Zero Discrimination Day

From the UNAIDS brochure

Today, on Zero Discrimination Day, 1 March, we celebrate the right of everyone to live a full and productive life – and live it with dignity. Zero Discrimination Day highlights how people can become informed about and promote tolerance, compassion, peace and, above all, a movement for change. Zero Discrimination Day is helping to create a global movement of solidarity to end all forms of discrimination.

In many countries, laws result in people being treated differently, excluded from essential services or being subject to undue restrictions on how they live their lives, simply because of who they are, what they do or who they love. Such laws are discriminatory – they deny human rights and fundamental freedoms.

People may experience more than one form of discrimination. A person may experience discrimination because of his or her health status and because of his or her race, gender identity or sexual orientation, compounding the effects on the individual and the wider community.

Laws – such as laws on sex work, same-sex sexual relations, the use or possession of drugs for personal use and the non-disclosure, exposure or transmission of HIV – may discriminate by criminalizing conduct or identity.

Other laws may prevent people from accessing benefits or services. Girls may not be allowed to go to school if they are pregnant or women may not be able to access financial services without their husband’s permission. Laws may also impose parental consent for adolescents to access health services or restrict the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV.

In 2020, 35 countries retained the death penalty for drug offences. In at least 67 countries, drug use or consumption and/or possession of drugs for personal use is a criminal offence.

States have a moral and legal obligation – under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights treaties, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international obligations – to remove disscriminatory laws and to enact laws that protect people from discrimination.

Some of the rights that people can use to contest discriminatory laws include the following:

  • The right to equal treatment before the law.
  • The right to an education.
  • The right to economic opportunities.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The right to dignity.
  • The right to health.
  • The right to association.
  • The right to a fair trial.

Everyone has a responsibility to hold states accountable, call for change and contribute to efforts to remove discriminatory laws. The first steps to making a change are to know the law, recognize that laws can discriminate and highlight discriminatory laws to others.

 

Annual Enlargement Review on human hights of LGBTI people

ILGA-Europe (LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia) and our colleagues from the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA), have published their annual Enlargement Review, which outlines the developments in recognising and respecting the human rights of LGBTI people in each enlargement country (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) from January to December 2021.

The annual LGBTI Enlargement Review acts as an LGBTI submission to the Enlargement Progress Reports of the European Commission. These reports are a detailed annual assessment of the state of play in each candidate country and potential candidate country, outlining what has been achieved over the last year and what remains to be achieved.

This year’s Enlargement Review is published in the context of rising Euroscepticism in the enlargement countries, as well as a significant rise of anti-gender, anti-rights and far-right groups across the region. Misinformation and discriminatory speech against LGBTI people has been spread in public discourse via national broadcasting and political processes, leading to the prevention of the development of laws and policies inclusive of LGBTI people. As a result, despite some welcome significant advancements in the preparation and drafting of legislation to protect the human rights of LGBTI people this year, much of this legislation is currently stalled.

The Annual Enlargement Review recognises that the EU accession process has been a strong driving force for change in the recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people in the region, and it encourages this continued commitment by outlining the laws and policies that are still needed to ensure full and genuine protection of the human rights of LGBTI people, and by providing recommendations to each country’s authorities and to the European Union.

At ILGA-Europe, we hope to see the current legislative gaps closed, in particular regarding family rights, legal gender recognition based on self-determination, and the protection of intersex people’s human rights. With the rise in anti-gender, anti-rights and far-right groups, we renew with increased urgency our call on all countries to properly implement their anti-discrimination, hate crime and hate speech legal frameworks.

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

 

Reducing incarceration will reduce harm

The Harm Reduction International published the briefing The Harms of Incarceration: The evidence base and human rights framework for decarceration and harm reduction in prisons. It provides advocates with the evidence base and human rights framework for decarceration and the provision of harm reduction services in prisons.

The document provide evidence that:

  • The first step in reducing harm associated with incarceration is to reduce reliance on incarceration itself.
  • Providing harm reduction is a human rights obligation.
  • Harm reduction services in prisons are an essential, effective and safe public health measure.
  • People in prison are severely underserved by harm reduction services.

The highlights of the briefing inslude:

Over 11 million people are imprisoned worldwide today, the highest number ever recorded. One in five people in prison worldwide is held for drug offences, and 90% of people who inject drugs will be incarcerated at some point in their life. People in prison are at greater risk of HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and COVID-19. When they are released from prison, their risk of overdose increases by up to 69-times.

People in prison retain their human rights, which includes their right to health. By withholding health services such as harm reduction from them, states are violating this right. In some cases, withholding essential services like opioid agonist therapy amounts to torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Health, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Nelson Mandela Rules on the treatment of prisoners all oblige states to provide health services in prisons.

Harm reduction works. Robust evidence shows that harm reduction services reduce transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, reduce risk behaviours, reduce deaths from all causes, and can even reduce chances of people coming back to prison. This is why the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and UN Office on Drugs and Crime all support harm reduction in prisons.

Even though states are obliged to provide the same standard of healthcare inside and outside prisons, when it comes to harm reduction, they do not do so. In nearly a third of countries where opioid agonist therapy is available, people in prison have no access. In 88% of countries where needle and syringe programmes operate, there are none in prisons. Even where services are available in prisons, there are frequently barriers that make them inaccessible in practice.

To read full briefing, follow this link>>>.

 

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.

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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>>>