21st July 2014 – International Remembrance Day

NO MORE DEATHS IN THE NAME OF PROHIBITION 

INPUD Statement for Remembrance Day 2014

Click here for the entire document in PDF Form.

RemembranceDay2014 poster for free use.

The INPUD Statement for International Remembrance Day 2014 now has Russian/русский  and French/français translations and links (see below).

 

 

 

“I would like to meet with Theresa May, Norman Baker [a UK home office minister] and Yvette Cooper [the UK shadow home secretary] to start a sensible dialogue for change, from prohibition to strict and responsible regulation of recreational drugs.”
Anne-Marie Cockburn – mother of Martha Fernback

Anne-Marie Cockburn’s fifteen year old daughter, Martha, died in the UK in June this year after taking particularly pure ecstasy. Instead of calling for a ratcheting up of failed drug war policies, she called instead for “‘sensible’ political debate on legalising recreational drugs”. Like so many others, she realized that the single greatest cause of so called ‘drug related harm’ is prohibition and the criminalization of people who use illegal drugs.

International Remembrance Day was founded in Germany seventeen years ago by parents who had suffered a similar loss, when their son, an injecting drug user died of an accidental overdose. In response they launched a call for humane drug policies, for comprehensive access to harm reduction programs (including heroin prescription), and saw their son’s death not as an isolated incident but as a direct result of the systemic stigma, repression, and criminalization to which people who use drugs are subject. Ever since, drug user organisations and their supporters in cities across the world will be holding events to remember lost friends and loved ones, to honour their memory and to call for an end to the systemic war that is being waged upon our community.

On this International Remembrance Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs, underlines the pointless deaths caused by the war on drugs and underlines the immense damage that it does to our communities and families. On this day we mourn and remember our lost friends, and recommit ourselves to ensuring that fundamental change comes.

According to the report issued by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law in 2012 “[i]ntentionally or not, “wars on drugs” are wars on people who use drugs, and these people face police harassment, violence and incarceration; discrimination in health care, housing, employment and schooling; and political disenfranchisement”. There can be no doubt that fifty years since the passage of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and forty years since US President Richard Nixon declared his “war on drugs” that the single greatest burden of this war, fought in the name of morality, and supposedly, in the name of health, that this approach to addressing illicit drug use is an unmitigated disaster by every conceivable standard.

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law concluded by calling for countries to take “decisive action, in partnership with the UN, to review and reform relevant international laws and bodies […] including the UN international drug control conventions […] and the International Narcotics Control Board”. In spite of this far ranging, damning recommendation that skewers global prohibition as an absolute catastrophe for the rights, health, and citizenship of some of the world’s most marginalized people, why are we still seeing an absolute failure to act?

There can be no doubt that global prohibition, and the criminalisation that it entails, is the principal driver of human rights violations suffered by people who are criminalised and stigmatised for their drug use. There can be no doubt that criminalisation is the single most efficient producer of HIV and hepatitis C transmission amongst people who inject drugs, and lies behind our systemic exclusion from access to health care services.

The conclusion that “criminalization of drug use, restrictive drug policies and aggressive law enforcement practices are key drivers of HIV and hepatitis C epidemics among people who inject drugs” reached by the Consensus Statement “Science addressing drugs and HIV: State of the Art” presented at the High Level Segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March of this year is borne out by all evidence. You cannot end HIV, HCV, or mass incarceration without ending the war on people who use drugs.

Why then, in spite of this abundance of evidence is the world locked into a system in which human rights violations, stigma, discrimination, isolation, HIV and hepatitis C are the norm for people who use drugs?

REMEMBER FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES LOST TO PROHIBITION.
DEMAND AN END TO DRUG WAR DEATHS.
SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES

The INPUD Statement for International Remembrance Day 2014 now has Russian/русский  and French/français translations and links (see below).

There is also a Facebook post which can easily be shared if you would like to do so:https://www.facebook.com/notes/inpud/inpud-statement-for-international-remembrance-day-21st-july-2014/702127876491356

Download the statement and poster:
English: www.inpud.net/INPUD_Statement_for_International_Remembrance_Day_21.7.14.pdf andwww.inpud.net/RemembranceDay2014_poster.pdf
русский: www.inpud.net/INPUD_pyc_Statement_for_International_Remembrance_Day_21.7.14.pdf
Français: www.inpud.net/INPUD_Declaration_pour_la_Journee_international_de_commemoration_21Juillet2014.pdf and www.inpud.net/JOURNEE_EN_MEMOIRE_2014.pdf

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To those who lost their lives in the Malaysian Airlines crash

Sunflower Field

Remembering those who died and our friends and colleagues enroute to the World AIDS Conference

INPUD sends its deepest condolences to all of those lost in the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine, yet another tragic consequence of Russia’s war on the country. That so many on the plane were en route to the International Aids conference makes the tragedy even more acute to us. Amongst the dead were Martine de Schutter, manager of the Bridging the Gaps – health and rights for key populations programme of which INPUD and the other global key population networks are a part. We send love and condolences to the family, loved ones, colleagues, and friends of all those lost in this appalling act of violence.

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Eliminating drug using women from the ultimate elimination statement!

Many of you have heard of places like Project Prevention in the USA, where women who use drugs are paid around $300 in cash to be sterilized, (far lesser amounts for choosing ordinary contraception) and we also know of women using drug’s being encouraged, cajoled, harassed, threatened and bullied into having abortions simply because of their drug use  – which can even be instigated or supported by various government agencies in some jurisdictions and institutions around the globe. The USA, Australia and Sweden are just a few of the more shiny but shameful  examples…..

