By Damon Barrett

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stands alone among the core UN human rights treaties in setting out a human right to protection from drugs. Article 33 provides that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.”1 There are two points to note here; first, Article 33 contains two clauses: one relating to drug use and one to involvement in the drug trade. And second, the CRC is connected via Article 33 to the three UN drug control conventions: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 (“Single Convention”), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 (1971 Convention), and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances 1988 (“Vienna Convention”).2 These are the relevant international treaties to which the provision refers. In turn, the preamble of the Vienna Convention sets out, by way of justification for the provisions that follow, States’ parties’ deep concern that “children are used in many parts of the world as an illicit drug consumers market and for purposes of illicit production, distribution and trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which entails a danger of incalculable gravity.”3 This speaks to the issues of drug use and involvement in the drug trade addressed in Article 33.  The CRC and the drug control system appear to hold consistent views: States have an obligation to protect children from drugs and concurrent obligations to control those drugs in certain ways. But are there deeper inconsistencies relating to theories and principles underpinning each regime?

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