The BBF in Geneva – a promising setting

Human rights are often violated in the fight against illicit drugs. In 2021, the established Brandenburg Forum (BBF) on Drug Policy and Development, entitled "Building Bridges between the Drug Policy and Human Rights Regimes of the United Nations," was held for the first time in the Geneva context to change that.

Initiated by the GPDPD together with the Netherlands, Norway and its partner organisations IDPC and TNI, the BBF has established itself over the past five years as a platform which successfully promotes international drug policy dialogue in anticipation of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meetings. This year's forum aimed to advance policy coherence between drug control and human rights by stimulating exchange between both experts in the field and concerned United Nations institutions in Vienna and Geneva. This way, the implementation of the UN Common Position on Drugs could be furthered.  The BBF was co-hosted by Switzerland for the first time.


Strengthening dialogue is crucial


According to Helen Clark, Head of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, this kind of cooperation is essential: "A balanced approach to the issue of drugs and drug policy can only be achieved if there is stronger cooperation between UN organisations. Strengthening the dialogue between Vienna and Geneva is imperative in order to formulate consistent and effective global responses to drug-related challenges." The BBF is building bridges right here.

The International Guidelines on Human Rights are the best instrument


The consequences of decades of primarily repressive drug policies, including the criminalisation of drug users, mass arrests, extrajudicial killings and death sentences, are a reality in many parts of the world and do more harm than good. Twenty percent of the world's incarcerated people are in prison for minor drug offences, resulting in severe social and economic consequences. In addition, health and social services are severely constrained in many countries since drug policies ignore the harm reduction approach and thereby disregard the health and well-being of people and communities.


It was a novelty but at the same time long overdue when the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy were presented to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs two years ago. Ilze Brand Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), underlined that these guidelines represent the best tool to support states in implementing their human rights commitments according to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) of 2016. And: "We have no doubt that humane and comprehensive policies respecting dignity, development, human rights and justice will reduce the demand and supply of drugs as well as protect health."


Geneva is the capital of global human rights organisations


Helen Clark called on human rights institutions in Geneva to work more closely with the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help countries address both major human rights violations and problems of access to controlled medicinal products. Over the past decade, an increasing number of drug policy issues, particularly those related to human rights, have been discussed in the Geneva setting. However, many topics are yet to be debated. The BBF in Geneva will further encourage the discussion and enhance the inclusion of human rights in drug policies. 


Click here for the report of the first Brandenburg Forum in Geneva >>