Strong Women

A great picture from a feminist blog with some great imagery and text. Click for more info

So it was great to see this statement has been released below, BUT on reading through, it identifies population groups most affected, but then fails to mention women who use drugs?  How very disappointing! Please see below -
Regards,
Ruth Birgin from WHRIN (Women’s Harm Reduction International Network) – The address for the listserve and how to become a member of both WHRIN and INWUD (International Network of Women who Use Drugs will be appearing very shortly, so please check back)
NOTE: Thanks so much for this Ruth, in fact Project Prevention and its’ sister groups are so abhorrent and such is the extended, even open use and abuse of this tactic against women who use drugs, that to not find anything about this group within this document was nothing short of incredibly disappointing. Especially as it proclaims to be a concise inter agency document of some repute; alliances with OHCHR, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO all worked on this publication. Grounded in ‘scientific evidence and drawing on lessons learnt from historical and contemporary practices’, this document is clearly carefully ‘anchored in international human rights norms and standards.’
So make no mistake, this is much needed piece of kit. It is in itself a new tool, a hammer blow that comes crashing down on any of the enforced sterilization ‘grey areas’ that exist in so many misogynistic and controlling, societies and communities and clearly states where the global face stands on these issues. As I said, much needed ammunition. The document also highlights much needed guiding principles for the prevention and elimination of coercive sterilization and also provides us with “recommendations for legal, policy and service-delivery actions”.
Yet, despite all this good stuff, it remains somewhat disappointing underneath because, while openly acknowledging disabled persons/women and girls, women living with HIV, ethnic and minority girls and women and transgender and intersex persons as the examples of persons most affected by such abhorrent practices of coerced/coercive sterilization, they left out us…
A glaring omission many would say as across the world women who use drugs are coerced, bullied, cajoled, abused, hit and harassed into not only sterilization, but enforced abortions, adoptions, fostering, and pre and post natal discrimination so intense that some women won’t even go to hospital to deliver their babies for fear of what may happen. (Project Prevention is  a project that is globally supported and growing and funded by hundreds of thousands of American dollars).
Just two days ago in full view of the media,  a Tennessee woman is the first to be charged under yet another harmful state law that specifically makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant, calling it “assault.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is actively seeking to challenge the law, which they describe as raising “serious constitutional concerns regarding equal treatment under the law.”

Another law busting women who use drugs for having children. Coercive, enforced? Harmful discrimination? Judicial management of a woman’s right over her own body and that of being able to keep her child?

All this and more must signal work ahead for women’s rights and the urgent need to find entry points for changing our systems – work for us and many of us all to do.  This is why dear readers, when such a document as this global, respectable inter-agency one on enforced sterilization omits women who use drugs, it sets us back a few hard years unnecessarily. A few paragraphs acknowledging the reproductive reality for women who use drugs, on the streets, in rehabs, in boot-camps, in prisons, in misogynistic communities, and a few clear statements underlining our right to reproductive freedom, could be an even more unique and useful tool for us.
Because while we are essentially criminalized as illicit drug users, and then ignored or forgotten about (?) in important documents such as this one on such a crucial life subject as enforced sterilization, we will always be confronted with a smirk and a kind of ‘get out clause’ that governments and institutions can use to ignore or slip away from our attempts to challenge them on our own varied episodes of enforced sterilization, etc.
Thank you for spotting this Ruth from WHRIN. Contact them for further discussion on their forum and/or become a member. 
The document……

UN organizations call for an end to forced, coercive and involuntary sterilization

(Note: Yay UN! But…You forgot something essential dintcha?…..Erin)

Date: 18 June 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO), along with OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women, have issued a statement on Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization”. It reaffirms that sterilization as a method of contraception and family planning should be available, accessible to all, of good quality and free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
Sterilization is one of the most widely used forms of contraception in the world and, when performed according to appropriate standards, is an important option for individuals and couples to control their fertility. However, in some countries, people belonging to certain population groups, including people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, indigenous people’s and ethnic minorities, and transgender and intersex persons, continue to be sterilized without their full, free and informed consent. While both men and women are subject to such practices, women and girls continue to be disproportionately impacted.
The inter-agency statement highlights guiding principles for the prevention and elimination of coercive sterilization, and provides recommendations for legal, policy and service-delivery actions to ensure that the provision of procedures resulting in sterilization is based on the full, free and informed decision-making of the person concerned.
The document itself can be found here: Click here
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Now I did say I’d report back on our excursion into Iboga Nights…

Iboga Nights trailer from John Archer on Vimeo.

Last night, DG and I (see blog below for part one) cruised down to Russell Square in the centre of London, to see his own newly released documentary appear at London’s annual ‘Open City Docs Fest’. Now as I mentioned before, this is no ordinary documentary, by just any ordinary documentary film maker. David eats, sleeps and lives his films and this one was no different.

Iboga Nights, a film that is essentially a sequel to  a previous production filmed some ten years back for the BBC. His first foray into the sometimes bizarre but always intriguing world of ibogaine left him and his many thousands of fans and followers wanting more. It left David with many thousands of pleading, questioning and interrogating correspondence from people across the globe, needing answers to the many questions his film opened up.

Lasts night’s event was an intimate viewing of a film that gripped the attending audience. A Q and A session after the film gave people an opportunity to ask David about the three year project and the characters who took part in the film. Mostly however, people wanted to know what everyone wants to know about Ibogaine; its efficacy as a detoxification agent.

However, it was really interesting to witness most people in the audience being stunned into silence. Such was the effect of the highly contentious subject material and the many parts of the film that were not just highly gripping but were often very hard to watch, it left one feeling they had been on a journey to somewhere they didn’t know existed.

I will review the film after this blog entry but for now, as I have David sitting here in my garden, feeling slightly smug after just discovering his film had been shortlisted for best film out of 900 entries.

Not bad for an old junkie who suffered sidelining in the industry due to his former drug habit.

