Action. Now. That will make a difference. A position paper in support of a balanced and effective drug policy towards 2019
Member states and civil society organizations from all over the world should use the years leading up to the next milestone in 2019 for one thing: National and local action and policy implementation. We don’t need more words, documents or commissions now.
Action is what is missing.
The UNGASS Outcome Document offers an excellent strategy for a comprehensive, balanced and effective policy to reduce drug use and its related harm – if words are made into action.
Using the next three years for a continued struggle over words will not make any difference for those who suffer from drug use, directly or indirectly. Three years of evidence-based interventions will.
It is not true that everything has been tried and nothing works. Many interventions do work. The problem is that most of them are not used by governments. UNGASS 2016 should be the turning point. Action is also needed to achieve the ambitious targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The signatories to this appeal suggest the following priority areas for action till 2019 and beyond:
Focus on universal prevention: The first component of a comprehensive, balanced and effective drug policy is prevention. The UNODC International Standards on Drug Use Prevention offers a wide range of evidence-based primary prevention interventions. Prevention is effective, humane, cost-effective and empowering. Effective drug prevention will contribute to the reduction also in other social problems. Prevention solves problems before they ever occur.
Mobilize a million communities: Prevention efforts are even more effective when they are combined, when they interact and when they are implemented by local communities. This is where the people are, this is where social interaction takes place. UNGASS should invite local communities all over the world to join in a global wave of prevention. One million communities could be reached before 2019.
Use alternative measures: Several countries have already implemented an array of diversion programs instead of using incarceration or fines as reaction to minor drug offences, including dissuasion commissions, youth contracts, drug courts and rehabilitation programs for drug users. More countries should follow suit. Many of those programs have shown promising results. Experiences should be shared internationally.
Support alternative development: A development approach aimed at improving people’s quality of life is needed in order to mobilize local communities where coca, poppies or cannabis are produced. The most conflict-ridden countries in Latin America and Asia need support from the international community. Donor countries should secure increased funding for alternative development programs in the coming years and see this as a long-term commitment.
Offer treatment and rehabilitation programs: Based on a principle of non-discrimination, all people with drug use disorders must have access to a wide range of knowledge-based treatment approaches, rehabilitation and social reintegration programs. Such services must aim at maximizing the affected individuals’ possibility for recovery, including people around the users.
An action plan for essential medicines: UNODC and WHO should invite member states to develop an action plan for securing access to essential medicines with the aim to show tangible results already before 2019. Such access is one of the key objectives of the UN drug conventions. An action plan must identify unnecessary obstacles and interventions to remove them, as well as secure funding for these interventions.
Implement the principle of proportionality: Reactions to drug related offences must be in proportion to the crime committed. The drug conventions do not demand incarceration for drug users, rather they encourage prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as alternatives. Militarization of law enforcement and other inhumane and disproportionate approaches, including the use of capital punishment for drug-related offences, should be abolished as they are not in accordance with the spirit of UN conventions.
This statement is supported by an alliance of networks covering more than 300 NGOs from all over the world:
Drug Policy Futures European Cities Against Drugs IOGT International
Smart Approaches to Marijuana World Federation Against Drugs
Active – Sobriety, Friendship and Peace Recovered Users Network
EURAD – A network for prevention, treatment and recovery
Actis – Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs