Drug policy and human rights

In programme
Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 - 15:00 to 16:30
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According to the UN Drug Conventions, the primary concern of the drug control system is the “health and welfare of humankind” (Preamble of the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs). And the right to the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right recognised in a wide variety of international treaties. Although in the last years the public discourse increasingly treats drug use as a public health issue, yet we should further integrate human rights implications in the international drugs policy in a clear and undeniable way, bringing human rights to the forefront of drug policy.

In this sense, one of the key achievements of UNGASS 2016 was the recognition of the need to rebalance drug policies towards a more human rights and public health based approach. The inclusion of a chapter on human rights in the outcome document of UNGASS opened an opportunity and encourages human rights mechanisms to play a much more assertive role in drug control issues. Its recommendations must be implemented at the national level and consolidated in future discussions on international drugs policy.

Human rights are universal and their protection and promotion should be extended to all individuals, including those who use drugs and those who commit drug related offences.

Being drug use a public health issue and drug dependence a multi-factorial health disorder condition, which need to be treated and not punished, we should therefore advance for human rights based drug policies, contributing to fostering a global movement for health as an issue of fundamental human rights.

In short, drug policies should be strongly grounded in human rights principles to secure that drug control efforts are effectively designed to protect people and thus promoting the health and the welfare of human kind.

The Portuguese approach on drugs has been considered a model of best practices, due to the fact that it encompasses a model of decriminalisation as part of a broader approach designed to deter drug use and promote measures directed to public health concerns, with social benefits to all involved.

And by that Portugal was able to integrate human rights implications in their policy, which is established firmly in that area where the rules of the international drug control system and international human rights obligations intersect each other in the most balanced and compatible way.

In this way, Portugal has been fully supporting the idea of developing human rights compliant drug policies. In January 2019, Portugal took over the Presidency of the Pompidou Group. As Presidency, under the motto “Towards sustainable drug policies respectful of human rights “, Portugal is committed to pursue the important role of the Pompidou Group, assuring that all policy areas must comply with human rights, and thus bringing human rights into our drug policy dialogue.

Structured Session Outline

This Symposium aims to reflect on the intersections between drug policy and human rights, highlighting that drug policies have a tremendous impact upon the enjoyment of, respect for, protection of and promotion of human rights, and thus contributing to the understanding that human rights should be recognized as a core element of comprehensive approach to address the world drug problem.