INCB message on Human Rights Day 2020

From the INCB press release

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has repeatedly expressed its concern over reports of grave human rights violations purportedly in furtherance of national drug control policies.

The Board reminds all States that the primary objective of the international drug control conventions is to safeguard the health and welfare of humankind, including respect for human rights.

INCB calls on States to adopt and pursue drug control policies that respect and protect human rights and that are consistent with international human rights instruments. Human rights are inherent and inalienable. The world drug problem cannot be lawfully addressed without ensuring the protection of human rights.

In addressing drug-related criminality, States must apply the principle of proportionality as a guiding principle in determining and applying criminal sanctions. The drug control conventions require governments to give special attention to the possibility of applying alternative measures to conviction, punishment and incarceration for drug-related offences, in appropriate cases of a minor nature, including education, rehabilitation or social reintegration, as well as, when the offender is affected by a drug disorder, treatment and aftercare.

Human Rights Day 2020 focuses on the need to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that human rights are central to recovery efforts. The pandemic has affected patterns of drug use and drug trafficking, and also affected access to services for the treatment of people with drug use disorders. State parties to the drug control conventions are required to give special attention to and take all practicable measures for the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons affected by drug use disorders. Such services should be accessible, evidence-based, free from discrimination and stigma and respect the human rights and dignity of clients.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – entails, among other things, access to high-quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, high-quality and affordable essential medicines, including those medicines under international control, and strengthening the prevention and treatment of drug use disorders.

***

INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions.

 

Open letter to UNODC Executive Director

In an open letter, with the support from more than 100 civil society organisations, the International Drug Policy Network Consortium (IDPC) invited Ms Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to mark International Human Rights Day by calling on Member States to change drug policies and practices that violate human rights, and entrench exclusion and discrimination.

My Waly was invited to issue a strong statement that underlines UNODC’s commitment to rights-based drug policies, and calls for change in the laws and practices that threaten health and human rights. The 2020 International Human Rights Day, which will be held under the title ‘Recover better: Stand Up for Human Rights’, includes a thematic focus on the need ‘to apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination’. As such, it presents a key opportunity for UNODC to highlight its commitment to the promotion of drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, in line with the UN System Common Position.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the civil society organisations which supported the letter.

To read the letter, follow this link>>>.

 

Webinars on Human Rights Violations Data Gathering

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) planned to conduct a 2-day regional workshop for activists and professionals from South East Europe countries “Gathering data on human rights violations and reaction mechanisms” on 18 – 19 March 2020, in Belgrade, Serbia. Unfortunately, due to coronavirus pandemic, the workshop was postponed for better times.

The organiser finally decided not to wait for better times and provide the opportunity to take part in a series of 3 short webinars in a new exciting format.

The webinars will be organized in zoom on September 16, 23 and 31 and will last for 2 hours each from 14:00 till 16:00 (Central Europe time, GMT+2).

Goal of the workshop is to equip activists and professionals in South East Europe countries with knowledge on principles and mechanisms of data collection on human rights violations against key populations and follow-up reaction.

Facilitators of the workshop will be Mikhail Golichenko, International Legal Consultant, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Maria Plotko, Program Officer, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

Prior to each webinar you will be provided with 1-hour thematic videos/podcasts of experts dialogues, which you will examine beforehand, and during webinars we will jointly discuss them, answer your questions and work in interactive way.

Webinars will be open to all – number of participants is not limited!

The registration form will be published closer to the date of the first webinar. Please, follow the EHRA website for more information.

 

Regional workshop on gathering data on human rights violations

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) will conduct a 2-day regional workshop for activists and professionals from South East Europe countries “Gathering data on human rights violations and reaction mechanisms” on 18-19 March 2020, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The workshop is conducted as part of the three-year multi-country project “Sustainability of Services for Key Populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” (#SoS project).

Goal of the workshop is to equip activists and professionals in South East Europe countries with knowledge on principles and mechanisms of data collection on human rights violations against key populations and follow-up reaction.

