19/1/16: Joint Parliamentary Panel Event: “Towards a Harm Reduction Decade: Human Rights, Development, Health and the Future of UN Drug Policy.”


The Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) and the APPG on Drug Policy Reform, in conjunction with Harm Reduction International, held this event ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem in April 2016.

We would like to thank Dr Paul Monaghan MP for chairing this event.

The event featured the following speakers:

  • Mike Podmore – Executive Director, STOPAIDS (“MP”);
  • Maria Phelan – Deputy Director, Harm Reduction International (“MPh”);
  • Eric Gutierrez – Senior Adviser, Accountable Governance, Christian Aid (“EG).

The main points raised by the speakers were as follows:

  • The dehumanisation of drug users has a negative impact on the enjoyment of their human rights, and abuses against those who use drugs are widespread and systematic. (MPh)
  • Christian Aid’s new report highlights how the illicit drugs trade impacts on development. The impacts are enormous and far reaching – on employment, public services etc. (EG)
  • In some contexts, illicit commerce is seen as an alternative form of development. There is a danger here that governments lose legitimacy and illicit commerce controls development instead. A context-specific approach to address this issue is vital. (EG)
  • UNGASS 2016 is a very important opportunity to reframe the narrative on the drug trade away from the focus on crime and towards harm reduction. The latter is an approach to drug policy which is centred on reducing the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. (MPh)
  • Harm reduction projects are drastically underfunded, with only 7% of need currently met. UK funding towards these programmes has decreased, particularly in Middle-Income Countries. (MP)
  • The UK should increase funding for harm reduction programmes overseas, particularly to support civil society to hold governments to account on drug policy. (MP)

The PHRG will continue to raise related issues in Parliament in the run-up to UNGASS 2016, particularly to highlight how drug policy can result in serious human rights violations.