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 marginalization 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 committments 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.
UN human rights mechanisms & drug control
Over the past year, the HRDP has undertaken an analysis of the United Nations human rights mechanisms work on drug policy, to assess the current standards in place and to identify normative gaps requiring further development. A series of briefing papers have been developed to further this project, which have been presented and used by various UN mechanisms in their current thematic work.
This project has been and continues to be generously supported by a team of postgraduate researchers from the Human Rights Centre.
Promoting humane drug policy in Eastern Europe & Central Asia
This exciting new project in partnership with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, and Harm Reduction International, builds on strategic human rights litigation around access to opioid substitution therapy. The European Court of Human Rights is currently reviewing the merits of three cases against Russia where the applicants argue their rights guaranteed under the Convention have been violated as a result of Russia's blanket prohibition of opioid substitution treatment.
Depending upon the outcome from Strasbourg, this judgment could be a powerful advocacy tool for promoting rights-compliant and evidence-based drug policy in the EECA region. The HRDP will be centralising human rights and evidence-based arguments around access to OST, mobilising existing stakeholders to support regional advocacy, developing a regional advocacy plan within the European and international systems, and preparing pre-judgement advocacy materials and interventions.
Stay tuned for more information!
The HRDP and the Essex Human Rights Centre have partnered to deliver postgraduate teaching on human rights and drug policy. Each year postgraduate students at the Human Rights Centre will be offered:
- an intensive 2-day introductory course on human rights and drug policy
- a series of guest speakers to highlight domestic drug policy and human rights concerns
- the chance to engage with a practical drug policy project through the Human Rights Clinic
- the opportunity to enrol in the Essex summer school on human rights and drug policy
HRDP postgraduate teaching on human rights and drug policy is also taking place at the University of Vienna and Gothenburg University School of Social Work, thanks to generous partnerships with both institutions.