Drug Decriminalisation [e]Course

The International Dug Policy Consortium (IDPC) in partnership with Mainline, Health[e]Foundation and Frontline AIDS designed the Drug Decriminalisation [e]Course to support and equip partners from around the world to advocate for the decriminalisation of drug use and personal possession.

The Course includes seven modules:

  1. Introduction, definitions and support for decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  2. Existing models of decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  3. Making the case for decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  4. Designing decriminalisation – part 1: selecting the model of decriminalisation (Available in English)
  5. Designing decriminalisation – part 2: defining drug possession for personal use (Forthcoming)
  6. Designing decriminalisation – part 3: sanctions and intrusiveness (Forthcoming)
  7. The ‘gold standard’ for decriminalisation (Forthcoming)

Ahead of the December break, I share the good news that Module 4 was presented. It is the first of three modules delving into the complex and important challenge of designing decriminalisation models, addressing key issues such as the model’s normative basis and key decision-makers.

This e-course was designed to strengthen our movement’s capacity to advance effective and full decriminalisation and is entirely free.

To register and access the course click here>>>.

 

On International Human Rights Day, UN drugs body silences UN human rights expert on ground-breaking report

From the IDPC and Harm Reduction International press release

In an unprecedented, last-minute decision, the lead UN drugs body has blocked the presentation of a report from a group of independent human rights experts that calls out governments for serious human rights abuses committed in the war on drugs.

The UN’s lead drug policy-making body has slammed the door on human rights expert Dr Elina Steinerte, Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who was due to present a watershed study on how drug control policies drive an epidemic of arbitrary detention across the world. She has been blocked from addressing the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs today, 10th December, which is coincidentally International Human Rights Day, and her statement has been merely published online. This last-minute decision, which led to a contentious exchange during the session, was reached through an opaque, closed-door process that kept the human rights experts in the dark about their exclusion until today.

The report sheds light on the arrest and incarceration of millions of people around the world for drug-related offences, including for drug use. People who use drugs are also routinely held against their will in so-called ‘rehab centres’, where they are often subject to degrading and inhumane treatment, including forced labour. With today’s decision, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs stands in defiance of the Human Rights Council – the main UN human rights body – which had asked human rights experts to produce the very same report that now has been stonewalled.

The move to block the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s presentation is particularly galling, given that it is happening on International Human Rights Day 2021, held under the themes of equality and non-discrimination. From stop and search practices to mass incarceration or the death penalty, evidence shows that repressive drug policies disproportionately target oppressed and marginalised people across the world, including racialised groups, Indigenous people, people living in poverty, women, and  LGBTQI+ people.

Workshop on civil society advocacy

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) organised an on-site Workshop on civil society advocacy from 23th to 24th November in Madrid, with the support from UNAD, International Drug Policy Consortium, Rights Reporter and AFEW.

Since advocacy is an important tool for civil society members to achieve their main goal of influencing public policies, this training workshop brought together representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the field of drugs in order to improve their capacities in formulating, implementing and evaluating advocacy actions.

Several participants came from the DPNSEE member organisations. The participants’ profile was:

  • Civil society representatives and service providers in the field of drug use and drug demand reduction which have their main base of operation in an EU member state, EEA, acceding, candidate or potential candidate country(*). They are members of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs or related to one the members’ networks.
  • Highly motivated to improve their capacities in the area of advocacy and will be able to implement and share gained knowledge and information within their organisation.

The workshop was an interactive training with open space to intervene and to create new tools for advocacy in a hostile environment. Excellent presentations were delivered by Peter Sarosi and Marie Nougier.

Turning the tide

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.

To read the briefing paper, follow this link>>>.

Innovation and resilience in times of crisis

From the IDPC website

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting governments around the globe to declare a state of emergency and/or implement a wide variety of policies and programmes in order to curb outbreaks, minimise mortality rates, and maintain public safety and order. These include, but are not limited to, different forms of travel and/or movement restrictions (such as lockdowns and quarantine), closure of premises deemed non-essential, and restrictions on gatherings and/or events. Such measures have caused significant changes in public life, public services, governance, democracy and policymaking processes around the world – as well as having serious short- and long-term economic implications.

One additional impact of these measures is the disruption of various channels and dynamics of advocacy conducted by civil society organisations. Prior to the global pandemic, civil society organisations were already facing increasing constraints and shrinking space for advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this downward trend of intensifying repression, in some cases combined with various forms of disinformation, abuse of power and violence. Meanwhile, some civil society actors have been pushed to adapt their ways of working while remaining resilient as they face impacts such as increased workload and/or pressure (amid having less in-person interactions, working from home, and growing demand for services), uncertainty around financial and organisational sustainability, and health concerns, among others.

Aiming to better understand and support the network to respond to these emerging challenges, especially with regard to advocacy for drug policy reform centred on human rights and public health, the IDPC Secretariat initiated a process of documenting and analysing the experiences of civil society and governmental actors working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result of this process is report “Innovation and resilience in times of crisis – Civil society advocacy for drug policy reform under the COVID-19 pandemic” available following this link>>>.

 

Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy

From the IDPC press release

Today, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) released a new report Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy – An evaluation of UNGASS implementation revealing the widening chasm between UN commitments on health and human rights, and the devastation brought about by punitive drug policies on the ground.

