People before Politics: Promoting Harm Reduction Worldwide

20.05.2019

This year, the conference organised by the non-governmental organisation Harm Reduction International in Porto was held under the motto "People before Politics". "People do not lose their human rights because they consume drugs", was the words of Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, opening the conference on 28. April 2019.

This year, the conference organised by the non-governmental organisation Harm Reduction International was held under the motto "People before Politics" in Porto. "People do not lose their human rights because they use drugs", said Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, opening the conference on 28 April 2019.

Portugal initiated a paradigm shift in its drug policy 20 years ago: Drug users are no longer prosecuted. Since then, instead of imposing prison sentences, Portugal has relied on education, assistance and health policy measures, such as the distribution of clean syringes. In reference to this anniversary, the Harm Reduction International Conference (HR19) was held in Porto from 28 April to 1 May 2019. It brings together representatives of states, international organisations, civil society and activists from all over the world. Together, they advocate the concept of harm reduction.

GPDPD was also represented at HR19 and provided information on new developments in the field of harm reduction for the consumption of stimulants at a side event . The use of amphetamines and cocaine, for example, is increasing worldwide. A new trend is that more and more people in countries of the global South are consuming these substances. This poses new challenges for developing countries. At the reception entitled "Experiences on Harm Reduction for Stimulant Drugs with a Focus on the Global South", GPDPD and its partners made clear that harm reduction programmes need to be accessible to this group of drug users and that this topic needs to be set on the international agenda. Partners include IPDC (International Drug Policy Consortium), TNI (The Transnational Institute), UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and MAINline.

Harm reduction approaches aim to avert or reduce the negative health and social consequences of the use of illegal substances, such as the spread of blood-borne diseases. An estimated 15 million people worldwide inject drugs. More than half of them suffer from hepatitis C and one in five has HIV. Measures such as the distribution of clean injecting equipment (as one of many instruments to reduce harm) significantly decrease the risk of infection. In Portugal, the rate of new HIV infections among addicts has fallen rapidly in recent years.

Harm reduction is one of the four pillars of German drug policy. GPDPD works in international forums to strengthen health-oriented and human-centred drug policies. On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GPDPD helped to develop the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy and submitted them to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019. This is the first time in the history of drug policy that governments have been provided with a guideline that supports them in reviewing their national policy strategy in terms of compliance with human rights obligations. Both the International Guidelines for Human Rights and Drug Policy and the experiences and recommendations presented in Porto foster the dialogue for a more humane drug policy - "People before Politics".

Porto Harm Reduction 2019
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