On Wednesday 26th June, activists will take to the streets in 26 cities around the world for the SUPPORT. DON’T PUNISH campaign’s first ever day of action. The campaign calls on governments to remove criminal sanctions for drug use and scale up health and harm reduction services for people who use drugs.
The day of action on 26th June deliberately coincides with the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day on which the UNODC and many governments promote tough drug control policies and zero-tolerance ideology towards drug use. The 26th June is also the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The day of action seeks to reclaim the message of the 26th June and make it about recognising the need for reforming drug policies so that they are based in principles of human rights and public health.
The SUPPORT. DON'T PUNISH campaign highlights the failures and harms of a strongly punitive approach towards drug use. Despite the billions of dollars spent each year on harsh drug law enforcement in an attempt to stop the illicit production, trade and use of drugs, an estimated 230 million people continue to use drugs today. This represents 5 per cent of the world's population. The objective of eradicating the illicit drug market has proven to be absurdly unrealistic. In addition, the current “war on drugs” approach that relies on heavily punitive measures towards people who grow, produce, trade and use drugs has taken its toll on our society in terms of appalling human, social and economic costs.
These costs include the stigmatisation and marginalisation of people who use drugs, the mass incarceration of people for non-violent drug offences and a serious impact in terms of public health - an explosion of the HIV and hepatitis epidemics among people who inject drugs. Of the 16 million people who inject drugs worldwide, around three million are living with HIV and two-thirds are living with hepatitis C. These blood-borne viruses are entirely preventable as long as people who inject drugs have access to sterile needles and syringes.
Global experience has shown that the decriminalisation of drug use and the provision of harm reduction services, such as needle and syringe programmes (NPS), drug consumption rooms (DCR) or Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), have been effective in reducing drug-related harms. However, despite compelling evidence for their effectiveness and UN endorsement of these measures, many governments continue to deny people who use drugs access to these life-saving services. In addition, although governments spend around US$ 100 billion a year, very little donor money is currently being spent on harm reduction interventions.
With this Day of Action, activists worldwide are re-claiming 26th June to call on governments to invest in effective HIV prevention measures for people who use drugs, to bring an end to the criminalisation and punishment of people who use drugs, as well as ensuring the provision of voluntary, evidence-based and human rights-compliant drug treatment programmes while putting an end to imprisonment as a form of treatment.
In addition to the 80 organisations and 700 individuals that have officially joined the SUPPORT. DON’T PUNISH campaign, prominent voices have also endorsed the campaign’s key message. Among them, Caroline Lucas, Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, stated that "by criminalising millions of people around the world we are not tackling the root causes of the drug problem. We need to take an approach based on evidence and to address the drug problem as a health issue, not as a criminal one. On 26th June, I will be joining people from around the world on a special day of action on drugs reform”.
The day of action will be held 26 cities across the world, including Bandung / Sukabumi, Bangkok, Beirut, Bournemouth, Delhi, Indonesia, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Kiev, Kuala Lumpur, Makassar, Matram, Medan, Mexico City, Moscow, Mostar, Nairobi, Ohrid, Oslo, Paris, Pokhara, Port-Louis, Seville, Tbilsi, Tuzla, Zenica and London. The day of action will vary according to the location, with interventions from prominent football teams, theatre groups, singers and politicians. But all will regroup under one banner – Support. Don't Punish.
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