Objectives

  • To discuss the most common human rights violations and gender barriers to access HIV prevention and care services.
  • To examine methodologies of data collection on human rights violations (cases).
  • To provide in-depth information on UN treaty bodies and processes of shadow reports submissions.
  • To understand the follow-up system for its systematic and effective use.

Facilitators of the workshop – Mikhail Golichenko, International Legal Consultant, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Maria Plotko, Program Officer, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

The workshop will gather over 25 activists and professionals from NGOs, human rights and community organizations from 5 South East Europe countries – implementors of the SoS project – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, The Republic of North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia) who are either engaged into the human rights protection work or eager to start working over cases on human rights violations and follow-up reaction on them.

Awareness video on human rights and harm reduction approach

Our member organisation Labyrinth invite to check out awareness video-animation they produced on Human rights and Harm reduction approach for people who use drugs in Kosovo.

The video was a part of the project that Labyrinth implemented “Enhancing drug user’s rights and entitlements” and was supported by the EU Office in Kosovo. The purpose of the “ENDURE” project was to create a more appropriate environment for people from marginalized communities to realize health, social and legal rights and to be involved in all processes of social life.

The project aimed to address the needs of discriminated and stigmatized groups by strengthening their capacities to invoke anti-discrimination law. The “ENDURE” project also aimed to raise awareness against discrimination providing legal and psychological support to drug users and improve access to drug users.

In scope of the ENDURE project, Labyrinth prepared two publications (both in Albanian):

Have a look at this excellent video. Subtitles are available both in English and Serbian language.

Coming Out of Unemployment

Youth workers from five countries: Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina took part in nine days long training hosted by the Association Rainbow in Serbia (Šabac) from 8 to 16 May 2019, for obtaining adequate knowledge about social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in general. The concept of training was developed out of the study visit in Spain and personal years-long experience of the Association Rainbow as the project leader in this field.

Participants also learned how to transfer their knowledge as trainers from experienced trainers and now they are able to disseminate the acquired knowledge and skills further in their countries. This will lead to the domino effect where youth workers continue to transfer their knowledge and skills to others through their own trainings after this project is completed, whereas in doing so we increase the duration for which the aims of this project will be achieved.

The Erasmus + project “Coming Out of Unemployment” is related to raising capacity of youth workers with the aim of acquiring knowledge and skills and also raising their professional competence in working on the economic empowerment of the LGBT population through the development of social entrepreneurship. Populations which are not economically empowered cannot adequately nor in the long run advocate for the practicing of their human rights.

The project participants encompass six organizations from Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Spain, which want to share experiences and improve the economic position of LGBT persons and in this way secure the fight for their human rights and sustainability of LGBT NGOs in the long run. Members of these organizations will, through active work, acquire knowledge and skills for practical work and further transferring of knowledge in the field of developing social entrepreneurship, raising capacity and empowering young LGBT persons to become entrepreneurs.

One of the results of the project will be “The Manual on the Development of Social Entrepreneurship” which will provide guidelines for future trainers and help them realize their trainings, thus reaching medium-term and long-term aims of this project.

The concluding activity of the project will be a working conference taking place in Serbia. It will gather 100 participants from partner organizations, public institutions, embassies, the donor community, and the media with the aim of presenting the results of the project and influencing the state policy concerning the economic empowerment of the LGBT population.

More about the project is available following this link>>>

International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

Responding to the harms associated with drug use and the illicit drug trade is one of the greatest social policy challenges of our time. All aspects of this challenge have human rights implications.

Drug control intersects with much of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In line with the 2030 Agenda, the UNDP Strategic Plan 2018 – 2021 and the HIV, Health and Development Strategy 2016 – 2021: Connecting the Dots, the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy provide a comprehensive set of international legal standards for placing human dignity and sustainable development at the centre of UN member states responses to illicit drug economies. The guidelines cover a diverse set of substantive issues ranging from development to criminal justice to public health.

