5 February 2024

Human Rights Council Intersessional: Statement on Human Rights and Drug Policy

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Panel discussion on human rights challenges

5 February 2024

Harm Reduction International welcomes the OHCHR’s important report on drug policy and human rights, and renewed attention by the Council.

We wish to highlight three key challenges raised: 

  • In 2023, we witnessed a devastating unravelling of progress on abolition of the death penalty. Harm Reduction International’s upcoming global mapping of the situation will report the highest figure in eight years, with almost one in every two people executed in the name of drug control. 
  • International cooperation and development funding has misguidedly invested in punitive approaches for decades. States must divest from punitive responses that violate human rights and invest in rights-based policies that put affected people first, including harm reduction.
  • Despite decades of evidence showing that harm reduction is cost-effective and saves lives and has strong UN endorsement; the availability of quality services remains dire. Direct and structural racism leads to Black, Brown and Indigenous people facing additional barriers to accessing these already limited services.

These and the other challenges detailed in the report can only be addressed in a coordinated and concerted way, guided by scientific evidence and with communities leading the way. 

We urge all relevant stakeholders to continue questioning violent, costly, and ineffective policies and to continue mainstreaming drug policy issues within the wider UN human rights system.  

Thank you. 


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