54th session of the Human Rights Council: Drug policy highlights


54th session of the Human Rights Council: Drug policy highlights

13 November 2023
Harm Reduction International (HRI)

Please note, this briefing is a continuation of the previous report '54th session of the Human Rights Council: Drug policy opportunities', which is accessible here.

On 13 October 2023, the Human Rights Council (HRC) concluded its 54th session (11/09/2023 to 13/10/2023). This briefing highlight key debates, decisions and documents in which drug control and its impact on human rights were analysed and addressed.

OHCHR report on human rights and drug policy

During the General Debate under Item 3, The Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures, and Right to Development Division, OHCHR, Peggy Hicks, presented the OHCHR’s report on the human rights challenges in addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem (A/HRC/54/53). In light of the upcoming midterm review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the report highlights the main human rights challenges of drug policy, outlines positive developments and makes relevant recommendations to shift from punitive models towards human rights-based policies, including by considering decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use, alternatives to incarceration and access to harm reduction.

States members welcomed the OHCHR’s report, including Switzerland, on behalf of a group of countries, and Bolivia. Strong remarks were made by UNAIDS, which highlighted the positive impact of needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) and opioid agonist therapy (OAT) in HIV prevention, while raising concerns about the lack of political will to advance harm reduction services and the barriers faced by people who inject drugs in HIV responses due to inequality and discrimination. In turn, civil society, including Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights, Open Society Foundations, and Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) congratulated OHCHR on its work and highlighted the main challenges for the implementation of the report.