Over to you David….

” Three years of solid work and research went into the making of this film. I believe that working as a one man band as camera man and director lends a certain to Iboga Nights. I get deeply involved with the characters in the film and I hope this comes across to the viewer. Despite the fact that my voice guides or narrates the film, I feel it never overwhelms the true voice of those taking part in the film. This was essential because the film follows the subjects through one of the most intently personal and often extremely harrowing experiences of their lives. These fascinating individuals who gave me their time and let me into their lives, allowing me to film their most private moments, is what lent a real gravitas to the confusing ibogaine debate.”

David will write his own blog here to talk about how he went about making such a film including crowd-funding through social media in order to finance the film.

Thanks to the very talented David Graham Scott and a special thanks too, to those incredible and courageous drug users who, through their stories and lives laid bare, allow us all a deeper insight into Iboga.

AND GUESS WHAT???!!!! The winner of the Best UK Film Award category in the OPEN CITY DOCS FEST was Iboga Nights, directed by David Graham Scott. Giving the award, the jury said,
“With its spare yet telling portraits of people with desperate addictions, this compelling film brings the audience close to a very important issue.” The jury was also impressed by the strong personal mission of this fearlessly honest filmmaker. YAY David!!!!!

Erin and David.

David’s Vimeo page (where you can see part one to David’s Iboga film)

And a special article written by VICE magazine, interviewing David for more information

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An Evening with Iboga Nights

Well! Quite a festive evening occurring tonight folks!

The rumble from the jungle of deepest Africa, is tonite in film form. Iboga (the root behind the detox drug ibogaine) has woven its historic storyline year by year, day by enlightening day, into a new documentary  called Iboga Nights.

Ten years prior, the director and narrator of the film David Graham Scott, filmed what could be called part one of the Ibogaine story, Detox or Die (yes, we know it’s a rather dramatic title but it’s a really interesting film), and you can watch as David himself undergoes a real methadone detox on ibogaine, with a guide overseeing his journey.

Tonight, David has invited me to see the sequel, Iboga Nights. Filmed over three years, the film follows several drug users as they undergo ibogaine detoxes while David takes us on a journey to find the answers to the questions ibogaine and its ‘aura’ or scientific reasonings, had left him ruminating on during the last decade.

So, sitting here in my flat, dressed up with somewhere to go (for a change!) I have asked David Graham Scott what he thinks people will make of the film? After all, the audience will be participants in a documentary film festival in central London, people who may, or may not be, miles away from his subject material.

David says paces around my living trying to find the right words.

” Hmm, well, love it or hate it people are probably going to have a strong opinion of this film”.

We will report back, I will try and get David to write a few words himself, but for now, we have got to get our shoes on and grab our coats, and head to the city to see Iboga Nights tonight!

 

 

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INPUD’s New Page! Dates for your activists calender…

Hi readers,

These are a collection of dates in the months that re occur virtually every year. We have flagged up these days because they are some of, if not the most, important dates in the drug user activists calender. Some are INPUD’s special or preferred events, (there is a handful we try and pay special attention every year) and some are important reoccurring conferences, but all of them are days when we come together as activists and peers and talk, network, present, protest, peform etc.

International Women's Day

A Day like International Womens Day could be a great opportunity to share experiences with political, lobbying feminists while they get to understand women who use drugs can speak for themselves, and they ave a lot to say on a range of issues!

 Please click here for our page of relevent events for your activist calendar and check back as it grows. We will certainly inform you when and where INPUD is directly involved, usually through our blog updates or twitter feeds.

If you want something especially mentioned, please email us your event – via INPUD or in the comment box below. It would need to be of interest to the regional or international activist community and to occur every year or two, or three.

(If it is a national date or event the best method may be for you to raise your own written blog, flagging it up and providing details that we can publish about a month or two before it happens. However, if it is regional or global, and relevant to the drug users cause, we should be able to put it here. Let people know what’s happening in your country and region and help to support, lobby and publicize each others work and cause. And of course, don’t forget to send us pictures and text about the amazing day of protest you had or what you learnt or presented at an interesting conference. We would love to hear from you!

For the calender, click here or title bar at top of page.

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Every Graph, Stat and Data Point You Need For Research on U.S. Mass Incarceration

Erin:

For the last 30 years, there have been clear regional differences in states’ use of the prison, with the southern states relying on the prison the most often.

For the last 30 years, there have been clear regional differences in states’ use of the prison, with the southern states relying on the prison the most often.

Well worth knowing about friends…(link and all the text on the article below is from the Prison Photography Blog which featured this critical but nightmarish information coming out from the USA’s Prison Policy Initiative.

A huge thank you for all the massive amount of hard and often thankless work for delving into violations occurring against those in prison in the USA. In particular to Peter WagnerLeah Sakala and all the PPI staff as well as those as Prison Photography’s blog.

Incarceration Rates in the USA

The small, independent and incredibly effective Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has delivered us a great service once more.

Not content with *only* filing lawsuits, pressing states to move away from Prison Based Election Gerrymandering; battling corrupt and expensive jail phone systems; and protecting prisoners’ rights to communicate unhindered by letter, PPI is committed to providing fellow prison reformers with accurate up-to-date data on mass incarceration. We cannot rely on the government to provide recent data.

“Until 2006, researchers, advocates, and policymakers could rely on state-level race and ethnicity incarceration rate data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisons and Jails at Midyear” series. Unfortunately, these state-level statistics have not been updated in eight years,” says PPI.

“Until 2006, researchers, advocates, and policymakers could rely on state-level race and ethnicity incarceration rate data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisons and Jails at Midyear” series. Unfortunately, these state-level statistics have not been updated in eight years,” says PPI.

