Five reasons for Member States to engage in the UNGASS on drugs

The UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, 2016 (the UNGASS on drugs) opens in New York on Tuesday.

Previous UNGASS declarations on drugs have prioritised supply and demand reduction approaches over harm reduction.

It is now time for Member States to have an honest and open debate about what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to HIV and drug use.

In order to end AIDS and honour global HIV and Sustainable Development Goal commitments, the Alliance's position paper on HIV, drugs and drug policy has five recommendations for Member States as they engage in the 2016 UNGASS on Drugs:

1. No one must be left behind.

All Member States must commit to ending AIDS amongst people who use drugs in line with Sustainable Development Goals 3.3 and 3.5, and the UNAIDS 2020 targets.

2. Recognise harm reduction.

All Member States must recognise and endorse the cost effectiveness of a harm reduction approach to drug use in the UNGASS Outcome Document.

3. Decriminalise drug use.

A commitment must be made to the decriminalisation of drug use, the possession of drugs for personal use and the possession of drug using paraphernalia. The UNGASS Outcome Document should promote the adoption of alternative measures to incarceration and punishment for minor and non-violent offences and promote community-based and evidence-based drug dependence treatment. This UNGASS must commit to ending the compulsory detention of people who use drugs.

4. Nothing about us without us.

All Member States must involve civil society, especially people who use drugs and community-based harm reduction service providers, in debates and decision making on drug policy and HIV.

5. Review UN drug control.

To inform the development of the 2019 Political Declaration and Action Plan, an advisory group must be established to examine the effectiveness of current drug policy – particularly in terms of public health, poverty reduction and human rights – and to develop recommendations to improve the functioning and coherence of drug control within the UN system.

  • Download our position paper.
  • Susie McLean, our senior advisor on drug use and HIV, blogs about UNGASS: The facts speak for themselves: so why is no-one listening?