Home » Side event: Economic, social and cultural rights in drug policy making: The relevance of an upcoming CESCR General Comment on drugs

Side event: Economic, social and cultural rights in drug policy making: The relevance of an upcoming CESCR General Comment on drugs

Side event organised by Amnesty International with the support of Colombia, Czechia, Mexico, the Corporación Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad, Elementa Derechos Humanos, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the International Drug Policy Consortium, the International Harm Reduction Association, the International Network of People who Use Drugs, LBH Masyarakat and Viso Mutop.

Daniel Joloy. Welcome everyone and thank you very much for joining us today in this event. My name is Daniel Joloy, Senior Policy Advisor at Amnesty International, and it’s a real honour to be here today for a conversation with you all. Together with a large group of organizations (that I won’t mention all to save some time), and with the support of the governments of Colombia, Czechia and Mexico, we put together this side event to further reflect on the need to better incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into drug policy making, and the way in which international human rights standards can serve as a framework for achieving this. There is no doubt that punitive policies have created additional obstacles for people to access their economic, social and cultural rights, particularly when they exacerbate intersecting forms of discrimination. The denial of economic, social and cultural rights also increases the risks of using drugs and can lead people to engage in the drug trade. This has led to a whole range of violations of economic, social and cultural rights, from the right to health and to an adequate standard of living, and the rights to housing, education, work and social security However, efforts to really tackle the root-causes of many of these problems are still scarce and many international human rights mechanisms are only starting to catch up with this reality. As many of you know, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights announced in late 2022 that they would embark on a process to draft a General Comment on the impacts of drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights. Since then, members of the Committee have conducted a series of initial consultations and recently published an annotated outline that will form the basis of the upcoming General Comment. In parallel, civil society organizations and other stakeholders have mobilized to promote discussions and ensure the inclusion of people who use drugs and other affected communities to gather input that can be provided for this important process. Today, we will hear from various experts and activists about some important initiatives that are incorporating and expanding human rights frameworks into the design and implementation of drug policies.

We will first hear from Angela McBride, executive director of the South African Network of People who Use Drugs, about the need to ensure the meaningful participation of civil society, including of people who use drugs, at every stage of the design and implementation of drug policies. Angela will also be able to tell us about a consultation led by people who use drugs in the context of the General Comment.

Then, we will hear from Karin Hechenleitner, a human rights officer working with the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on health, who will tell us more about various initiatives of the mandate to address different aspects of the right to health in the context of drug policies, particularly around harm reduction.

Our next two speakers will be Luis Felipe Cruz, a researcher at the Colombian NGO Dejusticia, who will speak about the right to an adequate standard of living and its application to people who cultivate coca. Then, Sandra Bermudez, executive director of Corporacion Viso Mutop, will share some reflections from a civil society consultation with farmers and cultivators from different countries.

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, who will tell us more about some efforts being taken to incorporate economic and social rights into newly regulated models as well as the need to do more to address some key shortcomings we are already starting to see.

Last but not least, we have Ajeng Larasati, Human Rights Lead at Harm Reduction International, who will tell us more about what the General Comment of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is, why is this important for drug policy making and how can civil society get involved in the process.


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