UNGASS 2016: Side event on «The Nexus of Human Rights and Drug Control Policies»

Excellences, panelists, ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome you to this side-event on a topic of importance to Norway's government.

Norway is pleased to organize this event with the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.

The UNGASS preparatory work clearly demonstrated the need to address the complexities of the world drug problem system-wide in the UN, as well as in the regional institutions and on the national level.

Human rights must inspire all our work on drugs. I am pleased to note that human rights are reflected in the outcome document, although Norway would have liked to see stronger language in many areas.

We  regret that it was not possible to agree on language on the death penalty. Norway strongly opposes the death penalty and will continue to work for its abolition worldwide.

It is always good to remind ourselves that human rights are the rights of individuals regardless of color, creed or gender. Regardless of a person’s status in society.

Governments are responsible for securing these rights for their people. Let me in this context quote from the speech of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at last month’s high level segment of the Human Rights Council:

“To erode the right of all members of society to participate fully in decision-making is to undermine the foundation of which every State stands: its service to its people”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This service also covers people who suffer from the harms of drug use, those who need access to controlled medicines to treat mental and neurological illnesses, and the terminally ill who need controlled medicines for pain relief and palliative care.

We have ample documentation of the serious human rights gaps that exist in the implementation of drug policies. Access to health services is vital but often denied. This causes unnecessary suffering for the individual, as well as costs to society at large.

We see that persons suffering from drug addiction have a higher risk of HIV and hepatitis, as well as other serious illnesses. We need more focus on the health needs of women, as well as of youth. It is unacceptable that avoidable mother to child HIV transmission takes place.

Key in this respect is harm reduction coupled with respect for the wish of the individual.

The complexities of the drug problem, also result in persons who suffer from drug dependency becoming victims of multiple forms of human rights violations and discrimination.

They fall prey to ruthless criminals inflicting grave bodily harm, sexual abuse, involuntary disappearances and even murder.

Dealing with these challenges requires a cross- sectoral approach also on the national and local level.

Equally important, it requires a genuine change of mindset as to how we perceive persons with a drug dependency.

Politicians must commit and take the lead through an inclusive human rights based approach.  I am convinced that an inclusive approach will pave the way for the best results for the individual, their families and society.

I know that the preparations for this important summit were inclusive. There was close cooperation between the UN in New York, Geneva and Vienna, between the UNODC, the WHO and the INCB.

Let me pay particular tribute to the important input from civil society and the scientific community.  This helped energize the negotiations on the outcome document.

It is the wish of Norway that this inclusive approach be continued and improved upon in the preparations leading up to the 2019 review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action.

We need to continue to focus on access to health care and the abolition of the death penalty for drug related offences. However, we can't stop there. We should explore in more detail what the broader impact of human rights on drug policy is.

To that end, we need to raise awareness that all policy areas need to be seen from a human rights angle. What impact does human rights have on prevention policy? On the role of civil society?

We need to be aware of what questions we, as policy makers, should ask ourselves when we design and implement drug policy. It is not only the states with the obvious breaches to human rights that need to question this relationship. This should be done by all of us.

As presidency of the Pompidou Group, Norway has initiated that the Council of Europe contributes to this by preparing a policy paper on human rights dimensions in drug policy. This side event is expected to be a source of inspiration for this work.

Finally, a successful approach to the world drug problem will be an important part of our work to deliver on the promise of the UN sustainable development goals. This holds true in particular for SDG 3 on health and well-being, SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.

Thank you.