Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Think Sensibly... Act Globally

Many thanks to our friends at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union for producing this video!


On March 11-13, 2009 SSDP Executive Director Kris Krane participated in the High Level Segment of the United Nations annual Committee on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna, Austria.

At this meeting, every country in the world was asked to approve a political declaration and action plan that would guide the world’s drug policy for the next ten years. This was the culmination of a yearlong review process that included the first ever global meeting of NGO’s from around the world last summer, in which SSDP was a participant.

While the world’s NGO community unanimously approved a forward thinking set of recommendations, that stressed harm reduction and the fundamental human rights of drug users, the final declaration approved by the United Nations ignored most of these recommendations. Instead, they approved a document that can only be described as “more of the same.”“Harm reduction” refers to common-sense, life-saving programs and policies that don’t rely on an abstinence-only messaging (like contraceptives, but for drugs).

But due to the urging of a number of countries, including the United States, the words “harm reduction” were completely left out of the final declaration. After the unanimous approval of the declaration, a group of 26 countries including Great Britain, Germany, and Australia, made a statement to the United Nations that they would officially interpret the phrase “related support services” in clause 20 to mean “harm reduction.”

This ignited a firestorm of debate on the floor of the UN, with countries standing up to denounce the “group of 26.” Among the countries that chose to publicly denounce harm reduction were Russia, Cuba, Pakistan… and the United States of America.

Over 100 countries chose not to speak in support or opposition to harm reduction, yet the United States willingly chose to align itself with countries that are responsible for some the worst human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of the War on Drugs, rather than staying silent or aligning with America’s traditional allies.

The Obama administration has promised to rebuild America’s traditional alliances, yet they willfully set this process back in order to continue the disastrous global war on drugs and drug users. Clearly, this behavior will not change unless President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton hear a loud message from citizens that global drug policy must be based in science, reason, evidence, and human rights, rather than worn-out ideology and Drug War orthodoxy.

Please take a moment to send a message to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton expressing your outrage at the United States’ behavior at the United Nations last week, and urge them to correct this mistake by joining with our traditional allies in promoting harm reduction practices around the world.

To be fair, despite the U.S. delegation's shameful behavior at the end of the U.N. meeting, their position has progressed from previous years. While the U.S. opposed the term harm reduction, for the first time ever they publicly supported needle exchange programs and methadone treatment at the global level. With some encouragement from citizens like you, we can continue to move the new administration’s position on drug policy forward in the coming years.

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