The prevalence of stimulant drugs use is growing in all parts of the world. As a result, new challenges arise concerning the addiction help system and international drug policy. In this context, a 2nd Expert Group Meeting on Harm Reduction was conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, in October 2017.
Increasing global consumption of stimulant drugs is creating new challenges for addiction and drug services, the international political agenda and the areas of financing and research. Smokable cocaine (crack cocaine) is mostly spreading in Latin America, but also in Germany; and methamphetamine use is increasing all over Asia, Australia and Europe.
In this context, the 2. Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Harm Reduction (HR), which focused on stimulants, was conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, in the beginning of October 2017. Among the participants were government representatives from 19 countries, research experts, representatives from civil society, and delegates from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as well as from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). GPDPD organized the meeting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in collaboration with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC). The Federal Drug Commissioner’s Office, the Thai Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB), the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Harm Reduction International (HRI) were co-organising the event.
Through exchanges between interested Member States, UN agencies, academics and civil society, a confidential dialogue on harm reduction related to stimulant drugs is encouraged. The expert meeting provides a valuable platform for the exchange of information on current developments (consumption trends, substance groups, research status, funding), on country-specific, tried and tested drug support institutions and for the development of policy recommendations. Interested governments' understanding of the issue of damage reduction and stimulants is promoted in this way. In addition, joint positions at global and regional level are being developed.
The overarching aim of the expert meetings is to anchor the harm reduction approach more firmly at UN level. The concept of harm reduction is associated with the objective of reducing the negative health and social consequences of drug use for the people concerned and society as a whole. The term as such did not find its way into the final document of the United Nations Special General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) in 2016. On the international level, it is a controversial term, among other things, because of the lack of an abstinence requirement, the associated acceptance of drug use as a health-political phenomenon and the resulting demands on national approaches that derive from a more health-oriented drug policy.
Concerning the upcoming years, it was agreed that the term "harm reduction" will still not be accepted by consensus among the 53 member states of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). The 61st CND and the review of the UN Political Declaration and Action Plan on the World Drug Problem (2009) in 2019 will therefore focus on preserving the contents of the final document of UNGASS 2016. Beyond that, contents of a broader concept of harm reduction and, related to this, new funding mechanisms should be introduced into those processes.
With regard to international cooperation, it is important to continue supporting health-oriented approaches to national drug policies of the partner countries. To this end, drug services have to be reviewed and adjusted to the rising prevalence of stimulant drug use, taking into account the diverse realities of partner countries.