As the annual meeting of the UN CND opens with a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the legal foundation of the international drug control regime, IDPC’s report shows that there is little cause for celebration. Using wide-ranging data from UN, academic and civil society sources, the report illustrates the horrific human toll of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 585,000 preventable drug use related deaths were recorded in 2017, the highest figure on record.
  • A staggering 2.5 million people worldwide are in prison for a drug offence, of which at least 475,000 are incarcerated for personal drug use only. Hundreds of thousands more are detained against their will in forced ‘treatment’.
  • From ‘stop and search’ and mass incarceration to the death penalty, drug law enforcement disproportionately targets women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other marginalised communities, fuelling poverty and inequality.
  • Globally, only 1 in 8 people living with drug dependence have access to treatment, while the availability of life-saving harm reduction services is severely restricted.
  • Subsistence farmers of crops like cannabis or coca leaf continue to be subject to violent forced eradication campaigns that deprive them and their families of their livelihoods.
  • 5 billion people worldwide live with limited or no access to pain relief and palliative care due to repressive drug laws.

 

April 2021 also marks the 5th anniversary of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, where all countries in the world committed to adopt a public health, rights-based, and development-oriented approach to drug policy. By comparing these commitments with evidence from the ground, the new IDPC report reveals a widening gap between rhetoric and reality.

The 60th anniversary of the global drug regime gives us little cause for celebration’ said Ann Fordham, Executive Director at IDPC. ‘In the past five years, some progress has been made, as countries moved to adopt welcome initiatives on the decriminalisation of people who use drugs, and the legal regulation of cannabis. However, in most parts of the world, governments remain wedded to draconian policies that have had a catastrophic impact on communities, and have resoundingly failed in their stated purpose of eradicating drug markets, or reducing illegal drug use.

Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at IDPC, said: ‘With this report, we wanted to give a voice to those most affected by punitive drug policies. What communities tell us through our research is that they continue to face criminalisation, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, acts of torture and ill-treatment, stigma and discrimination, and are systematically denied access to life-saving health services. We cannot wait for another 60 years to align drug policies with health, human rights and development.

The report is available following this link>>>.

 

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>>>.

 

A New EU Drug Strategy is Being Prepared by the German Presidency

The 2021-25 EU Drugs Agenda recently published by the European Commission was criticised by civil society and member states. We have already posted comments from Péter Sárosi, the executive director of the Rights Reporter Foundation and an article about the sign-on letter of the International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) members, raising our very serious concerns regarding the new 2021-25 EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) also criticised the Agenda in its position paper for its stigmatising language and framework, lack of balanced approach, reduced role for harm reduction, decreased relevance of human rights and several other reasons.

Member States did not accept the new EU Drugs Agenda proposed by the EU Commission. The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) decided that a new EU strategy will be prepared by the German presidency.

To read more about the positions of the CSFD, follow this link>>> to the article on the Rights Reporter Foundation website.

 

Open letter on the proposed EU Drugs Agenda

A sign-on letter of the International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) members, raising our very serious concerns regarding the new EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs, recently published by the European Commission was prepared and sent to the German presidency of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs.

We have serious concerns regarding both the process for its development as well as with the substance of the document and urge the German Presidency to propose to the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) that this draft cannot be accepted, and to outline an appropriate and inclusive strategic development process for the next EU drugs strategy.

The new EU Agenda proposes a drastic and negative change in EU drug policies that could also end up impacting funding priorities and national policies.

  • It puts a disproportionate focus on supply control,
  • It deprioritises public health and harm reduction,
  • It reduces the role of civil society and people who use drugs
  • And it risks weakening EU support for balanced, evidence-based, and rights-compliant drug policies in global drug debates.

The 2021-25 EU Drugs Agenda appears to be the result of a hasty, opaque and non-participatory policy-making process, and represents a drastic departure from agreed EU policies. It also comes within a deeply troubling stigmatising frame, as it was published in a press release together with EU strategies on child abuse and firearm trafficking.

The key flaws in the draft Agenda we identified include:

  • Losing the balanced approach
  • Deprioritising human rights and public health
  • Dropping support for key international documents
  • Reducing the space for civil society and people who use drugs
  • Weakening the external dimensions of drug policy
  • Deprioritising scientific evidence
  • A stigmatising document

The letter has now been sent to Germany as the Council Presidency, inviting them to take political leadership and encourage the HDG to reject the draft proposed by the European Commission.

An advocacy campaign follows. The first event is the meeting of EU Member States on Wednesday 9 September 2020! We encourage you to share the letter with your government contacts, so that they are aware of our concerns ahead of this important meeting.

The letter is available following this link>>>. Don’t hesitate to distribute it freely.

 

COVID-19 Stories of Substance

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, being connected, joint strategising and sharing stories from the ground is as critical as ever as we collectively work to protect human rights, ensure the health and well-being of the communities most affected by the war on drugs, and end repression and punishment as instruments of drug control.

The IDPC Secretariat have been continuing to seek ways to better support information sharing and lessons learned from across the network as we face the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the responses governments are taking. In April, they launched a survey for their members (in English, Spanish, French and Thai) to capture this information. The survey remains open indefinitely for responses and previous entries can also be added to with new information. IDPC are now ready to begin sharing some of the rich information that has been provided by their members and others in the form of a new short fortnightly newsletter.

Each COVID-19 Stories of Substance newsletter will feature a couple of relevant stories and lessons shared by people who have responded to IDPC dedicated survey on COVID-19. It will also include a curated list of news and updates every two weeks, with a specific focus on the COVID19 pandemic and its various impacts on the drug market, drug policy and related advocacy, harm reduction services, community-led mobilisation/movement, funding opportunities, and many more. IDPC will also flag upcoming online events of interest, and provide links to access recordings of recent ones.

To receive this newsletter please sign up here>>>.