United Nations & world leaders condemned for failure on drug policy, health and human rights

329 NGOs call for global leadership to halt global public health emergency and to end egregious human rights violations against people who use drugs.

As the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference comes to a close, hundreds of health professionals, academics, drug policy and human rights experts, frontline workers and people who use drugs released a statement calling on world leaders to urgently address the health and human rights crisis among people who use drugs.

Signatory NGOs shed light on the alarming public health emergency faced by people who use drugs. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of drug-related deaths rose by a worrying 60%. In 2015 alone, this culminated in a total of 450,000 deaths – an estimated 50 deaths every hour. The target to halve the incidence of HIV among people who inject drugs by 2015, set eight years ago, was spectacularly missed by 80%, and HIV prevalence increased by one third among people who inject drugs over the same period. Furthermore, globally, six in ten people who use drugs are living with hepatitis C, while 168,000 people who use drugs were reported to have died of an overdose in 2015 alone.

These health harms are preventable. The evidence, presented at the Conference this week, shows that harm reduction and human rights-centred drug policies can save lives, prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and promote the dignity and empowerment of people who use drugs. But this requires leadership from both governments and the UN.

Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International (HRI), said: ‘The evidence for harm reduction is indisputable. It is nothing short of disgraceful that governments continue to fail to support and invest in health services for some of the most marginalised people’.

The joint NGO statement also expresses serious concerns over the ability of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to adequately lead the UN response on this issue. By its very mandate and construction, the UNODC remains more attuned to the law enforcement response to drugs. As a result, UNODC leadership has consistently failed to unequivocally champion harm reduction, human rights and decriminalisation, and has lost further creditability with repeated silence in face of egregious human rights violations. Today, people who use drugs continue to be victims of incarceration, compulsory detention, denial of access to healthcare, corporal punishment, institutionalised violence, stigma and discriminations, and – in the most extreme cases – extrajudicial killings.

In response to the vacuum of political leadership, NGOs conveying in Porto have called for global leadership to protect the human rights of a ‘population under attack’ and demanded that these unacceptable human rights abuses to come to an end.

Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), stated: ‘just over ten years left for countries to meet their global commitment to champion health, reduce inequalities, and provide access to justice for all, as enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there has never been a more urgent need to strengthen political leadership at all levels. Faced with the current crisis, complacency can no longer be tolerated’.

Porto welcomes the 26th Harm Reduction International Conference

The 26th Harm Reduction International Conference (HR19) will be held in Porto, Portugal from 28 April to 1 May 2019. The Conference is organised by the Harm Reduction International and Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento (APDES) – a Portuguese non-profit association promoting sustainable development.

 

 

 

 

 

Held once every two years in a different country around the world, the Harm Reduction International Conference is the only global meeting for knowledge-sharing, networking, and discussion of best practices in the field of harm reduction. The last conference in Montreal in 2017 was attended by more than 1000 delegates from over 70 countries, including medical and policy experts, harm reduction practitioners, campaigners, and people who use drugs.

On Tuesday 30 April, at the Concurrent 16: Lost in Transition: Harm Reduction in Central and Eastern Europe, our Yuliya Georgieva from the Center for Humane Policy will speak about, Lost in Transition-Bulgaria struggling to ensure harm reduction activities after Global Fund withdraw while Nebojša Đurasović will present The only one harm reduction program that survived in Serbia – Experience of the Association Prevent.

Those who shall participate in the Conference are very much welcome to join this session.

The programme of the Conference is available following this link>>>

People before politics

Ahead of the 26th Harm Reduction International conference, Harm Reduction International has launched a Call to Action on harm reduction funding and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria 6th replenishment.

Funding and political support for harm reduction is in crisis in many countries around the world. Harm reduction is evidence-based, cost effective and has a positive impact on individual and community health. While harm reduction is far broader than HIV prevention, this call to action centres on galvanising urgent action to secure a strong 6th replenishment of the Global Fund, in recognition of the significant impact of HIV and TB on people who use drugs.

The Global Fund aims to raise at least US$14 billion at its 6th replenishment, which will be invested from 2020-22. We believe that more funding is required and support the call of the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) for a replenishment of $18 billion. This will enable the Global Fund to step up the fight to end HIV, TB and malaria, and we urge Global Fund donors to be ambitious in their pledges. A strong and fully-funded Global Fund is vital to the harm reduction response and to delivering on government commitments to end AIDS by 2030.

The Call is on

  • Governments, philanthropic donors and the private sector to step up and fully fund the Global Fund, to make ambitious pledges to ensure the US$18 billion target is reached.
  • Governments to put “People before politics” and ensure that people who use drugs are not left behind in the fight to end AIDS by 2030
  • The Global Fund Board to safeguard catalytic investment funds, regardless of replenishment outcome, in order to sustain life-saving services for people who inject drugs and to incentivise domestic investment in harm reduction.

You can read the Call to Action following this link>>>

You can add your organisation’s name to this call to action via the form here>>>

You can share the Call to Action with your networks/other organisations and on social media, using this tweet

 

62nd CND Session – Day 2

The second day of the 62th CND was full of side events and sharing with participants.

