Home » Side event: The incorporation of social justice into harm reduction, an essential step

Side event: The incorporation of social justice into harm reduction, an essential step

Constanza Sanchez, ICEERS: It is my honor to moderate this side event. To start with a few reflections on this week, it seems we are navigating theory and practice – CND is a wonderful opportunity to share experiences from different geographies, experiences and approaches. Today, harm reductions been a very hot topic in the CoW. This event is an opportunity to discuss it as a policy, as an intervention, as an approach, and we have multiple aims today with this – reflect on how this term became controversial, and how it became redefined as a health policy and how its implementation has evolved through the years, mentioning the grassroots experience of people.

Juan Fernandez Ochoa, IDPC: tba

Ester Aranda Rodriguez, UNAD: tba

Aura Roig, Metzineres: tba


Audience questions

Moms Stop the Harm: I went to a session in the morning that was quite traumatizing, so thank you for this follow-up to that conversation. Regarding the Drug User Liberation Front, the co-founders have been arrested, and their charge is trafficking. All the safe substances they had have been taken away. They are taking the government to court, though, as they were seeking an exemption license to provide safe supply because they were buying from the dark net. They thought they applied to procure legally, and that has been refused. What can we do? Sometimes it feels like harm reduction is under attack. For me, it could have saved the life of a child and has indeed saved the life of another child. So what can we do as people?

Juan: In this space, conversations like this happening at CND is huge. When I came 11 years ago, this was not common – so that is great. Geneva institutions have finally integrated the need for drug policy reform into the conversation. We need to make more of these moves. UN human rights mechanisms are producing very useful language. I think not waiting for the state to respond, they have always refused us. We have always supported each other, and we need to do more of that. The state has incredible resources, but liberation is not in it for them.

Aura: Sometimes, in this environment we are talking about drugs but we are talking about structural inequalities, so we have to bring drug issues to other movements, other policy discussions. We have to include everyone, people surviving multiple situations of vulnerability … we should all be pushing for harm reduction and destigmatization.

Judy: I didn’t know about this becoming peer document, so I just want to understand— is this trying to broaden the definition? I think there are hierarchies of oppression that we need to recognize, so I’m wondering about this dynamic? And then, around language, people who inject opioids are a privileged group is what you said, but when we say that, we also have to put it into a broader context. I’m a bit worried about that. The history of harm reduction, sure we have to work in solidarity, but we have to recognize the power differentials in that as well. In all our work, aware of those power differences and people who use drugs being marginalized and there is not much power sharing in the broader movement, and how do we address it?

Paula: I sense that there is not enough conversation around gender-based violence and I think there is a connection to be explored here with initiation of substance use. So what can we take away with us that we can bring back next year?

Aura: Of course, drug use goes along with trauma. I think it is a way for mental health – in a good way and in a bad way. Women who use drugs are, I think, four times more willing to survive violence than other parts of the population. Sure we need to include trauma-center care which is normally not included within the services; we usually actually re-traumatize them (at uptake already even).

Ester: I understand the comment, but seeing the context in Spain, you would be disappointed. When you see services created for a specific population, you have to think, we have to change something here. I want to be respectful, but it is important to me to show that we cannot rely on solutions from 20 years ago.

Roberto: There was a lot of thinking around this actually and the moment when we unpack “peerness” we were focusing on the differences and how they relate. This opens up a debate around structural conditions. Trying to bypass identity doesn’t make lived experience more meaningful. So for mutual support, articulating differences and establishing the common points where we can build support up from.

Constanza: Thanks everyone.


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