Saturday, February 20, 2010

Looking for good resources on international drug policy?

International perspectives on drug policy are helpful for a few reasons.  First, some of the most interesting and progressive policies are happening outside the U.S.  Second, we need global strategies to meaningful address the worldwide problem of drug-related harm.  We certainly seem to have no problem conceiving of the 'war on drugs' as an effort that crosses international borders.  Why not start learning from our global neighbors about new approaches harm reduction, treatment and prevention?  The International Drug Policy Consortium isn't a bad place to start.  In addition to a library of more than 200 publications, they offer a great set of principles to guide best practices in national drug policy.  Imagine what U.S. drug policy would look like if we took these principles seriously:

Overarching principles:

1) Human Rights Principles
Articulating how the protection and promotion of human rights principles can be incorporated into national drug strategies and programmes, and issuing challenges under human rights legislation and procedures where these obligations are breached.
2) Harm Reduction Principles
Articulating how proven harm reduction concepts and programmes can be integrated into effective drug policy.
3) Social Inclusion Principles
Articulating how the most effective approaches to reducing the demand for drugs should focus on finding ways to counter the stigmatisation and marginalisation of drug users, and offer those who need it help to reintegrate into society.
4) Civil society engagement
Advocating to national governments the benefits of engaging with civil society. All too often, due to the political sensitivity in this field of policy, policy makers have viewed civil society as a problem to be avoided. If constructive mechanisms can be created for respectful engagement, however, NGOs (including user and family representatives) are an invaluable source of expertise, particularly in their understanding of what is happening in drug markets and drug using communities.
5)  Objective Setting and Data Gathering
To propose a structured approach to the assessment of priorities for national drug policies, focusing on the real health and social harms to individuals and communities.  To describe how a range of high level objectives can be articulated that are relevant to the particular situation, and examine the options open to policy makers for establishing systems to measure progress against those objectives.

Criminal justice:

1)  Better drug laws
Articulating the problems with the creation of harsh and unsophisticated drug laws, and the need for better legal frameworks, for example, for proportionate sentencing, diversion to treatment, and support for harm reduction. Building on the existing work of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (who have developed and are piloting some of these materials), we hope eventually to be able to articulate and promote model legislation to governments around the world, who are developing or reviewing their domestic legislation.
2) A new role for law enforcement
Articulating a new role for drug law enforcement in the 21st century, moving away from a singular focus on arrest, seizure and punishment, and towards a contribution to tackling the consequences of drug markets in terms of crime and violence, community harms, public health and drug dependence treatment.
3)  Reducing incarceration
Articulating the evidence that widespread incarceration of drug users does not reduce prevalence, is expensive, and can increase health and crime problems. Producing ‘tool kits’ for national governments on the legal and criminal justice approaches that they can take to reduce incarceration.
4)  Effective policy for prisons
Looking at how prison administrations can implement best practices in supply reduction, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction in custodial institutions.

Health and social programmes

To promote systems of effective drug prevention and drug dependence treatment and care, based on the experience of humane and effective practice around the world.  Drug education and prevention will be based on models which have been shown to achieve meaningful outcomes. Drug dependence treatment should be delivered through an integrated system using evidence-based models. Harm reduction and other public health measures should be fully integrated into the treatment and care system.

Strengthening Communities / Community safety

To examine the ways that drug distribution at national and local level can cause crime and social problems for law abiding communities, and promote creative ways for policy makers, law enforcement agencies and communities to respond, focusing on the reduction of violence and intimidation experienced by citizens and communities. The exact nature of markets, and the related violence and disorder, varies in different parts of the world, but there is a common theme of ruthless protection of turf and profits, and some important lessons from experience of the authorities in attempting to tackle it.

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