An overviews of the side events we participated in today includes:

Psychoactive substances and the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda

Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International. Jože Hren started his presentation reminding that for 20 years already the approach in Slovenia is that drug use is primarily a health problem and that possession of small quantities is a misdemeanour also since 1999. Those who are caught in possession of drugs get a fine of 40 Euro, but there is a process to change it to an oral warning or referral to treatment in more complex situations. Representative of the Pompidou Group spoke about the bi-annual prize the Group awards to innovative prevention programmes created by young people for young people. Another Slovenian representative presented their work emphasizing the need to invest in mental health programmes for adolescents. Cost of mental health disorders in Europe take 3 to 5 percent of GDP. There is a need for a reallocation of resources for more sustainable and impactful outcomes in tackling harmful substances and behaviours. Medical help is not enough – it has to be combined with comprehensive and long lasting prevention. They have a programme called “This is me”, which is in line with the Goal 3 of the SDGs. Kristina Sperkova, president of the IOGT International (international network of Templar organisations) works on prevention of alcohol and other drugs harm world-wide. Sanela from Utrip Institute advocated for a community approach to prevention. Notes from the side event are available at the CND Blog following this address>>>.

Leaving no one behind: People at the centre of a harm reduction, human rights and public health approach to drug use

Organized by the Netherlands and Norway, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, IDPC, AFEW International, Harm Reduction International, INPUD, Open Society Foundations, Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. Ann Fordham from IDPC highlighted that the new UNADIS report indicates that 99% of people who use drugs doesn’t have a proper access to health services. WHO representative reminded that half a million people worldwide die of drug related deaths, mainly overdose and blood borne diseases HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. People also suffer because they can’t access the medicines they need. The Netherlands has “put people first” in their approach to harm reduction. The right to health is fundamental to all people irrespective of whether they are using drugs. Drug policies should seek to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, support the most marginalized and vulnerable, lift up human rights. Prohibition and criminalization means a continuation of armed conflict supported by disproportionate spending. Naomi Burke-Shyne from HRI reminded that funding for harm reduction has flat lined from 2007 to 2016, which stands in shocking contrast to the estimated funding need by UNAIDS: existing funding represents only 13% of this estimated need. Judy Chang from INPUD stated that “Existing drug policies threaten security, democracy and the well-being of all, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable. The war on drugs and drug-free agenda undermines the SDG agenda.” Zaved Mahmood from ‎UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that People who use drugs are not just left behind, they are kept out. The right to life includes the obligation to take measures where peoples’ lives might be threatened, including in relation to the use of drugs and HIV and hepatitis.

Drug prevention approaches that make a difference

Organized by the Governments of Iceland and Serbia, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. Serbian representative to the OSC made an introduction speech. The same like the Minister of Health on Thursday 14 at the Ministerial Segment, he said that the Drug Strategy has 5 chapters instead of 7, avoiding to say that Harm Reduction is one of them. Jelena Janković from the Ministry of Health presented the latest developments, including information about overdose deaths in 2018 and creation of the Ministerial Commission (for fighting narcomania in schools). She also presented the project the Ministry did with experiences and support from Israel. Iceland presented their project with are seen as the flagship project on prevention. Almost 2% of the alcohol and tobacco taxes go to prevention programmes! They see as the main risks and protective factors family factors, peer group effect, general well-being and extra-curricular activities and sports. Their learning is that the multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to success. The change thy achieved is different attitude of parents and society – don’t buy alcohol for children. It is not OK for adolescents to be drunk in public. It is not the amount of time that parents spend with their children – it is the quality of time. There are no unsupervised parties. Pompidou Group emphasised the role of police in prevention. Interventions from the floor were on offering more than just sports and having campaigns that cover illicit but also legal substances.

Other side events held today that may be of interest are:

Other events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held regular Annual General Assembly. The Committee welcomed new members, reviewed and approved the VNGOC annual report and reflected on activities for 2018/19 including those of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), got information about the annual accounts for 2018, the latest financial status and audited accounts for 2018, Strategic Plan 2019-21 and Budget for 2019 and Voluntary Code of Conduct for NGOs at the CND and received an update on developments within UNODC. The Committee discussed the future organisation of the VNGOC, based on the background paper presented by the Board.

Following a governance review process undertaken in 2017, VNGOC agreed to stagger the elections for the VNGOC Board to ensure greater stability and continuity. In order to do this, three of the positions elected last year were given one-year terms, the other three positions were given the standard two-year terms. This year, the following three positions were up for re-election: Chairperson, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Secretary. Our friend fro International Drug Policy Consortium Jamie Bridge was re-elected for the Chairperson. Congratulations!

Joint Briefing on Global Fund Catalytic Investments for Harm Reduction

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is the largest donor for harm reduction in low and middle countries (LMICs), providing two-thirds of all international donor support. In May 2019, the Global Fund Board will approve the 2020 – 2022 allocation methodology and catalytic investment priorities, ahead of replenishment for the Global Fund in October 2019. These will have significant implications for harm reduction in LMICs and as such, the ability of the Global Fund to step up the fight and get back on track to end AIDS by 2030.

This briefing, developed by the Harm Reduction International  in collaboration with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, compiles evidence of the crucial nature of catalytic investment funds for harm reduction. In the briefing, we urge the Global Fund Board to safeguard catalytic investment funds – including multi-country grants, matching funds and strategic initiatives – regardless of the replenishment outcome, in order to sustain life-saving services for people who inject drugs and to incentivise domestic investment in harm reduction.

You may access the briefing following this link>>>>