Statement submitted by World Federation Against Drugs to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Sixtieth session, Plenary, tenth meeting, Vienna, 13-17 March 2017
Madam Chairman, Distinguised Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
Drug use is a risk factor for a wide range of negative outcomes including mental and other illnesses, school dropout and academic failure, road accidents, unemployment, low life-satisfaction and relationship problems. Drug use and other social and health problems are intertwined so that drug use is associated with and commonly exacerbates other problems.
The first task of a public health-oriented drug policy is to prevent drug-related problems from occurring. Environmental strategies that discourage drug use and reduce the availability of illegal drugs are a central element of prevention. Community-based strategies that promote drug-free environments and supportive social norms are shown to reduce the use of both legal and illegal substances. Environmental strategies should be supplemented by education and evidence-based prevention as well as more targeted interventions that reach high-risk groups and problem drug users.
Drug use is particularly harmful to youth. Drug use usually begins in adolescence, making youth the major target for prevention. Drug related harm affects all regions of the world.
Drug use does not only affect the drug user. Often, family and friends are the first to experience the problems caused by drug use. In addition drug use has serious consequences for society as a whole, e.g. in the workplace, schools, on the roads, in the criminal justice system and in the health and social services.
There is a need for a comprehensive approach to drug-related harm, with a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as control measures, health services, treatment and rehabilitation for users.
Drug problems are particularly intractable in the nexus of mental health problems, crime, deprivation and social exclusion. Problem drug users often need comprehensive services including health, housing, education and work. The essential point here is that drug addiction is not only a health problem nor only a crime problem.
World Federation Against Drugs believe that recovery is the best way for individuals who have developed drug-related problems to minimize their risk of further consequences, to enable them to function effectively in society, to take part in education, work or other activities, to mend the relationships with their families and to empower them to take control of their own lives.
Alternative sanctions that require enforced abstinence, but also reduce the use of imprisonment for drug-related offenses should be developed, e.g. Drug Treatment Courts. Instead of being an obstacle to recovery, the criminal justice system should become a powerful engine of recovery. Alternative sanctions should empower people to become drug-free, crime-free and integrated members of society.
To promote public health and public safety it is essential that governments adhere to the three main drug control treaties of 1961, 1971, and 1988, as well as the Convention of the Rights of the Child. We believe that the UN drug treaties provide the best framework for reducing nonmedical drug use and its many negative consequences.
World Federation urges all member states to recognize that these treaties create a solid foundation on which to build future drug policy innovations. Yes, we need alternatives, but we don't need to create a public health and safety disaster through legalization.
WFAD is part of the network of Drug Policy Future, a platform for drug policy based on health. DPF believes in engaging in open dialogue about the strengths and weakness of the global drug policies. DPF advocates for evidence based strategies to promote public health, safety and the wellbeeing of society, including those addicted and their drug families.
On March 15 The Drug Policy Future launched four position papers at a lunch held for member states at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. The papers are action oriented, we wanted to provide input to the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, "Our join Commitment to Effectively Addressing and Countering the World Drug Problem".
The four documents with recommendations on the way forward can be found here:
This intervention was done at the fifth Intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, October 27-28. The meeting discussed the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document and the intervention was done under the chapter on Alternative Development; regional, interregional and international cooperation on development-oriented balanced drug control policy; addressing socioeconomic issues.
Thank you for giving me the floor.
When we started the process towards UNGASS in 2014 I did an intervention here in Vienna saying that too often the debate is dominated by organizations and representatives of the western world, although the majority of us are not men in dark suits. A lot of work still remains but important steps have been taken in the right direction. World Federation Against Drugs, and our 200 member organizations, are pleased with the inclusiveness of the civil society in the UNGASS process, and the many possibilities for civil society to express our view. The need to include civil society is mentioned in the outcome paper and I also welcome that we are well represented here to give our voice on the implementation of the outcome paper. I also think that we from the civil society learned a lot from this process on how to organize ourselves to ensure that people who are affected and are working with the problem from all over the world are able to give their input.
The outcome document has a lot of good elements and strategies, we have a roadmap, the big work now is to turn the words into action. We need to mobilize ordinary people and the local communities if we want result, the civil society is vital in this. This is also why our international network, Drug Policy Futures, has identified one big challenge both for governments and NGOs in the period towards 2019: To mobilize one million communities in a global wave of prevention.
WFAD welcomes the operational recommendation on alternative development and fully support the initiative to promote inclusive economic growth and initiatives that contribute to poverty eradication and the sustainability of social and economic development. It is evident that we need not only to remove the cultivation of illicit drugs, we also need alternatives that improve people’s possibility to have a good life.
