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INPUD Statement at the 64th Commission on Narcotic Drugs: Decriminalisation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

16 APRIL, 2021

The following statement was delivered by Jake Agliata on behalf of INPUD at the plenary session 64th Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This statement was delivered as an intervention under Agenda Number 9: Contributions by the Commission to review and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Excellencies and distinguished colleagues,

I am making this intervention today on behalf of the International Network of People who Use Drugs, who are here as part of the delegation of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations.

The 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document encouraged member states to consider efforts to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mutually reinforcing to the global drug policy response. We believe continuing to construct global drug policy around the goal of a drug free world prevents progress on the SDGs by escalating an oppressive environment towards people who use drugs.

The pursuit of a drug free world has not only failed to reduce drug production or use, but has proliferated human rights abuses globally. Punitive laws enforcing criminalisation, informed through the three UN drug conventions, lead to denial of human rights and disruptions to critical health services for people who use drugs, including HIV prevention and treatment programmes for people who inject drugs. Stigma, violence and discrimination are commonplace in the lives of people who use drugs, who often experience state-sanctioned violence, including extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention, justified by the pursuit of a drug free world. Actions taken by states to prevent the production of drugs, such as aerial crop eradication, contribute to food insecurity and poverty. The racist origins of many national drug laws persist today as Black, Indigenous and people of color experience state-sanctioned discrimination enabled by drug criminalisation. Women who use drugs face significant stigma and represent the fastest growing prison population worldwide, contributing to the problem of gender-based violence.

States which maintain drug criminalisation despite these well-known and documented harms are signaling they are willing to overlook this human rights catastrophe in pursuit of the unattainable ideal of a drug free world. This is not a state of affairs in which the SDGs can be reached. A central pledge of the agenda is that no one will be left behind. So long as the global drug policy response continues to insist on an environment of criminalisation, this pledge is impossible to achieve.

People who use drugs have been advocating for the decriminalisation of all drugs for decades, and around the world we are seeing the results of this work begin to bear fruit. More states have moved to depenalise or decriminalise drug use. The UN Common Position calls for the decriminalisation of drug use. The new Global AIDS Strategy includes targets on ending the criminalisation of key populations, including people who use drugs.

To achieve the targets set forth in the sustainable development agenda, the international community must commit to a global drug policy response which centers the human rights, health and dignity of people who use drugs. This can be done by following the leadership of peers calling for the full decriminalisation of all drugs.

Thank you for your time.