News from WFAD

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.”