22 March 2023

Kgalema Motlanthe to address the 27th Harm Reduction International Conference in Melbourne

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Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, to address the 27th Harm Reduction International Conference (HR23) in Melbourne, Australia.

Former President of South Africa and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Kgalema Motlanthe will address the 27th Harm Reduction International Conference (HR23) being held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Australia on 16-19 April. The biennial conference, convened by Harm Reduction International (HRI) is expected to attract over a thousand researchers, policy makers, health workers, civil society organisations and activists. The conference was last held in Australia in 2004.

As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (“The Global Commission”), Motlanthe is joined by another 28 members, among which former Presidents and Prime Ministers including former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, as well as high profile figures including Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and the Immediate Past President of the International AIDS Society Adeeba Kamarulzaman. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Paul Volcker and the former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan, have also been past members of The Commission over the past decade.

The Global Commission advocates for drug policies based on scientific evidence, human rights, public health and security.

Motlanthe will be joined in Melbourne by fellow Commissioners Helen Clark, the former New Zealand Prime Minister and its current Chair, and Geoffrey Gallop, former Premier of Western Australia.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Minister of Health Rachel Stephen-Smith will also address the conference. In October of last year, the ACT government passed legislation decriminalising small amounts of commonly used illicit drugs. The new law – a first in any Australian jurisdiction – will come into effect in late October this year.

Motlanthe is also the Chair of the recently launched Eastern and Southern Africa Commission on Drugs (ESACD) which was formed in response to certain contextual challenges, including the growing flow of heroin into the South and East African region, mainly from Afghanistan, and the increase in methamphetamine use in the region.

“The so-called War on Drugs has failed in every corner of the globe; for evidence-based solutions we need political leaders to come together, so we are delighted President Motlanthe has agreed to share Southern African efforts to strengthen health-based responses to drugs” said HRI Executive Director Naomi Burke Shyne.

HR23 is taking place at a time of reform and progress in drug policy in a number of Australian states and the Southeast Asia region.

Australia was an early and strong adopter of harm reduction and stands as an example of good harm reduction practice, with an extensive network of needle and syringe programmes, access to pharmacotherapy options and, more recently, naloxone, robust viral hepatitis testing and treatment, as well as two medically supervised injecting centres (also known as drug consumption rooms or overdose prevention centres). Despite this long history of harm reduction-focused policy and practice, reform in some spheres – for example pill testing, heroin prescription programmes, decriminalisation of personal use and possession of drugs, and prison-based needle and syringe programmes – is still a challenge in Australia.

The recent decision by the Victorian State government to grant the North Richmond Community Health Medically Supervised Injection Room permanent ongoing status has brought into focus the public health benefits of providing such a service. The HR23 conference programme will feature the results of the first-ever controlled trial conducted at the Drug Consumption Rooms in Paris and Strasbourg that compares the outcomes for people who inject drugs outside the centres with those people who make use of the centres’ services.

HR23 will also feature breaking news on global drug consumption patterns, the results of a groundbreaking fentanyl drug checking study undertaken in the U.S. and an inaugural study that reveals rates of Hepatitis C cure and reinfection in NSW Prisons. There will also be a special session on chemsex and presentations from Ukrainian civil society representatives on the impact of the Russian invasion on the delivery of critical health services such as HIV antiretrovirals, hepatitis medicines, sterile syringes and methadone.

Reinforcing the conference theme of Strength in Solidarity, HRI will partner on the event with four Australian civil society and professional health organisations: Harm Reduction Victoria, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), The Australasian Society of the Study of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) and the International Network on Heath and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU).

Further Information

Accredited Media can register here

Michael Kessler, HR23 Media Relations

Mob: +61 484 924 970

Email: michael.kessler@intoon-email.com

Twitter: @mickessler

About HRI

Harm Reduction International (HRI) is an international NGO which works to use data and advocacy to promote harm reduction and drug policy reform and demonstrate how rights-based, evidence-informed responses to drugs contribute to healthier, safer societies. It has convened the Harm Reduction International Conference since 1990.

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