4a

PPI has used data from the more recent 2010 U.S. Census counts to measure each state’s incarceration rates by race and ethnicity. Most (57%) people incarcerated in the United States have been convicted of violating state law and are imprisoned in a state prison. Monitoring trends at the state-level is imperative.

“State-level policy choices have been the largest driver of our unprecedented national experiment with mass incarceration,” says PPI. “Each state is responsible for making its own policy choices about which people to lock up and how for long. We can’t end our nation’s experiment with mass incarceration without grappling with the wide variety of state-level criminal justice policies, practices and trends.”

As such, PPI published yesterday the most comprehensive breakdown of demographics in our state prison systems to date. In three distinct sections:

Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity

Tracking State Prison Growth in 50 States

50 State Incarceration Profiles

In total, PPI has published 316 new charts, graphs and maps for an accurate view of our shameful, expensive and failed recent history of imprisonment.

Kudos to Peter WagnerLeah Sakala and all the PPI staff.

Originally posted on Prison Photography:

regional_rates_1978-2010

For the last 30 years, there have been clear regional differences in states’ use of the prison, with the southern states relying on the prison the most often. (See larger.)

The small, independent and incredibly effective Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has delivered us a great service once more.

Not content with *only* filing lawsuits, pressing states to move away from Prison Based Election Gerrymandering; battling corrupt and expensive jail phone systems; and protecting prisoners’ rights to communicate unhindered by letter, PPI is committed to providing fellow prison reformers with accurate up-to-date data on mass incarceration. We cannot rely on the governmet to provide recent data.

“Until 2006, researchers, advocates, and policymakers could rely on state-level race and ethnicity incarceration rate data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisons and Jails at Midyear” series. Unfortunately, these state-level statistics have not been updated in eight years,” says PPI.

View original 195 more words

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A neat analysis of the mood and motivations at this year’s CND

Just thought I would add a rather succinct analysis of the recent High Level Sessions at the Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND). It is by Kasia Malinowska – Sepruch, a blogger for the Huff Post – and dear readers, director of global policy at the Global Fund (so she sure knows her stuff) and it gives a rather good take, methinks, on the proceedings and the direction the world is slowly travelling when it comes to drug analysis and policy implementation. I have just emailed  couple of people who were at the event in Vienna this March to get a few insights from the drug user and harm reduction fields, including our own Executive Director from INPUD and who spoke at the Civil Society Informal Hearings. You can see a copy of the speech further below in the previous blog, made on behalf on INPUD and its’ members. So, I will add there reply shortly along with the final Political Declaration all member states signed up too as a guideline for the next decade. Importantly, as is mentioned in both this article and the one I wrote before it, ember states are collating their thoughts and recommendations for the big United Nations  meeting in 2016 where drugs will be on the agenda. We will be there with bells on friends, you better believe it! Over to Kasia…

The original article can be seen here in its entirety.

Drug Policy Reform is Breaking Through at an International Level

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch

Change is in the air … But the pace could be quickened a bit.

While the international policymaking body on drugs has long been stuck in neutral, there are signs that alternative voices are finally breaking through. This year’s UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs featured some progress though its modest advances are only remarkable by comparison to a dismal past.

The first time I attended the CND was in 2003. I had just come in from Thailand where there were horrifying reports of extrajudicial killings being committed in the name of the government’s “war on drugs.”

Human Rights Watch later wrote: ‘the government crackdown has resulted in the unexplained killing of more than 2,000 persons, the arbitrary arrest or blacklisting of several thousand more, and the endorsement of extreme violence by government officials at the highest levels.’

But these events never elicited a single breath at CND.

Even as the then-United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, expressed “deep concern” over these reports, nothing was said at the CND in Vienna.

Instead the gathering consisted of consecutive days of government boasts on how well they are attacking the supply and demand of illicit drugs.

At the time, I was gobsmacked by the tone of the debate.

In my experience at the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on AIDS, just two years earlier, we did not encounter the level of bias nor reverence for a regime as we did in drug policy discussions. Statements made by national delegations at the CND, however, typically revealed a chilling lack of knowledge on drugs and international standards. Worst of all, these assertions went unchallenged.

Who, after all, was there to hold them to account?

In 2003, the international drug control debate took place inside a state-centric vacuum. There was an absence of alternative voices and contempt for any view that did not conform to a single-minded obsession with abstinence from use of any drug (even those offered by physicians to treat dependencies).

Hence some international bodies lodged withering criticism against safe consumption facilities and even methadone, now an essential medicine of the WHO.

Ten years later, while many governments hold firm to the same old failed policies, there is a shift in the uniformity of the debate.

More governments are breaking from the pack and express concern that the system is not succeeding. Forward-looking governments are standing up and demanding that we count the costs of current policies.

And, in a willfully unresponsive environment, civil society organizations are fighting to have their voices heard.

In 2003, when Open Society Foundations organized its first side event at the CND, there was barely any vocal support for alternative policies or even criticism of obvious failures.

We now see dozens of organizations representing a variety of viewpoints.

Reform-minded NGOs are taking an active role (if mostly on the margins), and while they certainly are not welcomed by all, some governments are keen on including them in the international policymaking process.

In 2003, this gathering of governments was shrouded in opacity that made it secretive in fact, if not by design. Now civil society groups energetically live-tweet during discussions and an online web journal, CND Blog, updates regularly throughout the week.

The sad fact is that the process is still far from perfect.

The CND is a self-congratulatory remnant of the old UN. Many of its members seem stuck on the drug war rhetoric of the 1999s. It remains too buffered from external realities and the pace of change does not match the urgency. It is certainly too slow for the millions in jails and prisons, the hundreds of thousands arbitrarily detained and the many millions more suffering from entirely preventable health crises.

Beyond the immediate emergencies there is also an additional danger to international political sluggishness.

