Date of Meeting: 09 Feb 2016

Meeting Organizer: UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem) - co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Norway and Switzerland

ISJC Staff Present: Robert Docter

Reporter: Robert Docter

Which SDG does this topic cover? 3

Type of meeting: Side event of the general assembly

Brief summary of presentation of information made

  • Opening Remarks centered on the current approach to the drug problem – looking at is as a health issue, and treating it with a health mindset.
  • Mr. Geir O. Pedersen – Norway Representative at the UN
    • There still exist 33 countries that impose the death penalty on drug offenses.
    • Drug sentencing often is disproportionate to other sentencing, and is adverse to people’s ethnicity and race oftentimes.
    • The issue also involves children’s rights, something that needs to be valued in.
    • Rationale/controlled use of medicines along with a medical approach to the drug problem are needed.‚Äč
  • Representative of World Health Organization (WHO)
    • 187,000 drugs related deaths occurred in 2013 where 1/3 had access to drug help resources. Current approach is not working.
    • New element/view has to look at prevention and risk reduction. Following this comes reducing the harms associated from the drugs, and then to communicate information for drug effects and availability of resources. This new approach includes the following examples:
      • Handing out free needles
      • Reduce blood-transmitted diseases
      • Reduce the social stigma
      • Lessen the cases of overdose with education – use of controlled medicines and monitoring
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Representative
    • The following issues are existent and recognized by UNODC:
      1. Drug addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as a public health issue
      2. Punishment for drug problems needs reevaluation – law enforcement needs to focus on the serious issues of drug trafficking and money laundering – usually associated with organized crime.
      3. Harsh sentences of drug abusers are problematic – where drugs are actually quite prevalent in prisons themselves. UNODC urges different actions to those criminally taking drugs. This also involved changing the way women, who are disproportionately and unfairly prosecuted, are charged.
      4. Working with partners in protecting children’s rights.
      5. Legal aid availability - free aid to those in minor drug offenses.
      6. Accessibility of preventative drugs
      7. Working towards new scientific-backed strategies and studies on drugs – new addiction tactics, medical information, recovery services, etc.
  • United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) Representative
    • OHCHR acknowledges and plans to work with the following existent themes in the world drug problem:
      • This is a public health issue – and access to health services is a human right. This includes reduction methods (i.e. opioid substitute), along with the decriminalization of drug offenses.
      • Changing the issues of drug offenses and criminal justice, such as the death penalty. Often these consequences cause the opposite effect on people – worsening their livelihoods and resorting to heavier drug abuse.
      • The emphasis on children’s rights
      • Indigenous peoples – being sensitive to customs and cultures in relation to drugs. Also in providing these people with fair services and health rights.
  • Doctor representative from UNAIDS
    • Proven statistics of the success of treating addiction and drug abuse as a health issue. This includes providing safe needles, opioid substitute, and control/supervision – these are life saving measures. 

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • The Salvation Army has a significant number of rehabilitation services throughout the world. Understanding the issue of addiction as a disease/health issue is important when instilling rehabilitation services. TSA continues with valuable services including ARCs and transitional homes, and look to continue new services and adapting existing ones in accordance to the global/UN response to the world drug problem.
  • Rehabilitation services are sensitive to those still struggling with drug addiction.

Web links for more information

WHO on Substance Abuse
World Health Organization (WHO)
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

Tags: United Nations, SDG3: Good Health and Well-Being