Remarks on the Human Rights Session of the International Harm Reduction Conference in Vilnius, June 11th 2013

This conference is about the values of Harm Reduction. One of the values behind Harm Reduction is human rights.

Human rights must continue to be at the forefront of everything we do.

It should not be necessary for us to say that human rights are drug users’ rights as well. But we must say it loudly and clearly, because in too many countries, in too many police cells, in too many prisons, and in too many health services, drug users are still treated as less than human.

Unless we begin with a firm commitment to human rights, efforts to reduce the harms associated with drugs are doomed to fail.

Here, I mean the right to health and decent care. But also the right to freedom from discrimination. The right to equality before the law. The right to privacy. The right to work and to education.

The right to share the evidence and to share in the advances of science.

The evidence about why drug use is most effectively addressed as a public health challenge, and why punitive approaches that criminalize users, drain the resources of law enforcement agencies and overburden judicial and penal systems , are futile and counter-productive.

We need to continue our advocacy, maintain the moral and political pressure and above all, continue to promote the evidence. The right for all to share and benefit from the evidence.

All of these are universal rights. And no matter where they are, whether it is Moscow, Melbourne, Bangkok, Detroit or Vilnius.

Thank you.