We welcome the connection to the sustainable development goals, there is a specific goal around substance abuse; (3.5) To strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol. This is the essence of the issue, we need to connect the world drug problem to sustainable development BUT when doing this we need to also remember that we still need specific interventions to reduce the use of drugs. We know that the need for treatment is unmet in many countries and prevention, to support and protect the youth of the world is not universal.
Substance use is an obstacle to development and poverty and lack of possibilities to improve life can be an engine for both trade of illicit drugs and use of illicit drugs.
As I mentioned WFAD has around 200 member organizations around the world, the majority of them are located in the global south and are working with BOTH specific initiatives on illicit drugs and more general development issues. For example Livelihood and Vocational skills Training to enhance socio-economic transformation of disadvantaged young people through advocacy, psychosocial and skills development for self-reliance and reintegration with their families. They work with street children, slum youths, juveniles, out of school youths and other disadvantaged groups to increase their possibilities to break the vicious circle of poverty, lack of opportunities and substance use.The aim is to enable children to live a meaningful successful life, and to protect them from illicit drugs, all in line with the convention of the rights of the child.
WFAD is right now planning to start implementing cooperation project between our members that will contribute to regional cooperation and to address socioeconomic issues related to both production and consumption of illicit drugs on a local level. We know that many of our members are doing vital work and this work can be multiplied if they are connected to each other. We are therefore planning to gather our members and together do assessment to identify problem areas and use them to develop the work already being done. We are aware of some problems already, such as the lack of data in big areas of the world, access to resources and the problem of sustainability of many civil society organizations.
By capacity building and networking to shareexperiences, research, reports and emerging trends in the region we aim to increase our efforts to implement the many good strategies in the outcome document. And we of course need and wish for cooperation with member states. The outcome document also provided us with an important tool to demand action from you, to actively promote a society free from non-medical drug use and remind you about your determination to address public health safety and social problems resulting from drug abuse. I can promise you that we will continue to remind you about this.
Open letter to: Karin Wanngård - Mayor of Stockholm Åsa Lindhagen - Chair, Committee of Social welfare, Stockholm Sara Pettigrew - Board member of ECAD, representing Stockholm
Regarding Stockholm’s discussion to leave ECAD The signatories of this letter are concerned over the fact that Stockholm is considering leaving European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD), an organization it founded. We have been informed that one of the reasons for this potential withdrawal is concern that ECAD has lost its importance internationally.
Let us provide reflections on ECAD from our international perspective which stems from nations around the world.
ECAD is an important global voice for drug prevention. Some argue that prevention does not work, or think that instead of investing in prevention efforts we should put more of our limited resources on mitigating the effects of drugs. However, by being present on the international drug policy stage, ECAD has provided the world with clear examples of effective prevention from its member cities, showing that prevention does indeed work. Prevention gets at the root of the global drug problem by preventing and even delaying initiation to drug use, bringing tremendous cost savings to communities and nations worldwide. For these reasons it is of the utmost importance that we invest in prevention and that ECAD continue to lead on this front in the international debate as there are too few members of the civil society that can show good examples on a community level.
ECAD has also played a considerable role in shaping the debate about the roles of treatment and the criminal justice system in drug policy. Drug policy is not a choice between the systems of treatment and criminal justice; instead we must find ways to effectively use these two systems together that reduce drug use, increase access to and completion of drug treatment and limit incarceration. ECAD has been instrumental in identifying and promoting examples of how we can use the criminal justice system as a tool to promote and reinforce both prevention and treatment. Once again there are many useful examples of such effective policies and programs implemented at the local level from the ECAD members that must be shared on a global platform.
Finally, we want to emphasize that ECAD plays a critical role in the fight against the commercialization of cannabis which is financially backed by a powerful and growing cannabis industry. In the United States, three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational uses. In November, California and four other states will vote on similar legalization measures. We also see policy shifts in Europe moving in the same direction. For example in the Netherlands the parliament is currently discussing legalizing the production of cannabis. The outcome of the upcoming state-based initiatives in the US will influence the European cities. We strongly encourage Stockholm to remain in ECAD. Withdrawing from ECAD would cripple the organization and directly limit the ability of ECAD to work against the commercialization of cannabis and other drugs on the European market. ECAD builds on and promotes the successful extension of the Swedish drug restrictive policy that links the criminal justice system and health care and that seldom uses incarceration.
1 States voting on the legalization of cannabis for recreational uses include: Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. An additional four states will vote on measures related to the legalization of cannabis for medical uses include Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.
