On 26th June 2013, activists in 41 cities from all around the world took part in the SUPPORT. DON’T PUNISH. “Global Day of Action” – a collective show of force that illustrates an ever-growing support for drastically changes to the way that we approach drug control. Participants were diverse both in terms of geography, culture and walks of life – from politicians, students, people who use drugs, lawyers, health care workers and academics. As the photos highlight so compellingly, a movement was born.
The first campaign of its kind, the “Global Day of Action” brought together people from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to raise awareness of the harms caused by the ‘war on drugs’. It was planned to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – a day that has been used by some governments to celebrate repressive drug laws and even publicly execute drug offenders! June 26th is also the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – an interesting paradox considering how the war on drugs has been used to justify executions, extrajudicial killings, torture, forced treatments and the demonisation of people who use drugs.
- “I’m here on this Day of Action around the world calling on people to support, not punish, people with drug problems… Governments need to take an approach based on evidence – one which deals with drugs as a health issue, not a criminal one”
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, speaking at the event in London
In several cities, protesters gathered outside of key landmarks or political buildings wearing Richard Nixon masks (as Nixon was the US President to first coin the phrase “war on drugs”, back in the 1970s), and in many cases they were joined by politicians as well. In the cities of Tuzla, Mostar and Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the day was marked with street art, dance performances and huge murals. In Nairobi, Kenya activists took part in a truck procession before holding a public event that included drama skits and speeches. In London, England around 100 protesters gathered outside the Houses of Parliament to make their voice heard, with drum music and a huge banner. In Indonesia, actions took place in 13 cities with the involvement of several local networks of people who use drugs – and the SUPPORT. DON’T PUNISH. branding will be taking pride of place on the Indonesian team at the Homeless World Cup football tournament in August.
One month on, the dust has now settled from the campaign and it has opened doors to policy makers in many of the participating cities. In Kenya, the Day of Action has led to more than 20 civil society organisations forming a dedicated Policy Advocacy Forum to champion the health needs of people who use drugs. In Indonesia, it has opened the door for discussions between NGOs and the Chief of BNN (the national drug control agency). In Thailand, the Secretary-General of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) addressed the rally on June 26th, and has since followed-up by organising a dialogue with civil society to discuss the way forward.
- “The media coverage and the attention we received were important… we feel that we have initiated something of a conversation and awareness about these issues that was not really there before”
Susan Masanja, Coordinator of the Tanzanian Network of People who Use Drugs (TaNPUD)
Even though the Global Day of Action has passed for this year, the campaign is still very much active – the Interactive Photo Project remains open with more than 1,300 photos have been submitted already; the Facebook page features the latest news and developments; the Twitter ‘hash tag’ #supportdontpunish continues to be used; and we will also launch a new Interactive Video Project in the coming weeks for people to participate in the campaign. For IDPC, the SUPPORT. DON’T PUNISH. is a long-term commitment, and our aim is to build a global movement to change the public and political rhetoric around drugs.
[The 41 cities taking part in the Global Day of Action were: Bandung, Bangkok, Beirut, Bengkulu, Bournemouth, Bucharest, Budapest, Chennai, Cirebon, Delhi, Denpasar, Dodoma, Imphal (Manipur), Jakarta, Jambi, Kathmandu, Kiev, Kuala Lumpur, London, Longleng, Makassar, Mataram, Medan, Meghalaya, Mexico City, Moscow, Mostar, Nairobi, Ohrid, Oslo, Palembang, Paris, Pokhara, Pontianak, Port Louis, Sevilla, Sukabumi, Surabaya, Tbilisi, Tuzla, and Zenica.]
For more information, visit the Support. Don't Punish website.
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