Since 2016 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human (OHCHR) have partnered with the UNDP, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the International Centre for Human Rights and Drug Policy (HR-DP) of the University of Essex to develop International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy. This event aimed to share the Guidelines and explore the various possibilities for its implementation at the national, regional and international levels.
"We believe that international drug policy needs to be based on the principles of shared responsibility, on multilateralism, on an integrated, balanced and evidence-based approach, on the mainstreaming of development, as well as on respect for human rights, human dignity and international conventions as reflected in the UN Common Position," EU Ambassador Walter Stevens underlined.
The European Union and its Member States have developed together, over the past two decades, a European approach to addressing illegal drugs in a comprehensive way. This approach is enshrined in the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 and it's Action Plan. The objectives of this Strategy are to contribute to the reduction of the drug demand and drug supply, as well as reduce the health and social risks and harms caused by drugs.
"Promoting the UN Common Position on Drug-Related Matters is of utmost importance to reduce supply and demand, protect health and human rights, and contribute to sustainable development, as envisaged in the outcome document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs," emphasized Ambassador Stevens.
Several UN agencies, including the OHCHR and the WHO underlined the strong impact of drug policy on human rights, particularly regarding access to health. They also reminded that 20% of world prisoner were incarcerated for drug related offenses. As Annette Vester, Technical Lead Key population, Global HIV, Hepatitis and STIs Programme, (WHO) mentioned " some countries adopted compulsory detention for drug offenses which is not the same as providing treatment".
Damon Barrett, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, presented the work and idea around the Guidelines, voicing that human rights were the founding principles of this project. Moving away from the traditional supply and reduction approach, this project focuses on a human rights framework that engages with every level of drugs policy.
The panellists argued that these Guidelines should be the baseline of drug regulation. The application of these guidelines have been implemented before but not explicitly; now structured, they can reinforce the analysis, discussion and regulation of drug policies. The discussants also underlined the risks occurred by drug users throughout the world, particularly women.
Finally, in her closing remark, Barbara Schedler Fischer, Head of Human Security Division, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, presented how Switzerland adapted its own drug policy and voiced that if the regulation challenge remained tremendous this initiative was a step forward to a common vision on drug policies.