Robert L. DuPont - MD, President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Former Director, National Institute on Drugs Abuse, USA
Linda Nilsson - Global voice of prevention, Civil Society Task Force for UNGASS 2016
Sven-Olov Carlsson - International President, World Federation Against Drugs
Boro Goic - Chairman, Recovered Users Network
Asia Ashraf - Hubert H. Humphrey Alumni, Head of Psychology Department and Director Rehabilitation, Sunny Trust, Pakistan
Mike Sabin - Former Member of Parliament, New Zealand
Jo Baxter - Executive Director, Drug Free Australia, Australia
Solomon Rataemane - Professor, Head Department of Psychiatry, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), South Africa
Jon Sigfusson - Director, Youth in Europe – A Drug Prevention Program, Iceland
Inga Dora - CEO, Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, Iceland
Bertha K Madras - PhD, Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA
Carmen Fernandez - General Director, Centros de Integracion Juvenil, A.C., Mexico
Mina Gerhardsen - Secretary General, Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs, Norway
Stig-Erik Sørheim - Chair EURAD – A network for prevention, treatment and recovery, Global coordinator Drug Policy Futures
Hans Lundborg - Ambassador, Former Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Sweden
Antonio Maria Costa - Former Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Kevin A. Sabet - Ph.D., President, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Director, Drug Policy Institute, University of Florida, President, Policy Solutions Group, USA
Neil McKeganey - Ph.D., Director, Centre for Substance Use Disorder, UK
Patrick J. Kennedy - Former U.S. Representative and Honorary Advisor, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, USA
Yvonne Thunell - Chairman, Mentor International, Mentor Sverige, Sweden
Action. Now. That will make a difference. A position paper in support of a balanced and effective drug policy towards 2019
Member states and civil society organizations from all over the world should use the years leading up to the next milestone in 2019 for one thing: National and local action and policy implementation. We don’t need more words, documents or commissions now.
Action is what is missing.
The UNGASS Outcome Document offers an excellent strategy for a comprehensive, balanced and effective policy to reduce drug use and its related harm – if words are made into action.
Using the next three years for a continued struggle over words will not make any difference for those who suffer from drug use, directly or indirectly. Three years of evidence-based interventions will.
It is not true that everything has been tried and nothing works. Many interventions do work. The problem is that most of them are not used by governments. UNGASS 2016 should be the turning point. Action is also needed to achieve the ambitious targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The signatories to this appeal suggest the following priority areas for action till 2019 and beyond:
Focus on universal prevention: The first component of a comprehensive, balanced and effective drug policy is prevention. The UNODC International Standards on Drug Use Prevention offers a wide range of evidence-based primary prevention interventions. Prevention is effective, humane, cost-effective and empowering. Effective drug prevention will contribute to the reduction also in other social problems. Prevention solves problems before they ever occur.
Mobilize a million communities: Prevention efforts are even more effective when they are combined, when they interact and when they are implemented by local communities. This is where the people are, this is where social interaction takes place. UNGASS should invite local communities all over the world to join in a global wave of prevention. One million communities could be reached before 2019.
Use alternative measures: Several countries have already implemented an array of diversion programs instead of using incarceration or fines as reaction to minor drug offences, including dissuasion commissions, youth contracts, drug courts and rehabilitation programs for drug users. More countries should follow suit. Many of those programs have shown promising results. Experiences should be shared internationally.
Support alternative development: A development approach aimed at improving people’s quality of life is needed in order to mobilize local communities where coca, poppies or cannabis are produced. The most conflict-ridden countries in Latin America and Asia need support from the international community. Donor countries should secure increased funding for alternative development programs in the coming years and see this as a long-term commitment.
Offer treatment and rehabilitation programs: Based on a principle of non-discrimination, all people with drug use disorders must have access to a wide range of knowledge-based treatment approaches, rehabilitation and social reintegration programs. Such services must aim at maximizing the affected individuals’ possibility for recovery, including people around the users.
An action plan for essential medicines: UNODC and WHO should invite member states to develop an action plan for securing access to essential medicines with the aim to show tangible results already before 2019. Such access is one of the key objectives of the UN drug conventions. An action plan must identify unnecessary obstacles and interventions to remove them, as well as secure funding for these interventions.
Implement the principle of proportionality: Reactions to drug related offences must be in proportion to the crime committed. The drug conventions do not demand incarceration for drug users, rather they encourage prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as alternatives. Militarization of law enforcement and other inhumane and disproportionate approaches, including the use of capital punishment for drug-related offences, should be abolished as they are not in accordance with the spirit of UN conventions.
This statement is supported by an alliance of networks covering more than 300 NGOs from all over the world:
Drug Policy Futures European Cities Against Drugs IOGT International
Smart Approaches to Marijuana World Federation Against Drugs
Active – Sobriety, Friendship and Peace Recovered Users Network
EURAD – A network for prevention, treatment and recovery
Actis – Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs
The biggest meeting to discuss the world drug problem in nearly 20 years will start next week, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session, UNGASS.
