International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy and partners to advocate for human rights based approach to drug policy reform at prestigious Cities Summit of the Americas event

Date: 26 April 2023

City and community leaders from across the Americas will hear how to use the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy to develop more humane, evidence-based and effective approaches to drug policy at the Cities Summit of the Americas (CSOA) in Denver.

Julie Hannah, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy (HRDP) based at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, and Principal Investigator on a range of research grants to develop and implement the Guidelines said: “This event is an opportunity to raise the profile of our pioneering partners across the Americas who have centred human rights and the needs of their communities in their understanding of and response to oppressive, punitive, and harmful drug policies.”

The Cities Summit of the Americas from Wednesday 26 April to Friday 28 April brings together mayors, governors, public officials, alongside civil society leaders to engage in discussion across a range of issues and is sponsored by the United States Department of State.

The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy were developed through a collaboration between academics, governments, UN entities and civil society. The project was co-led by the HRDP  and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Guidelines, which have also just been endorsed by a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution, were co-sponsored by the UNDP, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the World Health Organization.

A discussion of the Guidelines will be at the heart of the Summit session titled Human Rights Close to Home: Local Governance for Sustainable Action on Drugs’. The HRDP has worked alongside partner organisations UNDP and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) to organise and co-sponsor this session.

John Walsh, WOLA Director for Drug Policy and the Andes, said: “Punitive drug prohibition has been a hallmark response to drug control across the Western hemisphere (and beyond) and communities and local leaders are pioneering humane and evidence-based innovations that directly challenge law enforcement led responses to drugs with tremendous impact.

“The Guidelines are a tool that can help communities use the normative power of human rights to innovate new directions for drug policy reform. This is an opportunity for more than 400 mayors and local leaders from the Western hemisphere to hear stories of change from community leaders and activists."

Julie Hannah, added “This is an opportunity to share and disseminate the Guidelines to local leaders and community actors.  This is the first ever Cities Summit and a moment where drug policy reform is a hot button political issue.  We were privileged to be selected amongst a competitive pool of applicants and are the only group selected to focus on drug policy reform. It’s an exciting means to showcase the ways in which our years of research alongside community partners can produce a meaningful impact.”

Speakers taking part in the event include:

 •Lisa Sanchez, México Unido Contra la Delincuencia

 •Ilze Brands Gehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, United Nations

•Pedro Arenas, Viso Mutop, Colombia

•Cat Brooks, Mental Health First, Oakland, USA

•Ernesto Cortés, Latin American and Caribbean Network of People Who Use Drugs, Costa Rica

•Svante Myrick, People for the American Way, and Former Mayor of Ithaca, New York, United States

•Railda Silva, Association of Friends and Families of Incarcerated Persons (AMPARAR), Brazil

 •Mario Moreno, Chief of Staff, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, United States

 The event will be recorded, and a recording is expected to be available after the event.

For more information go to:

 For all media inquiries, contact: 

Julie Hannah, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy   @juliehannah_

 John Walsh, WOLA

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