Submission to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

May 2023: CDPC submission to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

In September 2023, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report “Human rights challenges in addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem”.

Previously, in May 2023, the OHCHR issued a call for NGO inputs for its report, its first report on drug policy since 2018. This was an essential opportunity for the United Nations to document the human rights devastation brought about by drug prohibition and criminalization and to recommend changes. It was also an essential input of the 2024 mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on drugs. In Canada, at the time of the call for submissions, there was growing push back against recent drug decriminalization initiatives (decriminalization of small amounts of certain drugs in British Columbia had just come into effect in Jan 31, 2023) and increasing political rhetoric about involuntary, coercive, or mandated drug treatment. CDPC chose to focus on this in our submission and called for a number of recommendations for OHCHR to include in their report.

A summary of CDPC’s recommendations:

  1. Develop a regulatory system for legal access to all currently controlled substances.
  2. Immediately eliminate all police involvement in drug users’ lives.
  3. Affirm a commitment to implementing and funding harm reduction supports.
  4. Eliminate any form of involuntary or coercive treatment.
  5. Encourage member states to invest in voluntary evidence-based treatment options.
  6. Adopt a rights-based approach to drug policies.
  7. Strongly denounce and eradicate the use of the death penalty for drug related offenses.

For an excellent overview of the OHCHR report, check this analysis from the International Drug Policy Coalition here.