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Why Human Rights?

We advocate against human rights abuses committed in the name of drug control and promote the full realisation of the human rights of people who use drugs and those affected by drug use, the drug trade and drug policies. Our vision of a human rights-based approach to drug policies is based on ethical, legal and public health grounds.

From an ethical perspective, no one should be denied their human rights due to drug use, drug dependence or because they have been convicted of a crime. Our work is about the reduction of drug related harms without judgement and with respect for the inherent dignity of everyone, regardless of whether they use drugs (licit or illicit).

We promote the application of international human rights law to drug policies and for the interpretation and implementation of the international drug conventions in full compliance with international human rights law. Human rights law serves as a counter-balance to international and national drug control laws that can and do act as barriers to the reduction of drug related harm and to the realisation of the rights of people who use drugs and affected communities.

In relation to public health, the evidence is clear.

  • International drug control policies and national policies upon which they are based have created a system within which people who use drugs are stigmatised and driven to the margins of society
  • A legal and policy system that stigmatises and marginalises a specific group in this way is one within which human rights abuses are more likely to be perpetrated against that group
  • When people who use drugs are at risk from and suffer human rights abuses, harm reduction services can never properly function, and drug related harms, including injecting-driven HIV, will be made worse.
  • As such, a human rights-based approach is essential for evidence based public health interventions to be effective.


Harm Reduction and Human Rights: The Global Response to Drug-Related HIV Epidemics

What is Harm Reduction? English