Guidelines on Drug Control and Human Rights

Less than a year after September 11th 2001, recognising the human rights dimensions involved, the Council of Europe adopted guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism. A special procedure on human rights while countering terrorism has been created at the UN. In 2011, a set of guiding principles on business and human rights were submitted to the Council by John Ruggie, the Special Rapporteur on the issue. Over time, various thematic debates, declarations and guidelines have developed on issues such as indigenous peoples, children, women, climate change, poverty and HIV, among many others. 

In the wake of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, there is growing recognition among UN Member States, UN entities and civil society that the current policy framework to address potential harms related to the use of psychoactive substances has itself caused serious harms and created an environment where human rights abuses are more likely to occur: creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence, and instability; threatening public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalisation of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women, and youth.

Many UN Member States, institutions and experts in health, human rights and drug policy have publicly espoused rights-based approaches to drug policy, but what these statements mean and what concrete commitments should be behind them lacks articulation. 

The United Nations Development Programme and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy are collaborating on efforts to develop international guidelines on drug control and human rights as a tool to help states advance and be accountable for rights-centered drug policies.

This two-year standard-setting research project is currently at the beginning phase, with a stakeholder gathering scheduled in New York during the UNGASS in April 2016.  Currently, this project is supported by the University of Essex's Impact Acceleration Account and the Human Rights Centre Clinic, where a team of postgraduate researchers are undertaking research on human rights standards for rural drug supply reduction strategies.

For more information on the project, please contact Damon Barrett dbarrett@essex.ac.uk or Julie Hannah jhanna@essex.ac.uk