The agenda for the meetings, as well as the proposed outcome document and the list of side events can be found here. The discussion will be broadcasted so it is possible to follow it live here.
The Civil Society Task Force, CSTF, will host a Civil Society Forum the day before the UGNASS begins, April 18 from 10am to 1 am. The aim of the Forum is to present the findings of the CSTF global consultations with civil society, to provide valuable input on priorities and recommendations from grass-root organizations. More information and the full agenda for the Forum can be found here.
At the UNGASS WFAD is co-hosting two side events;
The Social and Economic Advantages of investing in Recovery. Organized by San Patrignano, WFAD, Eurad, Recovered Users Network and ECAD, April 20 at 2.30 in Conference room B
Alternative Legal Regimes for Cannabis: what are the Public Health and Society Impacts. Organized by Community Alliance for Drug Free Youth, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, WFAD and ECAD, April 21, 5.30 in Conference room B.
One of the most important issues that we have identified to be addressed at the UNGASS meeting is the need to put words into action, and we are not alone on this. The statement below that we will shared at UNGASS is supported by an alliance of networks covering more than 300 NGOs from all over the world.
Active - Sobriety, Friendship and Peace, World Federation Against Drugs, IOGT International, Ungdomens Nykterhetsförbund (UNF), San Patrignano, Proslavi Oporavak - Celebrate Recovery, Stijena, EURAD, Swedish National Association for a Drug-Free Society, Preporod, Restart, Turkish Green Crescent, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Uganda Youth Development Link , Forut, ECADSoberlife Mentorship Society, People Against Drug Dependence and Ignorance
Together, we are representing more than 300 NGOs working on grass-roots, national, regional and global level in various activities, projects and advocacy initiatives connected to prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
We would like to use this opportunity to deliver feedback and recommendations for the final outcome document and specifically address youth and prevention.
We welcome that the Member States put focus on prevention and reaffirm the dedication to prevent the abuse of drugs. We strongly support the vision of a society free of drug abuse as the desired outcome for drug policies and interventions. We need to have high ambitions, as with the recently adopted Agenda 2030, uniting member states with a vision of a better world and aim at ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere. Similar ambitions can be found in areas such as traffic deaths, HIV/AIDS, and over the past years also around tobacco.
The Conventions should be the cornerstones of the international drug control system, in full conformity with human rights. We want to stress that neither the legalization of cannabis nor the militarization of law enforcement as well as policies that disregard human rights and disproportional use of punishment, or other inhumane approaches in treatment are in line with the Conventions. All these matters should be addressed by UNGASS.
In this regard, one of our concerns in the current debate are the developments with regards to the legalization of cannabis. This is done in opposition to the conventions and we see this as threatening the international cooperation.
We call on Member States to make sure that the use of cannabis for medical use is done according to national regulatory framework on approval of new medicines, based on scientific review. We also request Member States to reiterate their commitment to the conventions, also in connection with the debate about the legal status of cannabis.
We would also like to remind the state parties about the consequences that this current trend of legalizing drugs will have on less developed countries. Rich countries are failing to find resources to address their drug problem and care for their children and their poor - we cannot expect that less developed countries will find the resources. The world’s poorest communities are the most vulnerable to the harms of drug use and trade, they will not be able to regulate the marketing or collect taxes from drug sales, simply because there are no taxes to collect.
We want to emphasize prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery as the way forward. To deny the addictive potential of cannabis or negative mental health effects is to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence available today. Our experience tells us that we should not welcome with open arms a new industry – like Big Tobacco – which will focus on commercializing and increasing the use of a drug far more potent today than it has ever been.
We need to prevent drug use, not promote it.
We would also like to share some of the best practices, challenges and recommendations identified by some of our members, in their capacity as members of the Civil Society Task Force, in the spheres of prevention and youth. We hope they can serve as an input for the Member States' important deliberations towards the UNGASS preparations.
With regards to the youth consultation in the CSTF, coordinated by Active, we would like to emphasize that young people call for policies with public health and youth and children’s rights at its core.
The online youth survey reached 71 organizations and 269 individuals from all over the world. As one of the outcomes, youth organizations’ preferred policy approach in these consultations was supporting civil society in creating free, safe and inclusive environments for young people, facilitating mobility, well-being and non-formal learning.
