Amnesty International : The impact of punitive drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights: Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the annotated outline for a General Comment

Amnesty International welcomes the opportunity to provide preliminary observations to the annotated outline circulated in the context of the upcoming General Comment on the impacts of drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights to be developed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) and expresses its strong support for this initiative. It highlights different areas that the organization believes should be addressed in the General Comment and sees this as a key opportunity for the Committee to address important concerns regarding the implementation of drug laws and policies and to provide authoritative guidance to states on how to fulfil their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in this context. The submission is largely based on research and policy analysis conducted by Amnesty International, although it should not be considered as an exhaustive list of all concerns the organization has regarding human rights and drug policies.

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The impact of punitive drug policies on economic, social and cultural rights (2024), submission to the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights on the annotated outline for a general comment (31 january 2024)

Amnesty and the drug policy reform : “Drug policies are failing”

Amnesty International is calling for states to shift away from policies based on prohibition and criminalization, in favour of evidence-based alternatives that protect public health and the human rights of people who use drugs and other affected communities.

This should include decriminalizing the use, possession, cultivation and purchase of all drugs for personal use, and the effective regulation of drugs to provide legal and safe channels for those permitted to access them.

Drugs can certainly pose some risks to individuals and societies, and therefore states have an obligation to adopt adequate measures to protect people from the harmful effects of drugs. But it is precisely because of these risks that governments need to take control and regulate how these substances are produced, sold and used.

Among other things, Amnesty is calling for governments to:

  • Move away from punishing and stigmatizing people who use drugs and instead adopt laws and policies focused on protecting health and human rights to minimize risks and stop the violence associated with illicit markets.
  • Decriminalize the use, possession cultivation, and purchase of all drugs for personal use. Decriminalization policies must be accompanied by an expansion of health and other social services to address the risks related to drug use.
  • Expand evidence-based prevention, harm reduction and treatment programmes and address the root causes that may increase the risks of using drugs or that lead people to become involved in the drug trade, including ill-health, denial of education, unemployment, lack of housing, poverty and discrimination.
  • Put in place measures that tackle social inequalities and promote social justice, including a wide set of gender-sensitive and holistic socio-economic protection measures tackling the different stages of the drug trade, from cultivation and production to distribution and use.

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Amnesty paper on Human Rights and Drug Policy: A Paradigm Shift (2019)

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