Thursday, June 25, 2009

Groups Put Pressure on Governments to Reform Harmful Drug Policies

For Immediate Release

Groups Put Pressure on Governments to Reform Harmful Drug Policies

Contacts: Paul Silva, +1 212.548.0309, +1 917.478.8403, (United States)
Jon Lidén, +41 58.791.1723, +41 79.244.6006, (Europe)


25 June 2009

As the United Nations launches the 2009 World Drug Report this week, more than 40 international groups and experts worldwide today issued a call to action that presses governments to adopt a humane approach to drug policy.

The call to action, signed by the Open Society Institute, former president of Brazil Fernando Cardoso, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, urges governments to enact policies that are based on scientific and medical research rather than politics.

“In many regions, particularly Asia and Eastern Europe, the AIDS epidemic is largely dependent on HIV transmission through injection drug use,” said Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Criminalizing individual possession of drugs undermines HIV prevention by marginalizing users, forcing them to hide from services and healthcare that could help them and keep others safe.”

Rather than being reached with harm reduction services—care and treatment that can stem the spread of HIV—millions of nonviolent drug users languish in prisons around the globe or live as outcasts from society as a result of current drug policies. As a result, HIV and other infectious diseases spread uncontrolled and threaten whole societies.

Criminalization does not ease the global problem of drugs. The drug trade continues to grow while families are torn apart by the global war on drugs. Instead of continuing with these ineffective and harmful policies, today’s call to action urges governments to focus on reducing the harms of drug trade and use. This involves providing services such as clean needle exchange and substitution treatment to help reduce the health risks associated with drug use. The groups also call on governments to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use—a step which has been credited with reducing drug use and HIV infections in Portugal.
“In too many countries, the war on drugs has become a war on people,” said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, Director of the Open Society Institute’s Global Drug Policy Program. “We need to stop the spiral of drug-related violence by approaching this from a health and human rights perspective.”

In addition to criminalization, anti-drug measures such as crop destruction have had a devastating impact on peoples’ lives, according to the groups. In many regions, aerial eradication of coca and poppy fields have destroyed thousands of farms, while doing nothing to alleviate the poverty that causes many farmers to grow illicit crops. Yet, numerous studies have shown that crop eradication is the least effective method for controlling drug supply, and treatment and prevention programs are better suited to reduce the demand for drugs.

The call to action, along with full list of signatories, is available online at:

The Open Society Institute’s Global Drug Policy Program aims to broaden, diversify, and consolidate the network of like-minded organizations that are actively challenging the current state of international drug policy. The program strives to engage and support drug policy experts, economists, and other professionals as they analyze and publicize the effects of drug policy on public health, human rights, national20security, and the economy.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing institution that invests the world’s money to save lives. To date, it has committed US$ 16 billion in 140 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against the three diseases.

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