The 61st session of the UN Commission on Drugs, in which Diogenes participates as a consutative NGO on the UN ECOSOC Council, is taking place in Vienna from 12 to 16 March. Today, March 15, during the Session, a discussion is held on the results of the WHO and the UNODC joint work on new “international standards for the treatment of drug use disorders”.
“Diogenis” a few days ago, together with 187 other organizations active in the field of psychoactive substances treatment, harm reduction and politics, co-signed an open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), calling for a revision of the final text before it is published and/or promoted internationally, indicating the following:
- The paper contains many assertions not supported evidentiarily or cited.
- The phrase ‘harm reduction’ is entirely missing from the document.
- The paper contains crude generalisations and many stigmatising and pathologising assertions.
- Notably, the paper contains numerous implications that people who use drugs and have drug dependencies are dangerous; cannot exercise agency and self-determination; are sick; are unreliable; are bad family members; are bad employees. Needless to say, such crude generalisations are deeply stigmatising and offensive, not to mention unempirical.
- The paper fails to identify criminalisation and prohibition as being responsible for driving much drug related harm and harm associated with drug dependency; instead, it myopically asserts that because drugs are harmful, they are criminalised, without noting that it is due to the fact that they are criminalised that they are so harmful.
- The paper’s active promotion Naltrexone is very concerning, given its lack of evidentiary support: Naltrexone is promoted in the document as of equal value to interventions that are (in contrast to Naltrexone) empirically justified and greatly beneficial; this is arguably used to eclipse interventions with proven efficacy, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and diamorphine/morphine prescribing, due to the document’s clear advocation of abstinence-based recovery.
You can read the signed letter of civil society organizations here.
Drug Policy Reform.
The UNGASS 2016, a catalyst for change?
The international community has since more than hundred years tried to implement a system that will limit production and use of narcotic and psychoactive substances to medical and scientific purposes. In three international drug control conventions, administrative controls and penal sanctions have been established to combat illegal production and use of these substances with the purpose to protect “the health and welfare of mankind”
The book refers concisely to important developments of the drug control system since the beginning of the 20th century and the entry into force of the three international drug control conventions after 1961
This drug control system is periodically evaluated. In 2016 a special Session of the General Assembly of the UN reviewed “the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem within the framework of the three international drug control conventions”. This special session is the main subject of the publication. The discussions that led to this special session are outlined on the basis of the official texts of UN member states’ evaluations and political decisions and the contribution of civil society organizations to UN meetings.
The author considers the outcome document of the UNGASS 2016, to be a promising sign for the change in orientation of the current drug control system and a shift in drug policy from repression and punishment, to pragmatism and focus on public health and respect for human rights.
Policy makers, practitioners in the field of drugs and interested readers will find in the book valuable insights about trends and possible alternatives for the current drug policy.
You can read the publication here.
NGO “Diogenis Drug Policy Dialogue” co-signed, along with 200 other civil society organizations, a statement calling for urgent measures to put an end to the extrajudicial executions policy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and to seek justice. The statement was made public on Thursday 9/11 shortly before US President Donald Trump (who repeatedly praised Duterte’s drug war) met for the first time with Duterte during the Asian Nations Summit in the Philippines (ASEAN ) on 12-14 November. The meeting of the two Presidents took place today and, as expected, the issue of human rights and extrajudicial executions was not discussed.
A brand new Briefing Paper, n.7, was just added at the “Publication Series”, under the title “Drug Policy after the UNGASS 2016”, by the director of “Diogenis”, Mr Thanasis Apostolou.
The purpose of this briefing paper is :
a. To inform policy makers, researchers, members of NGOs and institutions working in prevention, treatment and social rehabilitation of drug users and everyone interested in the results of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs (UNGASS), held from 19 to 21, April 2016, in New York (USA)
b. to present views expressed and which are in discussion about the importance of the UNGASS concerning the assessment of the existing policy on drugs and the strategic direction that governments will decide to follow for their drug policy in the future
c. to refer to the discussion at the regional conference organized from 1-3 June 2016 in Thessaloniki which focused on exchanging views on the post-UNGASS policy that can be followed in SEE countries.
You can read the briefing paper, here.
With the aim of “ending AIDS by 2030”, the UN agency for AIDS stresses the need for investment in Harm Reduction programs in order to ensure that people who use intravenous drugs have universal equal access to them. It calls for policies that respect human rights and the needs of injecting drug users (IDUs) and promote prevention, treatment, care and other support services associated with HIV. Similar are the recommendations from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), that also suggested the implementation of similar programs and services as a comprehensive package for vulnerable populations.
The existence of laws and policies that “do not cause harm to people who use drugs and increasing investments in harm reduction programmes and services results in a decrease in new HIV infections and improved health outcomes and delivers broader social benefits” (UNAIDS , 2016). Similarly, laws that provide alternative measures to imprisonment and prosecution for drug use and drug possession for personal use reduce the harmful effects associated with drug use use and do not lead to increased drug use. According to UNAIDS data, worldwide, there are: about 12 cm. People injecting drugs, of which 14% (1.6 mil.) Living with HIV and 50% (6 m.) With virus hepatitis C. also, in 2014 we had 140,000 new infections with the HIV virus in the population of IDUs without any apparent reduction in the annual number of these new infections in the four years from 2010 to 2014.