In the experience of the grass-root organization Ungdomens Nykterhetsförbund from Sweden,prevention work through offering quality leisure time activities that are free of charge and conducted in safe and drug-free environments, have proven to result in fewer young people trying drugs, using drugs and getting addicted. These activities help children and young people in developing life skills, gaining motivation and empower them to active participation in society. Such protective social factors, as well as the social and economic empowerment, have proven to prevent initiation of drug use among children and young people. With regards to the consultation on prevention, after a challenging and extensive process of obtaining the views of different actors from the civil society, the final outcome showed that prevention is identified as one of the most important aspects to prioritize in order to solve the world drug problem. There is a strong opinion that prevention needs to be discussed more. More importantly, we also need to move beyond words and implement the best practices we are praising at the local level. The use of illicit drugs is a health problem that can and should be prevented, for many reasons; one being that it is cost effective.
The most common best practices, that would allow for easier implementation of prevention policies are:
üKnowing the local conditions: “doing good” is simply not enough, we need to know the local preconditions and do activities that are relevant and based on evidence or best practices.
üImportance of family and community: We need to work with both the community and the family in prevention work. Many organizations are working with strengthening the capacity of parents, both in the west and in the global south.
üInvolving youth: The need to involve youth both in the planning and implementation of the prevention activities is stressed. They are the experts in the area and have important information and input on how we can better reach them and adapt our message, both where they want to be reached and how the message could be formulated.
üCooperation: There was a stressed need for, and the possibility of, increased cooperation and coordination between actors and sectors. This would enable better use of existing resources and could be part of the solution of the scarce resources that are seen as a challenge.
Some of the main challenges in the implementation of prevention policies :
üLack of data: Best practices should include knowing the local conditions when planning a prevention activity. However, in many areas of the world data is lacking, which is a challenge for organizations planning prevention activities. There is a need for quantitative and qualitative data on the use of drugs and the dynamics behind initiation of drug use. This is especially stressed from responses from the global south.
üNegative influence of media and culture: The influence of media and culture with a more positive attitude towards drugs is mentioned as a way of normalizing drugs and a challenge.
üPrevention activities towards marginalized groups: One issue of concern is the special needs of children growing up in marginalized areas, such as the slum areas or other areas affected by poverty and social exclusion. The need to connect the World Drug Problem to poverty is being raised. There is also a sense of neglect in this area of the world. Organizations are asking for answers on how we can better support children growing up in slums, with high rate of addiction among the adults, to break the vicious circle and its future consequences.
üAvailability of treatment: Another important challenge is to close the gap between the need and the availability of treatment, especially in poor areas.
üSelected interventions: It was highlighted that we need to develop our capability to identify risks and our answers to intervene early to interrupt drug use. Civil Society has different ways of reaching young people of risk, some use the Criminal Justice System and others see it as a hinder.
We will conclude with the most important point, raised from people working at the grass-root level. The Global Drug Policy needs to be implemented, a policy will not make any difference without a plan for implementation and resources. The importance is not the outcome paper as such, but what happens afterwards. The question is if this will be an academic and diplomatic exercise, or lead to real improvements for people.
We therefore urge you to take the necessary steps, in Vienna and in your home country, and to write the outcome document specific enough so that we from the civil society can demand and push you to take action. I ensure you that we are willing and ready to do so.
We look forward to working with civil society partners and governments in improving the realities in drug policies on all levels.
Opening statement, Sven-Olov Carlsson, International President, WFAD
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
Welcome to the 5th World Forum Against Drugs – this time to be held in Vienna.
Alcohol is the world’s third leading cause of ill health and premature death, with an impact greater than tobacco. Alcohol is well accepted as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs); there is a strong link between alcohol and several non-communicable diseases, particularly cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, pancreatitis and diabetes. Alcohol is also associated with several infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and pneumonia.
Resolutions from the UN General Assembly as well as WHO World Health Assembly support the notion of the importance of the general level of alcohol consumption for the health problems caused by alcohol. That there is a relationship between adult per capita consumption and excessive or heavy consumption of alcohol is well established by several, independent scientific evaluations.
In a review of the evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policies to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, published in The Lancet 2009, the authors (Anderson et al) state, “Ecologically there is a very close link between a country’s total alcohol per head consumption and its prevalence of alcohol-related harm and alcohol dependence, implying that when alcohol consumption increases, so does alcohol-related harm and the proportion of people with alcohol dependence and vice versa.
In Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity (second edition 2010), the authors, Babor et. al, state that “there is a strong relationship between the total consumption of alcohol in a population and the prevalence of people who are heavy drinkers. However, when total consumption increases, it is not only the consumption of heavy drinkers that increase, the consumption tends to increase in all consumer groups.” Further, drawing on decades of research, the authors state:
The research establishes beyond doubt that public health measures of proven effectiveness are available to serve the public good by reducing the widespread costs and pain related to alcohol use.
