increased in past decade, particularly in opium cultivation in Afghanistan and Myanmar
  • Opioids only drug where demand has gone down, all others up, particularly ATS
  • OP36 also looks at health – we’ve seen an increased in HIV among PWID
  • Impacts to human rights – access to essential medicine still low in region -36x times less in region than global average
  • Some movements towards access to medicinal cannabis, only for Sth Korea and Thailand
  • Wide range of violations against PWUD and people suspected/charged with all other drug offences – with death penalty and compulsory rehabilitation. We see corporal punishment, forces urine testing, mandatory registration
  • Impacts on security – not positive. People fear being killed by impunity, this is not a positive result
  • The amount of people killed extrajudically has huge impact on region
  • Impacts on development – importance of proper sequencing tends to be ignored – links to poverty
  • Recommendations for next 10 years: need for more data, evidence, research on impacts of drug policies on health and HR on development and security
  • Recommend using SDGs and include civil society and academic research

Chair: if we don’t do anything different we won’t end AIDS. Welcome speaker from community of PWUD. Where are we now?

Rajiv Kafle, ANPUD

I’ll give a perspective from PWUD. I have 30 years of experience of using drugs, I think I will capture this topic well.

  • We are here now. This is the first day of CND62, first day first session. As a drug user, I have to manage my time very wisely. We are being recognized formally and being seen more visibly now (at CND) than in the past, and this is a significant shift. I come from an HIV background too, it was easier to gather in this group as HIV is not criminalized
  • ANPUD and INPUD are only 10 years old – it is difficult to mobilize in Asia as in some countered (such as Philippines) we are only seen as criminals. CND was not like this 10 years ago, there were CS here, but now we have representatives from PWUD groups. Getting this space is significant and a big win.
  • Harm reduction 10 years ago – only 17 countries implementing harm reduction, 25 in 2018. In Asia sometimes the countries can tick the box but don’t implement services on the ground.
  • Being a hardcore harm reduction advocate, I still can’t justify the data
  • There are policy options alternative to prohibition – this is the option that creates the most damage. Decision makers need to be aware of this. In 2009 we knew ATS market was growing in Asia, and 10 years later we are still not prepared, and this is apparent in our policies, guidelines and treatment manuals. This is not heroin and needs a different focus.
  • Drug law reform was not an issue in the past – ganja was respected in our country, we feel a lot of stigma
  • Drug law reform movement – we now have allies in the fight – now its about how we utilize this advocacy space, we need to build on what we’ve learned from HIV experience.
  • I come from Nepal

Kunal Kishore, India HIV/AIDS Alliance

  • It’s a privilege to launch this report in Delhi last month – we needed this and we had very import and discussions with Indian Government on potential decriminalization and harm reduction. 5 countries in Sth East Asia and 2 in South Asia
  • Last 10 years: there has been progress in language, harm reduction and PWUD
  • More tools available to be used
  • More community visibility at CND and global harm reduction meetings
  • However, more people who use drugs now: more subgroups and more people injecting
  • World drug report gives us positive view on what happening, but if countries don’t report regularly then we don’t know what happens on the ground – and no data is sometimes seen as no problem, which is definitely not the case
  • 9 countries account for 95% of new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific – India, China, Indonesia main countries
  • Principle donors in each countries are global fund
  • We don’t have OST for ATS use but rates are increasing – we’ve introduced a new survey as we need to do something about data and linked advocacy issues
  • Criminalization is neither a solution or tool to prevent HIV
  • Legal barriers to the HIV/Harm Reduction responses remain in 38 UN Member States in Asia and the Pacific
  • Voluntary treatment is an alternate to incarceration, and this has to be looked at
  • We need a lot of UNODC leadership at the country level as UNAIDS and WHO are not seen as the principal partners to control this – its absolutely essential for UNODC to take leadership
  • Decriminalization – a lot of demystification needs to be done – it means a lot of things to different people on the ground
  • We don’t have a lot of evidence in Asia to move forward – but governments don’t just want to import a Western model, we need an indigenous model
  • Enjoying health and wellbeing is a key part of the outcome document
  • Links to human rights seems to be watered down, we need to push for this
  • We need to contextualize decriminalization to the local context

Astried Permata Septi, LBHM (Lawyer from Indonesia)

  • We’ve been giving assistance to PWUD for the past 10 years
  • War on Drugs declared in 2014 – large scale drug raids, shoot-at-sight
  • In 2015, we found that only 20% of drug cases got legal assistance – and many are not satisfied with quality of assistance
  • Corruption levels are high, targeting foreigners
  • 2017: 183 cases of shoot-at-sight – 99 of them died – the cases increased after Jokowi gave instruction – June/July
  • Death penalty: Three round of execution since 2015-2016 – all were drug offenders, 5 foreigners, 2 women; 2017 9 women death row inmates, 6 drug related
  • Violations during execution – they executed people with mental health issues, many applied via legal avenues, many victims of case fabrication, experience discrimination
  • Ombudsman found there was maladministration in the last executions
  • Criminal codes are slow and difficult to change
  • Clemency depends on Presidential input

Yan Win Soe, MAHAMAT, Frontline AIDS Myanmar

  • Myanmar has transitioned
  • Social movement in community started – arresting and detaining many drug users
  • CSO members have difficult in dealing with this
  • When report was published we translated it and opened discussed on global issues and asked government – what is happening in Myanmar?
  • The report is very useful in opening up the conversations – we realized that we are experiencing similar issues in our country
  • We are going to launch formally – and allow people to reflect on what is happening in our country

Questions:

(3 colleagues from Mozambique)

  • We are from the National Cabinet of Prevention – focusing on prevention and fight against drugs at national level – seeing serious problems with drug use
  • Law from 1997 which criminalized drug use – was supposed to be reviewed, that review process is happening now
  • Going through consultation process with CS and ministerial bodies
  • Quick process to get approved in republics assembly so that CS orgs could work legally to be able work with people with dependence

Chair: Decriminalisation can take different shapes in different countries – a lot of countries in Asia have outdated policies – great to have negative impacts references in 2019 ministerial declaration but unfortunately doesn’t push to change the laws

Rajiv: Human rights abuses in ‘rehab’ centers – I have lived in one for 4-5 years, I gained a lot from the recovery programs, learning life skills – loved it, but not in total abstinence. Very few can achieve abstinence. You can do it for a while but it’s very difficult. As soon as we stop abstinence, we are shut out from services. It is hard to share stories, as they are so personal. It’s not only in developing countries, industry (rehabilitation services) need to be monitored and human rights violations need to be monitored. They need to be qualified and don’t know how to deal with things properly and avoid knowledge and evidence. They need to be registered as health services rather than NGOs – then they are accountable to governments. We need to fight back and look at it from an economic perspective in order to move ahead.

Reminders:

  • Side meeting Wednesday 09:00 to 09:50 Decrimininalizing drug use and possession– focused on western countries but includes representation from Asia
  • Side Event Wednesday 09:00 to 09:50 Women, incarceration and drug policy: Specific vulnerabilities – will launch guides focused on women in prison in Asia – Indonesia 60% of people in prison for drugs, 80% Myanmar (Kachin State)

Chair: So many people are in prison for drugs, should they be there, we need to have honest discussions on decriminialisation and harm reduction services. We never see people coming out of prison in a better state than when they came in. Please use the report to help in your advocacy,

 

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