Change is happening. Alternative models are being introduced and leaders are demanding an international debate.

This year, the Organization of American States will make drug policy a key feature of its General Assembly. And the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016 which will (we hope) trace the first steps toward a new international approach to drugs.

While the roles are still being defined, there will likely be some function for the CND in this process. And it is certainly troubling that this body seems so woefully out of touch when it is needed most.

Unless, CND gets with the times, we will have a 2016 debate in an institution stuck in the 1990s.

Thanks Kasia, fabulous article.

The original article can be seen here in its entirety.

Final Publications to look at.

Commission on Narcotic Drugs , Fifty-seventh session  Vienna, 13-21 March 2014

 

This page from the UNODC will show you the links too a few of the most important publications listed from the 2014 meeting (and some).

Outcome of the high-level segment   (click for full doc)

For the Political Declaration and Plan of action on international cooperation towards an integrated and Balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. Click here. (formed and agreed by member states and up for review as we get closer to 2016’s UN special sessions. useful tool for user activists.

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It’s That Time Again – the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs .

Note: These views are my own as a drug activist and writer and do not reflect INPUD’s own thoughtful and positioned response to the events at the 2014 CND. For a direct response from INPUD’s Chief Executive Director Eliot Albers, see below.

The Start of the Dance

Wednesday 13th March, 2014 marked the start of the High-Level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) 57th session at the UN headquarters in Vienna. But before we start chatting do let me say: For an interesting and worthwhile insight into the machinations of global drug policy, the CND is a good place to start and you can read more about the event at these chosen sites, to help you enjoy a more rounded news feast that will provide some relief for those suffering drug war stress ulcers.

Where to go to follow the low down on the high level sessions?

Start at the official UNODC’s CND page for your basic brief and structure of the weeks events at http://j.mp/N9oggo, and even check out some of the (permitted) real-time webcasts at    http://www.unodc.org/hlr/en/webcast.html where you can see representatives from civil society speak on drug issues as well as some of the world’s more knowledgeable and persuasive speakers – and as always some complete political muppets will get to have a big say (although this is always good for a chuckle) but remember that the CND operates behind closed doors on the whole so many of the more surreal muppet moments will be hidden from our view . Recover yourself with a breath of common sense at the http://cndblog.org where you will get the unofficial official low down on all the news and views from a harm reduction and drug law reformers standpoint (I could have just said common sense overview I suppose) and then you can vent your frustrated opinions by joining the conversation in real time via good ol’ Twitter ‪#‎CND2014‬. Add your two pence worth friends!

So What Is the CND in a nutshell?

Yuri Fedotov, Exec Director of UNODC

So, to backtrack a wee bit, the CND is the central policy-making body of the UN’s drug control system which has a two pronged role to a) ensure the UN agreed drug treaties are applied and (more or less) adhered to around the globe, and b) to formally exercise control over the governance of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This includes deciding how 90% of The UN’s drug money is spent. Important stuff. Yet despite these key mandates, the CND chooses to work in secrecy – its meetings are not webcast (though we now have webcasts of side meetings and the plenary) and reports of the week long annual meetings are very limited. The CND also never votes so you don’t get to hear what position your country has taken on certain drug related matters and it stubbornly refuses to behave nothing like other more transparent United Nations bodies. Sounds like a global mafiosi you say? Well, many others have questioned the reasoning behind this approach and it has certainly colluded to give the CND sessions rather a ‘through the glass darkly’ kind of exposure.

However, slowly but surely many civil society organisations and individuals, (in the form of non government orgs like INPUD, HRI and other concerned folk such as busy drug activists), have been using a whole range of tactics to try and bring these very discreet diplomatic wheelings and dealings into the public eye. Some of this work has meant civil society has actually managed to push open a few formally closed doors and gain a reasonably meaningful presence at this important, very secretive, political temperature gauging event. One important inroad has been the possibly perversely named ‘Informal Civil Society Hearings’ which began in 2003 and is a mechanism for these High Level Sessions to involve the otherwise excluded NGO’s. It is a chance for members to listen to the collected views of civil society, including yours truly, INPUD. Shamefully, many of the representatives from member states use this opportunity to go and sight-see in Vienna (ok, I’m surmising) rather than listen to more humane, evidenced based approaches and informed arguments for law reform from the likes of us.

Tellingly, CND sessions still only speak of civil society involvement when it is couched only in UNODC terms; a conservative agenda calling for a drug free society, tackling ‘demand reduction’ (no, there’s never any ‘harm reduction’ here),  and happy healthy phrases about alternatives to drug consumption for young people. Tell that to a kid from the favelas. Ultimately, despite the secrecy perhaps the best way I have found to get both the intrigue and useful detail on the sessions is through The CND Blog as mentioned before. This is a joint civil society effort to ensure transparency at these sessions as well as provide timely records of the discussions taking place at the meeting. Click here to read a review of some of the more memorable civil society speeches including questions from the floor. A big thanks here to Alan Clear from New York’s Harm Reduction Coalition. Great stuff.

What’s up for discussion then?

Before I leave you with a rousing speech from INPUD’s own Chief Exec Eliot Albers at the above mentioned Civil society Hearings, I’ll just add a little bit about what are the stand out issues for the week for the CND.

Last round of negotiations…

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs will conduct a high-level review of the way Member States’ have implemented the rather wordy and dogmatic 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.  It will debate and review the obstacles and challenges in the updated 2012’s ‘Plan of Action’s Three Pillars; Demand Reduction, Supply Reduction and International Cooperation’. A little bit like the way the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS came up for its own 10 year review in 2011, where global commitments and recommendations of the last decade came up again for scrutiny and new agreements were whispered about, erased, dodged and rewritten, such is the fate of this review. Although I fear it will fair much worse than the surprising last minute turn around at the 2011 HIV/AIDS Political Declaration.

