UN drug statement ‘an embarrassment’, say harm reduction groups

The joint ministerial statement issued at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna represents a capitulation to hardline states, according to Harm Reduction International (HRI) and the STOPAIDS network of organisations.

Governments from around the world were represented at the commission, which aimed to find ways forward in addressing world drug problems. The joint ministerial statement highlighted ‘the importance of health, prevention and treatment, including protection against HIV’, said the UN, with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Yury Fedotov stating that there was a need to strengthen the public health focus and pursue a ‘comprehensive, balanced, scientific, evidence-based approach, fully consistent with human rights standards’.

According to HRI and STOPAIDS, however, the ministerial statement’s failure to endorse harm reduction approaches represented a ‘capitulation’ on the part of progressive governments, with ‘lack of coordination, leadership and transparency from the Home Office, Foreign Office and DFID’ playing into the hands of hardline countries like Russia. The statement failed to acknowledge that the agreed international target of a 50 per cent reduction in HIV among people who inject drugs by 2015 would not be met, it said, and also failed to condemn ‘even the most serious of human rights abuses in relation to drug enforcement’, as no agreement on the death penalty was reached.

‘The document is an embarrassment for any government that adopts it,’ said HRI executive director Rick Lines. ‘The UK and the EU as a group have not been forceful enough and backed down on key issues to preserve the “consensus” in Vienna. We are left looking on in frustration as Russian-led efforts to push for regressive language on HIV win through.’

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker, however, said he was pleased that ‘we have managed to forge a way ahead towards a global consensus on the need for a modern, balanced and evidence-based approach to drugs policy’. He also used the commission to call on other countries to introduce bans on mephedrone, which was banned and regulated as a class B drug in the UK in 2010 (DDN, 26 April 2010, page 4). ‘I would urge all countries to take action against this dangerous drug so together we can protect people and ultimately save lives,’ he said.

Joint ministerial statement at www.unodc.org

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