To that end, it is appropriate to deploy responses that influence both the total amount of alcohol consumed by a population and the high-risk contexts and drinking behaviors that are so often associated with alcohol-related problems. To conceive of these intrinsically complementary approaches as contradictory alternatives would be a mistake.
It is clear, in my view, that in order for an alcohol policy to be effective, it must aim for reductions in per capita alcohol consumption. I believe that the same is true for an effective drug policy; it too must aim to reduce drug use.
Reducing consumption of alcohol is seen by the most enlightened leaders of the field of substance abuse to be smart and in the public interest whereas in drug policy, many of these same leaders view the goal of reducing illegal drug use to be unwise, reactionary, and moralistic.
The World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) is not ambivalent on the goal of reducing drug use as the first priority of drug policy.
WFAD focuses on reducing both use of drugs and use of alcohol.
Unlike WFAD, many substance abuse policy experts do not view reducing nonmedical and illegal drug use as a primary goal of drug policy. That viewpoint is a huge problem.
Why does this double standard exist on the primary goal of drug policy compared to alcohol policy?
In both alcohol policy and drug policy, many experts view coercion to stop use as troubling. I am less troubled by using reasonable coercion in the interest of public health.
For example, we ask why substance abuse programs should not insist that alcoholics stop drinking and drug addicts stop drug use, in both treatment and in the criminal justice system?
Why shouldn’t this no-use standard be enforced for children for whom the use of both alcohol and drugs is illegal? Why not have parents and schools insist that children be drug-free?
reject the view that the crucial drug policy choice in the world today is between effective policies to reduce drug use and effective policies that reduce drug-related “harm.”
I support both goals. I see them working together and not in conflict.
However, our support of many of the harm reduction ideas in drug policy is tempered by the fact that many of these policies encourage drug use, such as tolerating continued drug use while patients are in drug abuse treatment.
Under the label of “harm reduction,” some countries in Europe now permit “drug consumption rooms” where the use of illicit drugs by addicts is sanctioned.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have estimated that 60 drug consumption rooms exist in 36 cities across Europe, though that number has increased since. Drug consumption rooms are not exclusive to specific drugs.
A report promoting drug consumption rooms in Germany explained that the 12 drug consumption rooms in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia included 97 spaces for individuals to use drugs with 31 dedicated to inhalation consumption.
I ask, “Would anyone refer family members or friends to a drug consumption room whether for injection or inhalation of drugs?”
To me, the answer is clearly “No.”
The goal in helping a loved one with a substance use problem is not to reduce their use. It is to stop drug use.
This is a goal for which some harm reduction strategies do not strive.
Recently, a similar harm reduction strategy has been applied to alcoholics, providing them with “wet houses” so they can drink all they want without going out into the community where they could cause or experience “harm.”
I reject harm reduction policies and programs that encourage continued use of alcohol and other drugs for people with substance use disorders.
A false choice being widely trumpeted today in drug policy is between treatment and jail.
In my view, there is no conflict in drug policy between supporting substance abuse treatment and supporting the role of the criminal justice system in both supply reduction and demand reduction.
Rather, I encourage better linkage between health and criminal justice.
I encourage making full use of the potentials of both treatment and the criminal justice system to achieve ambitious public health goals together that neither can achieve alone.
These shared goals for offender populations include reducing alcohol and drug use, reducing criminal recidivism, and reducing incarceration.
There is a new paradigm of programs that deliver on these goals. This new paradigm is based on the zero tolerance standard that is enforced by random monitoring for any use of alcohol or other drugs linked to swift, certain, but not draconian, consequences.
This new paradigm that does not tolerate continued substance use has shown dramatic benefits to both public health and public safety.
So, to summarize World Federation Against Drugs supports the following principles to serve as a platform for the drug policy debate:
Drug policies should prevent initiation of drug use.
Drug policies must respect human rights (for users and non-users alike) as well as the principle of proportionality.
Drug policies should strike a balance of efforts to reduce the use of drugs and the supply of drugs.
Drug policies should protect children from drug use.
Drug policies should ensure access to medical help, treatment and recovery services.
Drug policies should ensure access to controlled drugs for legitimate scientific and medical purposes.
Drug policies should ensure that medical and judicial responses are coordinated with the goal of reducing drug use and drug-related consequences.
The best strategy for the future of drug policy is to find improved, cost-effective policies that are compatible with modern values that reduce drug use and also reduce the harms produced by this use – policies that link treatment to the criminal justice system and policies that discourage both alcohol and drug use.
I think the balanced approach in alcohol policy supported by many public health experts is a good model for the drug field – both reducing per capita consumption and promoting “harm reduction” when the “harm reduction” does not conflict with the goal of reducing consumption.
I encourage everyone interested in substance use policy to evaluate their approaches to both alcohol policy and drug policy and ensure that their goals support the public health, beginning with an overarching goal of reducing use both in individuals and in the society as a whole.
There are at least three false premises for legalization;
The first false premise is that The Criminalization of Drugs Does Fuel the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. It does not.
The prohibition of illegal drug use does not encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS. Rather it reduces illegal drug use among HIV/AIDS patients, as well as the non-infected population thereby reducing the population vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection by contaminated needles.
Illegal drug use exacerbates weaknesses of the immune system, making individuals with AIDS more susceptible to infection and death. Marijuana use causes impaired immunity and opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma, life-threatening for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Marijuana also contains bacteria and fungi that put users at risk for infection.
Illegal drug use among AIDS patients is life threatening because these drugs lessen the effectiveness of anti-retroviral (ARV) medications.
Nonmedical drug use is associated with increased risky sexual behaviors, which promote transmission of HIV/AIDS in a way that needle exchange cannot prevent.
The second false premise is that the Criminal Justice System and the Public Health System are Conflicting Approaches to Drug Policy. They are not.
The Criminal Justice System and the Public Health System Are Complementary and Not Conflicting Approaches to Drug Policy.
Prevention and treatment are programs that promote public safety and public health. “Harm reduction” tolerates, and thus perpetuates, nonmedical drug use.
“Harm reduction” seeks to reduce the “harm” caused by nonmedical drug use without stopping the use itself.
Defining the roles of the criminal justice system in reducing illegal drug use as unreasonable or inhumane and defining illegal drug use as a “human right” are as sensible as defining drunk driving as a protected human right and its enforcement as an inhumane waste of resources.
Substance abuse prevention and treatment work to stop nonmedical drug use. Making nonmedical drug use as a crime is an important public health strategy that reduces many of the “harms” produced by illegal drug use.
To promote public health and public safety and to support a balanced restrictive drug policy that uses the criminal justice system, and the illegal status of nonmedical drug use, to reinforce both prevention and treatment. The current globally-endorsed balanced drug abuse prevention policy can be improved.
The challenge of future drug policy is to find ways to encourage the legal and justice systems to work better together with prevention and treatment to achieve goals that neither can do alone.
Treatment systems can work together with the criminal justice system by incorporating new, effective and evidence-based strategies to reduce illegal drug use among criminal offenders. These approaches also reduce the commission of new crimes and associated incarceration.
The third false premise is that Major Costs of illegal Drug Use are generated by the criminal justice system itself. It is not.
The greatest costs of illegal drug use are not generated by criminal justice system but by the nonmedical drug use itself.
The costs include not only sickness and death but also reduced productivity and the high healthcare costs generated by illegal drug use.
The future of an improved drug policy is not to legalize intoxicating, abusable drugs, including marijuana.
It is in the development of a balanced, restrictive drug policy that prevents drug use, and that intervenes with drug users to provide them with a path to life-long recovery.
Instead of legalizing drugs, an enlightened drug policy can harness the criminal justice system to thwart drug markets, facilitate entry into treatment and restrict incarceration to egregious offenders.
The criminal law against illegal drug use is a major public health strategy to reduce drug abuse and the many health, safety and productivity losses imposed by drug abuse.
These are the elements of a successful drug policy. This drug policy makes clear that drug use is unacceptable.
With this I declare the 5th World Forum Against Drugs for opened.
The Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) will be convened from 19 – 21 April 2016 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The UNGASS will feature a general debate plenary and five interactive, multi-stakeholder round tables conducted in parallel with the plenary.
A selection process is now open to identify speakers from civil society, the scientific community, academia, youth groups and other relevant stakeholders that may participate in the special session. Eleven (11) speakers will be selected: six (6) for the plenary and five (5) - one for each of the interactive round tables.
The following criteria will be used when selecting speakers: • Must represent an organization actively working in the drug field and be authorized to speak on behalf of that organization; • Gender balance; • Geographical balance and in the case of equal qualification, representatives from the Global South will be prioritised; • Thematic balance in terms of approaches to drug policies; • The call is open to representatives of ECOSOC and non-ECOSOC accredited NGOs.
In addition, selected representatives must: • be able to speak compellingly within the context of an intergovernmental plenary or the respective round table; • be available to be in New York on 19 April; • have a visa for travel to New York, if applicable, or be able to obtain one within 4 weeks for travel to New York. The selected speakers will be responsible for obtaining the visa for travel and for any costs associated with obtaining the visa. The final selection of speakers will be made by the Office of the President of the General Assembly in collaboration with the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) for UNGASS 2016.