Basically, virtually all of the negotiations behind the review will have been made over the last year or more, in quiet diplomatic meetings and lunches, in a language of push and pull that will be totally unfamiliar to most of us, such is its Freemason like parlance. Of course, there is only a week (or actually 2 days) to finally endorse, regret, commit and consider amended resolutions so the entire affair is a rapid week long flurry of activity, etched out sentence by painful sentence. Worth mentioning here and now however, is the obvious ” lack of will to address the issue of eliminating capital punishment for drug offenders.”

The UNODC Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov  released his final ‘contributions’ to the event a few weeks ago. In the 19 page document he admitted “the overall magnitude of drug demand has not substantially changed at the global level” and even provided a rare endorsement of harm reduction, “Countries which have adequately invested in evidence-informed risk and harm reduction programmes aimed at preventing the spread of HIV through injecting drug use have remarkably reduced HIV transmission among people who inject drugs and their sexual partners”. Wow, that comment coming has been like pulling teeth!

Also at the event, preparations are being made for 2016,when the UN General Assembly (the most important global event for a single issue in the UN calendar) will host a special session on the world’s drug problems, and much will be based around the work begun here.

Worth reading is a very interesting speech by the Government of Poland (click here). I found it fascinating to see how far Poland has travelled in its understanding of drug use over te last 15 or so years. Much of that I am certain is to do with the hard working harm reduction, human rights and drug user activists on the ground. Nice work Poland! Just listen to this quote “Mr. Chairman, Poland welcomes and supports the actions of the United Nations furthering the respect for human rights of psychoactive substance users and abusers including their rights to life and freedom, bodily integrity, privacy, access to education, equality before the law, freedom of movement, association and gathering in order to protect their needs and interests… ”   Users AND abusers! Usually it is always abuser this misuser that. Rarely user! And human rights, bodily integrity? Fabulous progress Poland.

Check out the UNODC’s World Drug Report to see what we are dealing with here..

And the Political Declaration and Plan of Action document they all will be reviewing, in its previous form can be found here (though we will update you with the new one)…

You can find the Political Declaration in all 7 UN languages here.

But here is our INPUD moment…Over to you Eliot!

INPUD Chief Executive Director , Eliot Albers knocks it out of the room

Eliot Ross Albers

Eliot Albers INPUD Chief Exec Director

Dr .Eliot Albers. INPUD.

Over the last few years it has been increasingly widely recognised that two bodies of international law, namely human rights law on the one hand and drug control law on the other, exist in “parallel universes”.  Professor Paul Hunt UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health made this remark in a report in which he also noted that “This widespread, systemic abuse of human rights is especially shocking, because drug users include people who are the most vulnerable, most marginal in society. Despite the scale of the abuse, despite the vulnerability, there is no public outrage, no public outcry, no public inquiries, on the contrary: the long litany of abuse scarcely attracts disapproval. Sometimes it even receives some public support.”

 
To be explicit, the pursuit of repressive drug control in the name of the war on drugs, has inexorably driven rampant human rights abuses against people who use drugs and their communities. That one set of international laws is systemically driving breaches of another is an increasingly untenable situation. Whilst there is no hierarchy of legal systems, it is arguable that human rights law and the principles upon which it is based, principles that are defined as indivisible, inalienable, and universal, should unequivocally trump the pursuit of another set of laws that are producing such gross rights violations. When the pursuit of drug control law becomes a driver of widespread human rights abuses, on what is unquestionably a massive scale, it is without doubt time to call for a thorough review of those laws. As The Global Commission on Drug Policy put in in their report ‘The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs on Public Health: The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic':  “instead of investing in effective prevention and treatment programmes to achieve the required coverage, governments continue to waste billions of dollars each year on arresting and punishing drug users – a gross misallocation of limited resources that could be more efficiently used for public health and preventive approaches. At the same time, repressive drug policies have fuelled the stigmatisation, discrimination and mass incarceration of people who use drugs”. This passage makes clear the mechanism by which repressive drug policies drive and produce violations of the human rights of people who use drugs.
 
That the pursuit of drug control, the maintenance of punitive prohibition, and the war on people who use drugs is indeed driving such breaches is now beyond question. When you define the pursuit of public policy, defined by both national and international law, as a war you are going to produce war casualties, and arguably unintended, and in this case, decidedly negative consequences. In response to this war we are calling for a peace, we are calling for an amnesty for drug war prisoners, an end to the violence and rights violations that have been heaped upon our community, and we are calling for an intelligent and open debate on alternatives. The state of war in which we are living is one waged in the name of morality, of social order, and in defence of the right of the state to control the bodies of its citizens. This war against the supposed threat to society that the “evils of drugs” pose has in reality made communities of people who use drugs the real targets, has made us into casualties of war, it has stigmatised us, discriminated against us, pathologised us, and made us scapegoats for much of society’s ills.
 
It can no longer be claimed that human rights violations occurring in the name of the war on drugs are aberrations, they are rather a logical consequence of the pursuit of this war. As such, we all upon the human rights community, and society at large not to remain silent, but to join us in calling for an end to the war on drugs, an end to the war on our communities, and an end to the endemic stigmatisation, marginalisation, discrimination and structural violence that it has entailed.
 
These conditions have fostered an environment in which people who use, and in particular, people who inject drugs, have suffered from systemic denials of their rights to health, to privacy, to integrity of body and mind, to be free from discrimination, torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, and to liberty. The deep stigma that people who use drugs are subject to has seen us denied access to appropriate health care services (including access to sterile needles and syringes, opiate substitution programmes, and treatment for HIV and hepatitis C), education, and the right to vote, denied the right to enter, stay and reside in numerous countries, has seen us flung into jails, prisons, and forced detoxification centres that are nothing more than forced labour camps, has seen us denied access to our children, and subject to corporal and capital punishment. 
 
