Four months ago, the Support. Don’t Punish campaign was chosen from over 800 initiatives to be one of 115 projects from across the globe profiled at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum (11-13 November), a platform to promote innovative solutions to peace and governance challenges.
As we continue to digest an intense 48 hours of stimulating exchanges and learning, I wanted to share just a few of the highlights that have made this experience so enriching for the Support. Don’t Punish team at the Forum, and potentially a watershed moment in the way governance discussions address drug policy reform.
This movement’s capacity to effect change is awe-inspiring and unstoppable
We were asked to present Support. Don’t Punish to Forum participants in less than 20 minutes (‘the Pitch’, in the Forum’s lingo). It sounds relatively straight-forward until one dives into what this campaign has achieved. Over the last seven years, we have seen more than 1,000 diverse and creative activities, delivered by hundreds of committed local partners, in 110 countries!
Squeezing years of collective experience, impact and growth, of capacity- and solidarity-building, of sweat, tears and joy, into just a few slides, was most definitely a challenge. But bearing witness to the bravery and resolve of the communities that lead our efforts on the ground was also a humbling privilege.
These stories are inextricably weaved into the campaign’s common thread: strengthening a collective and global front of populations affected by the “war on drugs”, and their allies, to advance drug policies that are based on health, human rights and development.
Emperor’s war on drugs’ new clothes
The farce of drug policies that purport to be concerned by the health and welfare of humankind while actually entrenching stigma and discrimination, and undermining peace and democracy, was unpicked by two well-attended thought-provoking panels. Questions related to accountability, exclusion, racism, gender equality, local governance, the HIV epidemic, palliative care and subsistence farmers added complexity and texture to a debate that is often caricatured, over-simplified, focused on substances, rather than on people.
And the response from the dozens of Forum attendees who joined the discussions, came to our stand [and joined the Photo Project!] made it very clear that the edifice of Prohibition is crumbling.