Please note that travel funding is available for speakers chosen through this process.
We encourage you to share this call for speakers widely in your networks!
For more information about the special session, side events and participants registration, please visit the website: http://www.ungass2016.org. To learn more about the CSTF, please see: www.cstfondrugs.org
Contact the CSTF at
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should there be any questions!
The Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for hte United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem was held on February 10 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Consultation was an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the ongoing process and to share their expertise and experience as an input for consideration for Member States in the negotiations of the outcome document.
Mr George Oching Odalo from Slum Child Foundation shared the following statement at round table two on Drugs Human Rights, Community and Development.
Dear Chairman and Consultation Participants:
I am George Ochieng Odalo from Slum Child Foundation in Kenya. It is my first time in New York City and in the United Nations building here. Thank you for allowing me to speak. Our NGO has many years of experience assessing and assisting some of the world’s poorest children. We want everyone to hear our thoughts about drug policy, drug interventions and human rights.
I, too, have been a street boy from the slums of Korogocho, Kenya — so I know well the children and families on whose behalf I speak. These are people who have no voice — and profoundly inadequate consideration in world affairs. They are often hopeless. They lack food — so education, healthcare and jobs are even second thoughts. Which brings me immediately to the issue of drugs. We know this to be true: drug use during childhood and adolescence is especially dangerous. Let there be no debate that youth are especially vulnerable to developing addiction and that substance abuse during adolescence is strongly associated with many poor outcomes. Let there also be no debate that adults who profit from drug sales are profiting from youth. We all know it. Look no further than the American state of Colorado for evidence of the marketing and advertising aimed at children. Once unleashed, this marketing and advertising will never be regulated, and we all know it. We have ignored and excused devious tactics employed by the alcohol and tobacco industries too long. Our world — and especially my small corner of it — cannot afford more of this glorification of mind-altering substances.
Unfortunately, it needs to be said — and repeated at every U.N. meeting: the world’s poorest communities are the most vulnerable to the harms of drug use and trade. Legalizing drugs in the United States and other wealthy countries does not help poor countries like mine. It harms us. Cities like Nairobi simply do not have the resources to provide the services needed to address the problems we have already. We certainly will not be able to combat the even heavier burdens that would come from more drug legalization and the relentless marketing and media aimed at us by far wealthier countries. I know this because I already can see how the world’s richest countries fail to find the resources to address their drug problems and care for their children and their poor. They like to talk about the taxes they make from drug sales without acknowledging these naked truths — and without considering populations so poor there are no taxes to collect.
Substance abuse and addiction must be combatted by countries working together. I do not see this happening with current drug policy. Unfortunately, I see people who want to use and profit from recreational drugs without regard for how that will harm countries like mine. I see people demanding legal reforms without also acknowledging that drug legalization is not required to achieve them. I see people pushing for drug policies that are not rooted in responsible science reported by the world’s most respected scientists and medical associations.
The money pushing for more drug use and more drug legalization is flowing — just as it always does when people want to buy their power, fame, politics and even more fortune. It is up to this world body to put a stop to this corruption and this influence. We must remain vigilant and rise above industry tactics. We must remain determined to reach for the aspirational goal of promoting and building a world in which children have the right to grow up in drug-free environments. At the very least, we must reject policies that teach them recreational drug use is normal, acceptable — and even desirable. We must certainly not become enablers in the same way people are worn down and manipulated by those with substance addiction. We must set firm limits. We must guard against statements crafted after meetings, such as the session on drugs and human rights the Human Rights Council in Geneva held in September. A report issued from that meeting lists nine items and starts with the “right to harm reduction” — which is defined as "illicit drug use shall not be discouraged.” Let me repeat that: “illicit drug use shall not be discouraged.”
What signals do statements such as this send? And are they in line with Commentary 14 from the Monitoring Body for the 1966 Covenant on Economic, Social, and Political Rights, which makes clear that states shall prevent and discourage illicit drug use? And can we honestly say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child — which makes clear that children’s rights shall be a primary consideration for all policy making — is respected in that report when children rank scant mention and last on a list of considerations? I think not. We are letting rich countries — and the corrupt leaders of poor ones — dominate these drug-policy debates for the least noble reasons. We know that adults struggling with substance addiction overwhelmingly started their drug use when they were children. We know drug use weakens even the richest societies. So, again, thank you for allowing me to be on record here for the world’s poorest, most vulnerable children. Count me among those who are standing against the selfish desires and financial agendas that are often cloaked by words and phrases like “justice,” “medicine” and “harm reduction.”