All of this for what is in reality a victimless crime, for we would argue that what drugs an adult chooses to use should not be the business of the police, or judicial authorities, or that of any other agent of the state. That it has become so has fuelled an epidemic of imprisonment, incarceration, denial of appropriate medical care, and ill treatment that defies, and makes a mockery of human rights norms.
The combination of repressive legal environments, structural barriers and impediments to health care, legal redress and support has directly fuelled the twin epidemics of HIV and viral hepatitis currently raging through the drug using, and in particular, injecting, community. The skewed and disproportionate burden of these blood borne viruses carried by the injecting community is directly attributable to the legal environment in which we live and the discrimination to which we are subject. HIV is as much a biological fact as it is an exploiter of social vulnerability, poverty, and structural faultlines. That it thrives amongst communities who by dint of their sexual orientation (the LGBT community), choice of profession (sex workers), gender identity (transgender people), or choice of drugs and mode of administration (people who inject drugs, and in some contexts people who smoke stimulants, particularly people living in poverty who smoke crack) are criminalised, marginalised, and discriminated against makes its prevention and the fight against it, first and foremost a human rights issue. As such, a socio-political, human rights respecting, and community based response is as, if not more imperative, than a purely bio-medical one.
The extent of the human rights violations to which people who use drugs are subject is extensive. Beyond the criminalisation of drug use and possession which is in and of itself a legally enshrined violation of the right not to be interfered with or to privacy, in terms of what drugs one chooses to use, these violations range from, and include, the hundreds of thousands of actual or suspected drug users thrown into drug detention or ‘rehabilitation’ centres in South East Asia in which torture, forced labour, abuse, violence and degradation are the norm; the prisons in the USA, Russia and countless other countries that are filled with non-violent drugs offenders, with a disproportionately large number of those in the USA being people of colour, African Americans and Latinos; denial of access to health care, most notably denial of access to treatment for HIV and for hepatitis C; the denial of our agency and ability to make decisions about our well being; and arbitrary police violence and harassment.
The war on people who use drugs has fallen most heavily on ethnic minorities, the poor, and women who use drugs. These multiple markers of stigma and exclusion have fuelled mass incarceration, forced sterilisation, police victimisation, violence, and actively driven the twin epidemics of HIV and viral hepatitis amongst these sectors of our community.
This tidal wave of flagrant, systemically driven human rights abuses must be brought to an end, and the only way to do so is to attack the problem at its root.  In this case this means calling for a thorough overhaul of the three UN conventions that together comprise the global regime of drug prohibition. Superficial redress, and minor reform will not staunch the flow of systemic rights abuses directed at people who use drugs, their families and communities. Only the end of the war on people who use drugs through international legal reform will suffice to end this panoply of rights violations. To ensure that this war ends we are calling upon human rights defenders and advocates to join with drug user activists, harm reduction and drug law reform advocates in working to ensure that ending the architecture of global prohibition is firmly on the table at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016. 
END
And one last thing….

Kazatchkine: Arresting Drug Users Increases HIV

Another short but powerful speech by a master on the subject. If you want the evidence that harm reduction works, look no further.
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How does the CND connect with the UN, the UNODC, ECOSOC and UNDCP? Pray Tell!

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1946, to assist the ECOSOC in supervising the application of the international drug control treaties. In 1991, the UN General Assembly (GA) further expanded the mandates of the CND to enable it to function as the governing body of the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and in doing so, structured its agenda into two distinct segments: a ‘normative’ segment, during which the CND performs its treaty-based and normative or standard variety of functions; and an operational segment, during which the CND ‘exercises its role as the governing body of UNODC’. Within this it approves the budget of the Fund of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), which accounts for over 90 per cent of the resources available to the United Nations for drug control. As you can imagine, these functions put the CND High Level Sessions at the center of influencing the world’s drug policy agenda so a lack of transparency here means camouflaging what relays on our streets as the ‘collateral damage’ in this crazy drugs war. Us, the people who use drugs who bear the brunt of incarceration, disease, social exclusion and death because of outdated treaties, old school agendas and political posturing of the worst kind.

The UNODC also incorporates the secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The INCB declares itself as an independent, quasi-judicial expert body established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. Ten of its 13 members are elected from a list of persons nominated by Governments, the other 3 nominated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for their medical, pharmacological or pharmaceutical experience.

The secretariat has in effect a potentially important role at the UNODC, carrying out administrative duties towards enforcing UN drug control treaties. It is thought to be a overly conservative body that continually puts out recommendations and reports that are often non evidenced based and morally centered. For example, it has recently publicly rebuked both Uruguay and the USA for their position on marijuana regulation and legalization. Expect more to follow. See HCLU’s informative 1 minute film about the role of the INCB in todays’ global drug policy  

More to follow! – Already being majorly annoying, the INCB

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The People and the Power

The fight for the heart of Ukraine.

(AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

It may not be a great leap to suggest that many Europeans woke up last week to a growing sense of anxiety and foreboding about the situation unfolding in Ukraine. Yet even with the painful memory of two world wars still raw in so many people’s minds, such fears must pale into insignificance when compared to the intense shock and nervousness felt by the Ukrainian people themselves, particularly those in the Eastern region of the country who blood was so brutally spilt on the streets of Kiev recently. For just a few short days, the citizens army, those self professed people’s liberation fighters, who had huddled together in sub zero temperatures for months refusing to be moved, lived a few moments of exhilaration. Jubilation and sheer relief shone through on the faces in the crowds of people I saw through my TV screen,  proudly venturing through their cities streets as the government finally fell to the people.

