There are often stories about the numerous human rights abuses suffered by drug users. To date there has been no quantification or recording of these abuses in a structured manner. In 2015, with funding from Mainline, Open Society Foundations and AmfAR, a surveillance project was initiated. We set up a system for PWID to report human rights violations experienced (Needles and syringes confiscated or broken, harm reduction packs taken, arrested for syringe possession, medications taken, detention without cause or processing, assaults). Data collection was integrated into the operations of a needle and syringe programme. Peer outreach workers recorded data using a paper form with tick-boxes. Data was entered into a spreadsheet for descriptive reporting. Data Locations were geospatially mapped and the nature of law enforcement engagement quantified.
The first report, for quarter four of 2015, was released during the RUN2016 SA Drug Policy Week. This was reported on in the press, including in Health-e news. The report can be downloaded from their report: http://www.health-e.org.za/2016/02/03/report-step-up-human-rights-report/
Cannabis policy has featured extensively in headlines, and there has been heated debate around the role of cannabis in South Africa. One of the areas that is often not considered in the debate is the impact of crop eradication on farmers in rural areas, not to mention the environment and the economy. Myrtle Clarke recently returned from the Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants. This meeting resulted in the Heemskerk Declaration, which you can download from the link below. Myrtle will be talking about this at an event titled Cannabis - the pan-African reality. This discussion is not part of the RUN2016 SA Drug Policy Week, but is a side event where the presenters, all cannbis activists, will present their views and then provide the opportunity for questions and discussion. While views on cannabis may be strongly divided, we should all educate ourselves around these multiple and complex issues. For further information, join Myrtle, Andre du Plessis and Marius de Kock on Tuesday the 2nd of February at 18h00 after the RUN2016 SA Drug Policy Week afternoon session has ended. Also have a look at the webpage of Fields of Green for All.
In this piece Professor Paul Hayes explains why some people are more vulnerable to "addiction" than others. This is relevant to the South African situation because the communities that are punished hardest for their drug use are those that are most dislocated and have historically suffered. By focusing on the drug use itself, we are failing to address the complex structural causes of increased drug use and "addiction".
Some of you may have seen Johann Hari's TED talk. If you haven't please do. While Hari seems to simplify some of the complexities of drug use and "addiction" he is able to make some essential concepts accessible to many of us. It's certainly worth a watch....
Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a charitable think tank that actively seeks the legal regulation of drugs in the UK and internationally. They have joined with other organisations to raise funds to have families who have lost members to the war on drugs attend the UNGASS in New York next year. They have launched a crowd funding campaign for this purpose, which can be found here.
Many of us believe that drugs are the problem, however Transform reframes the debate, saying that current drug policies are far more dangerous than the drugs themselves. Here is the video produced in support of the campaign:
In advance of the UNGASS, the Open Society Foundations has produced this video to encourage people to think more about their drug policies. This video stresses that each country has different contexts and different needs. In South Africa we have to critically examine our drug policies and recognise that we need to make changes if we want different results. Watch the video and let us know what you think.
UNAIDS has released a very progressive reference document ahead of the UNGASS2016. Entitled "A public health and rights approach to drugs", the document lists five policy recommendations and ten operational recommendations. The wording avoids the usual dichotomous thinking by saying that people should be treated with "support and care, rather than punishment." It also calls for the adaption of laws "to ensure that people who use drugs do not face punitive sanctions.." thereby avoiding the word "decriminalisation" while clearly supporting such initiatives. You can download the PDF of the document below.
We will be adding the latest drug policy news here, as well as providing updates for the drug policy week.
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