This 19-page document is, in parts, refreshingly honest about the “unequal” progress that has been made since 2009 (with reductions in supply or demand for some drugs in some places being offset by increases elsewhere), the setbacks and new challenges, and the fact that “the overall magnitude of drug demand has not substantially changed at the global level”. The report also provides a rare endorsement of harm reduction from Mr Fedotov: “Countries which have adequately invested in evidence-informed risk and harm reduction programmes aimed at preventing the spread of HIV through injecting drug use have remarkably reduced HIV transmission among people who inject drugs and their sexual partners”.
Mr Fedotov concludes the report with a series of lessons learned and “reflections on the way forward” – including the need to rebalance efforts (and funding) away from law enforcement and into health, the value of harm reduction and evidence-based treatment, the need for drug responses to be “in line with human rights standards”, the futility of criminalising people who use drugs, and ensuring access to controlled drugs for medical purposes. While urging against changes to the conventions themselves (and incorrectly stating that “The drug control system reduces the availability of harmful substances and mitigates the high risks associated with their use… [and] drives their prices higher”), the report includes this fascinating passage which shed some light on the emerging position within UNODC ahead of the UNGASS debates:
“There continue to be challenges in the implementation of the international drug control conventions which should be openly recognized and discussed. Many of the challenges are associated with misconceptions about what the conventions actually stipulate, indicating that there is a need to raise awareness about the content and spirit of the conventions.
It is important to reaffirm the original spirit of the conventions, focusing on health. The conventions are not about waging a “war on drugs” but about protecting the “health and welfare of mankind”. They cannot be interpreted as a justification — much less a requirement — for a prohibitionist regime but as the foundation of a drug control system where some psychoactive substances are permitted solely for medical and scientific purposes because, if used without the advice and supervision of medical doctors or licensed health professionals, they can cause substantial harm to people’s health and to society.”