The African Union (AU) hosted the 5th Conference of Ministers of Drug Control (CAMDC5) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 8th to 11th October 2012. IDPC was present throughout the four-day meeting, during which Member States adopted and approved some important new documents for the region: the “AU Plan of Action on Drug Control for 2013 to 2017”, the “Continental Minimum Standards for Treatment of Drug Dependence”, and a “African Common Position on Access to Pain Management Drugs”.

In advance of the meeting, IDPC released a targeted Advocacy Note that contained several practical recommendations, many of which were reflected in the final documents from the meeting.

After the AU Commission presented a summary of the old and new Plans of Action, IDPC was invited to present observations. The IDPC speech was well received, and focused on two main points:

  1. Legal and policy distinctions need to be made between high-level drug traffickers (organised criminals profiting from a multi-billion dollar international black market) and drug users (vulnerable people for whom addiction and drug misuse are serious health concerns). The effective approach for the latter group is simple: “Support. Don’t Punish”.
  2. The Plan of Action’s “Implementation Matrix” (which outlines the indicators to measure progress) needs to measure the right things – looking at drug availability, use and prices, treatment uptake, drug-related deaths, HIV transmission, and the negative consequences of drug policies, as well as standard measures such as drug seizures and arrests.

Additional presentations in the expert segment were given by Joanne Csete (Global Drug Policy Programme), Reychad Abdool and Stefano Berterame (UNODC), and a delegation from Tanzania presenting their experiences to date with the implementation of harm reduction programmes.

There were numerous interventions and statements from the Member States, but there was notably little real debate among the experts (perhaps because many of them had seen or commented on the documents before). Participants returned on several occasions to the need for greater capacity building, more funding, better international cooperation (specifically regarding extraditions and the seizure of drug trade assets), and better treatment and aftercare models in the region.

Only small changes were made to the key documents – particularly the “Implementation Matrix” – but the crucial references to “comprehensive, accessible, evidence-informed, ethical and human rights based” services was retained.

The subsequent day was filled by the ‘Ministerial Segment’ of the meeting, at which around 30 AU Member States were represented. The Ministerial Segment closed with the formal adoption of the documents presented, instating these as official AU resources.

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