IDPC published a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing gains, challenges and insight on how the latter have been generally overcome. The “Turning the tide: Growth, visibility and impact of the civil society drug policy reform movement at the UN” briefing paper offers a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing the many gains made and challenges encountered over time – and ways in which reform-oriented civil society has met, resisted, and generally overcome, these challenges. This paper is based on desk research, discussions with advocates involved in the key events discussed in the paper, and the lived experiences of the authors, and so is naturally weighted more to the recent moments such as Beyond 2008, the 2016 UNGASS, the 2019 Ministerial Segment, and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key international drug policy moments studied in this report – including the 1998 and 2016 UN General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on drugs, the 2009 High Level Segment and its 10year review in 2019 in particular – have created the momentum for civil society to engage in, and influence, global drug policy debates.
The participation of a wide range of reform-minded civil society representatives – including affected communities of people who use drugs, people in recovery, patients using medicinal cannabis or essential medicines for pain relief, farmers of crops used for illegal drug production, formerly incarcerated people and others – has had an undeniable impact on UN drug policy events, elevating real lived experience from the ground at often dry and bureaucratic debates in Vienna.
The Beckley Foundation published a policy proposal which examines the acute, sub-acute, and chronic harms related to MDMA use in detail. The report examines the production, distribution, purchase and consumption of the drug; related risks and harms; and the impact prohibition has on these, as well as the potential impact of alternative policies. Crucially, their evidence shows that most harms associated with MDMA use arise from its unregulated status as an illegal drug and that any risks inherent to MDMA could be more effectively mitigated within a legally regulated market.
Authors claim that there is growing evidence to support reorienting drug policy away from an ideologically driven criminal justice-led model to one rooted in pragmatic health and harm reduction principles. Current policy is not meeting its goal of reducing harms, and greater control of MDMA production, distribution, purchase and consumption is needed in order to prevent MDMA-related emergencies.
This policy proposal rests on the following five principles which should underpin all evidence-informed drug policy and practice:
Promoting public health and reducing harm
Safeguarding vulnerable populations, including children and young people
Supporting human rights
Promoting social justice
Supporting participatory democracy
Roadmaps to Regulation: MDMA has two overarching interlinked objectives:
To highlight that the harms associated with MDMA use are predominantly related to its prohibition;
To propose an alternative regulatory model that would reduce the harms associated with criminalising MDMA use and minimise the risks associated with its use more generally.
The report outlines, for the first time, detailed recommendations for drug policy reform in order to better control the production, distribution, purchase, and consumption of MDMA products. Reform, and the ensuing reduction in MDMA-related harms, will not happen overnight. The changes outlined, which culminate in a strictly-regulated, legal market for MDMA, would need to be phased in gradually and closely monitored throughout, in order to ensure that health and social outcomes are properly evaluated.
More about the report is available it the video below
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership and the Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health held this side event to demonstrate police support for the urgent reform of drug policies. The event can be summarised as follows: There is one sector which knows better than any other how badly a prohibitive and punitive approach to the use of illicit drugs has failed – the Police. Police daily see the harmful impact of prohibition law enforcement on individuals and communities, and recurrent failure of the system to help those suffering. But the Police voice is rarely heard in debates about drug policy, despite their first-hand and expert experience.
This was a historic moment: the representatives of the British police and several European countries presented a milestone declaration for the reduction of risks, decriminalisation of drug use and regulation of drugs. Presenting the statement, Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary, clearly emphasized that “Prohibition does not work”.
The two organisations call for an immediate end to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings, the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment and other human rights abuses committed by some governments in the name of the “war on drugs”.
The essence of the statement is that “eliminating this “war on drugs” approach would mean: less drug-related crime; less violence in the community; drastically reduced criminal profits and funds for other criminal activities; reduced prison populations and less pressure on criminal justice systems; less stigma and discrimination; and improved health outcomes for people who use drugs.”
The statement was signed by an international collective of Law Enforcement professionals.