Toward a more humane drug policy

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Norway has put human rights and civil society on the agenda during its Presidency of the Council of Europe's cooperation on drug policies.

The Council of Europe's cooperation on drug policies, the Pompidou group
The Council of Europe's cooperation on drug policies, the Pompidou group Credit: Studio Hjelm

Norway has held Presidency in the Council of Europe’s cooperation on drug policies - the Pompidou Group - for the past four years. The Ministerial conference in Stavanger, 27-28 November, marked the end of the Norwegian Presidency.

- We have used this Presidency to emphasise the importance of human rights as a basis for drug policies in all countries. Drug problems have had different impacts on different countries, and drug policies will therefore vary, however, human rights are unalterable, stated the Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie.

During the Norwegian Presidency, the Pompidou Group prepared an expert report, describing how a country may proceed in ensuring that human rights are safeguarded in drug policies.

Norway has also put civil society on the agenda, emphasising the importance of involving civil society and individuals who use drugs in the development of policies. The Pompidou Group has prepared a policy paper on the cooperation between authorities and civil society in drug cases. 

- In Norway, it is a given that user organisations and other representatives of civil society should be heard before a new policy is adopted. They also have a key role in the drug policy debate. This is not the case for all countries. I believe it is essential for Norway and the Council of Europe, which is based on the values of human rights, democracy and rule of law, to emphasise the importance of listening to those to whom this applies, says Høie.

Challenges associated with new psychoactive drugs and different methods of regulating cannabis are other topics that have been discussed during the Norwegian Presidency.

The Stavanger conference adopted the “Stavanger Declaration”, as well as a new work programme for the Pompidou Group. The work with human rights and inclusion of civil society will continue. The development of knowledge and exchange of experiences on challenges associated with new synthetic drugs is also important. This mandate must be revised, and the phrase “to combat drugs”, which has been part of the Pompidou Group’s name since its commencement in 1971, will be removed.

- I am very pleased that we have now agreed to remove the phrase “to combat drugs” from the Pompidou Group’s title. This phrase represents an outdated view of drug polices and of individuals with drug abuse problems, says Høie.

It was also decided that Portugal will take over the Presidency for the next four years.

Minister of Health Bent Høie handed over the Presidency to the Secretary of State of Health of Portugal, Raquel Duarte.
Minister of Health Bent Høie handed over the Presidency to the Secretary of State of Health of Portugal, Raquel Duarte. Credit: Studio Hjelm

- I believe that respect for human rights and public health are the corestone in drug policies. During the Portuguese Precidency of the Pompidou Group we will give the spescial emphasis in the adoption and implementation of comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based and full humans rights respecting policies, putting the individual in the centre of the interventions, says Raquel Duarte, Secretary of State of Health of Portugal.

- I am very pleased to transfer the presidency to Portugal. Portugal has shown the way in its drug policy, and I am certain that the work with human rights and knowledge-based drug policies will continue under their presidency, says Høie.

About the Pompidou Group

The Pompidou Group is a cooperative platform for drug policy issues. The group has a broad mandate, and discusses health, social and legal policy issues associated with drugs. The group was established in 1971, on the initiative of the French President Georges Pompidou, and was incorporated in the Council of Europe in 1980.

The Pompidou Group is a part of the Council of Europe, however, non-member states of the Council of Europe can also become members. The Group currently has 39 Member States, including countries outside the Council of Europe, such as Mexico.