Almost as tourists,hand in hand, arm in arm,  they explored the government buildings and precincts that had been previously off limits for years to all but few.

A protester stands behind barricades during clashes with police that left around 100 dead, many from sniper and police gunshot wounds.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

So many Ukrainians stood in that square day after day, so many more became compelled to come out only weeks and months later, joining in solidarity and offering much needed practical support.

INPUD members can be proud to know that drug user/harm reduction activists had been part of that rising change, always pushing, fighting and challenging Ukraine to adopt progressive health and welfare policies for the drug and HIV/AIDS community. Always found at the forefront pushing back the tide of discrimination and abuse towards our peers and in under a decade, through the seeds of progressive change that seeped through from then Orange revolution, Ukraine became a role model in the east for tackling the growing HIVAIDS numbers that had come to redefine the modern picture of the epidemic. Shining examples of prevention treatment care and support for injecting drug users who were affected HIV/AIDS, inroads that would become chipped away at as Russian influence was felt ever stronger in day to day policy.

February 5, 2014. Anti-government protesters sleep near a barricade. The parliament tried again that day to agree on curbing the presidency’s powers, while the EU’s foreign policy chief meets embattled President Viktor Yanukovych to press for a resolution of the political crisis. The crisis has sparked tensions between the West, which is considering sanctions against Ukrainian officials, and Russia, which has accused the EU and US of interference in the former Soviet republic. Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP

While the political script of Ukraine since around 2000 reads like the darkest political thriller imaginable, for the Ukrainian people, to have had the highest of hopes of finally changing the ‘ destructive processes that had become characteristic for Ukraine’ only to see them repeatedly collapse in yet more political intrigue, false imprisonments, political bullying and blindsiding, and even poisonings and murders of those in opposition, how hard has it been to keep hope alive? Not only alive but ready to fight again. A deep scepticism, disgust and despair seemed to set in with many Ukrainians, while watching the seeds of their countries modern civil liberties that had glowed in Orange, be crushed at every turn.

So to take to the streets yet again in Ukraine, clinging perhaps to an even more fragile hope, the kind that envelopes a people after a spark of revolution, the kind spun forth from the blood, sweat, tears and determination of the people, must mean everything to the people, for what strength or faith in the future  must be left? 

Like other communities around the world over the last few years, they fought to battle the stupendous unabashed corruption that had been growing almost unchecked since independence. What must that be like? Watching your government pillaging the economy, most colossoly the president himself to the tune of possible billions, all which has left Ukraine broke and in hock to its old patriarch, Russia itself.

Corruption has been one of the main reasons people have taken to the streets in Kiev.
Above pic: anti-government protesters found a private zoo, luxury cars and evidence that over $2 million had been spent to decorate a dining hall and tea room at ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s mansion. Yet Yanukovych earned $25,000 dollars for most of his political life. And his son, a dentist by training, is reportedly worth more than $500 million dollars.

Russia has already pledged to freeze the remaining $12billion of the $15billion loan to Ukraine for aid until an effectively Russian recognized government is restored, just to enforce the seriousness of turning ones back on mother.

Several days ago, I had seen a clip of the piles and piles of Russian soldiers bodies, frozen to death, half starved and brutalized beyond recognition during the 1st world war, and wondered how any country, especially Russia, could have any appetite left for a potential war with its neighbours or any precarious show of aggression. Yet Putin is paying the Piper here and no doubt has now dug himself and mother Russia, in for the long game.

Just one Vital area of Russian interests or even stranglehold inside Ukraine.

When I was working on United Nations documents For INPUD and as such visited the UN in New York and UNODC in Vienna, Austria I was to discover just how Russia conducts itself on the international stage. It is in part the fault of the west. Its like a new kid at an exclusive school, who after the soviet republic collapsed, had turned up with flash new toys to tempt the rich kids to play. But the rich kids were snobs while others Secretly took an Interest in the new kids toys, often while no one was watching, but still wouldn’t sit with him at lunch. ..

OK I could go on with this metaphor, suffice to say Russia is now a big kid at the posh school, capable of outrageous bullying and rule breaking, calling everyone’s bluff because he knows he has the richest dad in the whole school and he will never be expelled!

The tragedy of course is, that multilateral agreements and United Nation protocols, treatises and conventions are the only way our globalized world has any hope of working together yet countries, like the USA and Britain, and following in our footsteps, Syria and Russia, repeatedly decide it is ok to ignore resolutions whenever things get really difficult. Do they realize the future jeapordy it places us all? Back in the days of the United Nations objection to the Iraq war, people said then how dangerous this would be, setting such a clear precedent that country’s could bow out of alignments and pursue an unpopular, unvoted for and illegal agenda – why it just made a mockery of what the UN stood for. Now we see what a mockery all those UN resolutions really are as Russia sends its armored vehicles through a whole bunch of them! And Putin, perhaps rightly says ‘ Don’t you lecture me America’!

So Europe and Eastern Ukraine awake yet again to face perhaps  the coldest eastern wind they have felt in many years. This morning eastern Ukraine troops are being left without direction, some deciding to stand their ground and others backing down within the currently Russian occupied Crimea. All it may take is a misplaced gunshot to start an almighty international incident. 

Caught in the moment, Ukraine’s ousted president winks knowingly at Putin in the weeks before he fled to Russia.

We wish our Ukrainian friends everything and more, if only we could give it. We hope peace, humanitarianism and community prevail and we salute you for your incredible courage and strength.

Удачи друзі

Udachy druzi (good luck friends)

I wil aim to speak with friends in Ukraine to ask them what this experience has been like and will report back very soon for part 2.

Posted in Eastern European Countries, Europe, Law reform, Regional News & Info, Uncategorized, United Nations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment