Home » Side Event: Your Targets Impact Our Lives: Taking Stock of the Drug Free World Failures

Side Event: Your Targets Impact Our Lives: Taking Stock of the Drug Free World Failures

Monica Beg: As an ethical principle all people should have the right to be involved in the decisions that affect their life. Now is the time to walk the talk. 

Video Presentation – ‘If we do not End the War on Drugs, the War Will End Us’

(David Subeliani, ENPUD) – We, as people who use drugs suffer discrimination. A drug free world is a target that will never be achieved. The world needs to change its attitude to the people who use drugs. The current situation leads to death, destruction, and discrimination.

(Erin Lalor, Alcohol and Drug Foundation)   –  The criminalisation and the marginalisation that occurs when you criminalise an entire population of people is enormous, life long and life-changing. It affects yourself and those around you.

(Ana, Georgia) – Many people lose the opportunity to live happy lives because they use drugs. We are not safe at home, in clubs, in the streets. Policies do not work.

(Caty, USA) – The intersection of the drug war and the criminalisation has affected my life in a negative way.

(Lucas, USA) – Many of my friends and loved ones live with HIV and Hep C as a direct result of these unfair laws. Please consider the impact you have on our lives and communities. End the drug war.

(Olga Byelyayeva, EHRA) – We must end the world on drugs. This means legalise people who use drugs.

(Louise Beale Vincent, USA) – Drug policy is affecting my life in every way. It is difficult to escape the horrors of the drug policy. Our treatment mechanisms are broken. The policies are punitive and disruptive. People with mental illness are not treated. Sending people to detox or to jail make them 12 times more likely to die. You have the ability to make change.

If we do not end the war on drugs, the war will end us.

Kassim Nyuni: In Africa, despite the war on drugs, the number of people who use drugs is increasing. The harm reduction intervention is weak; we need to invest more. 

Hassan Turaif: There is no harm reduction in our region. In the hospitals there are few patients. Drug users do not go there because we are not provided with the adequate care – no methadone is provided. In our region there are some countries that implement harm reduction service and most of these services are only available in the big towns. There is a problem in the prisons; there is no access to treatment, no syringes, no methadone. I don’t know how we will deal with this problem in our country. We are working in groups by hiding as we are not allowed to form NGO’s.

Tanya Kotchetkova: We have two important directions. First to support national initiatives, bring the problems out of the shadows. Secondly, to provide protection to activists.

Question from the floor: Do you [the panelists] have established networks of people who use drugs in your region?

Kassim Nyuni: Yes, we have the African region of people who use drugs and we have smaller networks.

Hassan Turaif: Yes, here I am representing our region and we have a network, but we cannot register in our country.

Tanya Kotchetkova: Work is going on in our country, but the level of security working in these networks is low. We all face the problem of having support and funding.

Monique Middlehoff: It feels surreal that we are here with communities of people who use drugs. You hear in the discussions in the plenary that it is difficult to talk about people who use drugs; I don’t get it. Everybody here is a human being; they are citizens and are part of a community. Yet the world seems to not see this as the case. I remain an optimist because if we do not continue with our work things will only get worse. We had a series of problems in the 70s with people who use drugs; from that time on there were people providing methadone to people who use drugs. When the epidemic started people started distributing clean needles – In the Netherlands, we have a history of being pragmatic. When the HIV epidemic started there was a commission to discuss what type of policies we needed to implement. There are hardly any new HIV infections of people who use drugs in the Netherlands. We do not criminalise personal possession. The ministry of foreign affairs developed programs for the key populations who are marginalised; these people are at the key of these programs because we need their involvement. We all need to work together to combat this problem, nobody can do it alone.  Most of these populations are criminalised in different countries. As long as you are bringing the parties together to discuss the best way forward, we can come a long way. Of course, funding is an issue, but money if not the only problem. The Netherlands do not criminalise these groups and for us, it has always been that if you criminalise people will hide. If they hide you will not be able to reach them with the necessary services.

Palani Narayanan: The Global Fund is the largest funder of harm reduction, working with the UN, donor agencies, people who use drugs and governments.

We should not be developing programs for sex workers or men who have sex with men or people who use drugs without consulting the communities. In the same way, we do not believe that men sitting in the domes of power should not be making policies on women’s reproductive rights. It is the people who use drugs who know where they are and what is happening to their own lives. They will be able to tell us if the programs we implement are working and are effective. The policies have overcrowded prisons. How are we following the UN conventions if everything we do does not contribute to the lives of the people we are serving? We need to provide and support an alternative. We need to take the policy makers towards decimalisation and away from criminalisation.

Judy Chang: When you go back to your communities what will you share?

Tanya: The declaration talks a lot about the fight and little about the people. It says a lot about the punishment and little about support. There are still difficult years ahead of us.

Kassim Nyuni: We will have a difficult time expressing to my people. As the discussions seems more politically focussed rather than community focused. I will tell them what has happened here. We still have a long way to go. I will tell them to have hope. We need a community declaration, not a political declaration.

Hassan Turaif: We will continue our advocacy work

Statement from the floor (Baby Rivona): In this situation, the war on drugs increases corruption. My daughter is addicted to drugs. I have failed as a mother and as a drug user. I don’t want my life as a drug user to end up becoming a victim of the death penalty. We need education. It only creates corruption. Ask us what the best for us is and what are our needs; work with us.

Tanya Kotchetkova: For the last ten years we have been active in evolving women in the process. It is more difficult for women.

Palani Narayanan: At the global fund there was a connection that needed to be made between working on HIV and drug policy. We have relied heavily on technical advice, but we have always had to work on enabling the environment. The link has become clearer. Criminalisation is a major driver for the HIV epidemic; criminalisation drives people underground. We need to work on drug policies that include decriminalisation.


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