Recent commitments to greater involvement of people who use drugs in UN drug policy processes is a positive development but little research attention has been paid to ‘drug user representation’ in this context.
Authors Annie Madden, Kari Lancaster and Carla Treloara from Centre for Social Research in Health and Alison Ritterb from Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia produced the paper Making legitimacy: Drug user representation in United Nations drug policy settings. This paper examines ‘drug user representation’ in the UNGASS on drugs and associated CND processes over three decades.
Findings show that dominant UN drug policy discourses and other practices can have delimiting effects for the political legitimacy of drug user representatives.
The importance of engaging people who use drugs in drug policy development is increasingly acknowledged including in recent UN documents. Little scholarly attention has been paid to ‘drug user representation’ in the global drug policy setting of the UN such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). This paper examines ‘drug user representation’ in key UN drug policy processes over three decades.
The mapping process was undertaken using a corpus of publicly available documents from the UNGASS on Drugs and associated CND processes to identify relevant policy processes from 1987 to 2019.
The analysis shows that despite calls for greater involvement, dominant UN drug policy discourses and other practices delimit both the political subjectivities available to people who use/have used drugs and their capacity to bring their voices to bear in this context. The analysis also highlights that human rights-based discourses, employed by ‘drug user representatives’, have emerged as an important practice of resistance against the problematic and delimiting power effects of existing UN discourses, governing practices and modes of engagement.
In addition to the practices of resistance being undertaken by ‘drug user representatives’, authors suggest there is a need to improve how ‘drug user representation’ is being made possible and done in the sites of UN drug policy deliberation and, that these sites should be opened for questioning. This will not only have a positive impact on political legitimacy for ‘drug user representation’, but on the health and human rights of people who use/have used drugs.
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