By Dasha Matiushina, Policy Reform Advisor

Since my return from the 59th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) over a week ago, I haven’t been able to collect my thoughts and decide what exactly I should write about the CND for the EHRN mailing list. However many interesting things happened at the CND – our regional session,Slava Sellars’ great speech at the plenary session, Olya Ponomaryova’s speech at the session on the issues of women who use drugs and behind-the-scenes discussions of the UNGASS outcome document – how can those things be shared in a short blog format? What were the important things I learned in Vienna about the processes of forming the international drug policy? And what should those who weren’t there definitely be made aware of?

The balance of power is the same as 13 years ago when I first came to the CND – the EU supports harm reduction, Russia is against it, the USA supports it in principle but refuses to call it harm reduction. Last year we were happy to hear a strong statement by Latvia (then helding Presidency of the Council of the EU) in support of harm reduction and the need to protect human rights in the drug policy context. This year the Czech Republic’s statement at the plenary session made us happy; it clearly described the impact harm reduction has at the country level: the government explains that the Czech Republic experiences “extremely low social and economic costs related to the use of illegal drugs” because it’s a “drug-free” country but because it focuses on introducing harm reduction programs. Slovenia’s statement is also very clear; here’s a quote: “It’s necessary to emphasize that opiate substitution therapy is the best-studied and the most successful treatment program [for drug dependency]”; the goal of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs in Slovenia back in 1999 is to “encourage” drug treatment. Poland’s statement also mentions harm reduction.

As for non-EU member countries from our region, at the plenary session we didn’t hear them utter words of support for harm reduction. Which isn’t surprising when we talk about Russia and Uzbekistan. The new head of the Drug Control Agency of Tajikistan Sherkhon Salimzoda limited himself to mentioning the intensification of the work to “reduce… the negative impact of [drugs] on people’s health safety” as a result of implementing the national drug strategy.

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Thumbnail: Website of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network