23 February 2024

Annual Meeting with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Share this post

On the General Comment on the impacts of drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights

Harm Reduction International envisions a world in which drug policies uphold dignity, health and rights.  We use data and advocacy to promote harm reduction and drug policy reform.  We show how rights-based, evidence-informed responses to drugs contribute to healthier, safer societies, and why investing in harm reduction makes sense. 

We welcome the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) decision to initiate work on a new General Comment on the “impacts of drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights”, announced in October 2022. 

Punitive drug policies have a devastating and ongoing impact on human rights, exacerbating discrimination and inequality against vulnerable and marginalised groups. In the past decade, these impacts have been widely documented by various UN entities, community-led and civil society organisations, as well as academia. Punitive drug policies impact the life of people in many aspects. Punitive drug laws also contribute to the issue of armed conflict, it acts as a barrier to deliver climate justice as well as to fully achieve Sustainable Development Goals. 

In relation to economic, social and cultural rights, violations in the name of drug control have been documented in relation to the right to health, the right to work, the right to food, the right to social security, right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to adequate housing, the right to benefit from scientific progress, and Indigenous peoples’ rights. 

The General Comment presents a unique opportunity for CESCR not only to clarify and build upon its interpretation of the Convention regarding this specific topic, but also to consolidate and rationalise existing standards on drug policy and economic, social and cultural rights developed by others in the UN ecosystem. We acknowledge that in the past, the Committee has made some concluding observations on the issue pertaining to the protection of ESC rights in the context of drug policy. 

A key guiding consideration is the acknowledgment that drug policies, if well designed, can promote ESCRs; and not only of people who use and engage with drugs, but of communities and societies in general.  

As the coordinator of a network of more than 20 civil societies working on the issue of drug policy from Asia, Africa, we are eagerly looking forward to providing assistance to the Committee as it develops the General Comment.  

To conclude, we are looking forward to information on the plans for the development of the general comment on the impact of drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights to ensure meaningful participation the civil society on the process. 


Don't miss our events
and publications

Subscribe to our newsletter