A human rights-based approach to international drug policy is one that takes human rights as a starting point, rather than an afterthought. It is not about advocating for a human right to use drugs – an inaccurate caricature of the approach. A human rights-based approach challenges the laws, policies, structures and practices of international and national drug control. It also challenges the aims of drug policies. These challenges are rooted in international human rights law, which serves as the normative and authoritative foundation of the human rights-based approach.
A human rights-based approach to drug policies requires, for example:
- Reframing the aims of drug control in line with human rights obligations
- Restructuring the ‘pillars’ of drug control (supply and demand reduction)
- The development of a new system of indicators for drug control programmes
- The interpretation of the international drug conventions in line with international human rights law
- The development of international guidelines on human rights and drug policies to guide national implementation
- The repeal or amendment of abusive legislation and the amendment of abusive policies or practices
- The development of practical tools to assist in the development of drug policies and programmes at international and national level that are compliant with human rights
- Human rights training for police, drug treatment staff, parliamentarians, civil servants and affected communities etc.
- A focus on vulnerability including improved data collection to uncover patterns and target responses – this includes a focus on children and young people
- A holistic approach looking at the structures and policies surrounding drug use, production and trade (such as income inequality, poverty, housing, conflict and violence etc)
- A strong gender focus in policies and programmes
- Meaningful participation of affected groups including people who use drugs
- Transparency in international and national decision making
- Accountability, including the implementation of systems of redress for victims of human rights violations committed in the name of drug control
The development of a human rights-based approach to drug policies is at the core of Harm Reduction International’s international human rights research and advocacy.