The guidelines were developed by a coalition of UN Member States, WHOUNAIDSUNDP and leading human rights and drug policy experts. The Guidelines are an example of the support provided to practically integrate international human rights commitments into national, regional and global policy and programmes.

The drugs issue cuts across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including ending poverty, reducing inequalities and, of course, improving health, with its targets on drug use, HIV and other communicable diseases. Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions is particularly important, requiring attention to human rights across the Sustainable Development Goals. Since the late 1990s, UN General Assembly resolutions have acknowledged that ‘countering the world drug problem’ must be carried out ‘in full conformity’ with ‘all human rights and fundamental freedoms’. This has been reaffirmed in every major UN political declaration on drug control since, and in multiple resolutions adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.The reality, however, has not always lived up to this important commitment.

The Guidelines are based on both ‘hard law’ and ‘soft law’ sources – those that are legally binding and those that are authoritative but not binding per se. With very few exceptions, the general descriptions of rights are drawn from binding treaty provisions.

However, since very few human rights treaty provisions address drug control directly and since the application of general rights to specific groups requires a more in-depth analysis, much of the guidance presented throughout the document is based on UN resolutions and declarations, the general comments and concluding observations of UN human rights treaty bodies and the work of UN human rights Special Procedures. Findings of regional human rights courts and national courts are also cited. Such jurisprudence, which is binding for the relevant countries, is cited in the Guidelines as being persuasive of a particular application of a right.

The Guidelines are not a ‘toolkit’ for a model drug policy. The Guidelines are a reference tool for those working to ensure human rights compliance at local, national, and international levels, be they parliamentarians, diplomats, judges, policy makers, civil society organisations or affected communities.

This longer version of the Guidelines will be available on an interactive website where readers may search by specific rights, drug control themes, and other key words, as well as follow links to source material.

To read and download Guidelines on human right and Drug policy follow this link>>>

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!

A calls for global drug policies that promote & protects the humanrights of women

Οn the occasion of International Women’s Day (ΙWD), celebrated on March 8 every year, the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD)  has published recommendations on the importance of promoting gender equality to achieve a balanced approach to the drug phenomenon and calls for global drug policies that promote & protects the humanrights of women. CSFD hopes that these recommendations “can be of use in informing the positions of the European Union at the Ministerial Segment and at the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs”.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) takes this opportunity to emphasize the need for global drug policies to pay special attention to women and the promotion and defence of their rights.

Civil sociaty forum on Drugs

They note that the theme for IWD in 2019 is ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’, focusing on: ‘innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure’.

Also they note that the provisional agenda for the Ministerial Segment includes a roundtable on ‘Taking stock of the implementation of all commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem…’. These commitments include the Outcome Document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs – which includes a strong gender component as it relates to drug policy.

The UNGASS Outcome Document also highlights the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, noting that ‘efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to effectively address the world drug problem are complementary and mutually reinforcing’.

The achievement of SDG 5 on gender equality will necessitate that drug policies and programmes adopt a strong gender component to ensure that women are not left behind in efforts to control the illicit drug market.

Using the UNGASS Outcome Document structure, the CSFD wishes to offer specific recommendations which CSFD hope can be of use in informing the positions of the European Union at the Ministerial Segment and at the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

To download this Recommendation follow this link>>>>

A new on-line course on drugs, health and human rights

The University of Geneva launched an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web (a massive open online course – MOOC) on drugs, health & human rights, on the occasion of 26 June, The International Day Against Drug Abuse And Illicit Trafficking. This course is primarily aimed at students and professionals from different backgrounds interested in the fields of psychoactive substances, health, human rights and drug policy.

The topics will be presented by over 40 speakers from scientific, academic and institutional backgrounds, spokespersons of civil society as well as people who use drugs presenting their views.

The course lasts for 6 weeks. It is run in English, with subtitles in French, Spanish and Russian. Expected commitment is about 3 to 4 hours of work per week.

Participation is free and widely open to all interested. Enrolment is open for a few more days – so hurry to apply following this link>>>>