UN Health Official's New Report Calls For End To Drug War, Harm Reduction, Scientific Approach To Drug Policy

Zinger Key Points
  • By adopting alternative regulatory approaches, the report suggests that public health would be safeguarded and human rights enhanced.
  • An MD & prof at Georgetown Law School, UN's Mofokeng calls for a shift from punitive approaches to ones based on human rights and science.
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United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Tlaleng Mofokeng, presented her fourth independent report to the UN’s Human Rights Council on Monday in which she issued a plea to global nations to abandon the war on drugs and adopt harm-reduction strategies.

The report explores how harm reduction relates to both drug use and drug use disorders, as well as to drug laws and policies. Mofokeng advocates for the decriminalization of drug use, possession, purchase and cultivation for personal use. She also supports the implementation of supervised consumption sites, drug-checking services and distribution of life-saving medications like naloxone.

In her report, Mofokeng said ending criminalization, stigmatization and discrimination will improve access to information, goods, services and facilities.

"Global advocacy and high-level statements of intent must be put into action to uphold the right to dignity," she said Monday, adding that "civil society participation is key." Mofokeng has been a Special Rapporteur on The Right to Health since 2020.

"All stakeholders must respect people who use drugs, people with drug use disorders and people whose health and well-being is affected by drug laws and policies," she said in a press release.

A medical doctor and professor at Georgetown University’s Law School, Mofokeng called for a shift from punitive approaches to ones based on human rights and scientific evidence.

Drug Policies: More Harm Than Good

The report criticizes current drug policies for often causing more harm than good, including human rights abuses such as excessive incarceration and the misuse of lethal force in drug enforcement. The 19-page report argues that criminalization is an extreme form of regulation that overlooks the potential benefits of more nuanced regulatory frameworks. These frameworks should adjust their restrictiveness based on scientific research and power dynamics, aiming to minimize overall harm while prioritizing public health and human rights, per the UN report.

By moving towards “alternative regulatory approaches,” the report suggests that not only could public health be safeguarded, but human rights could also be enhanced in a mutually reinforcing manner. Mofokeng insists that all parties involved must respect individuals affected by drug use and the prevailing drug policies, advocating for a compassionate, evidence-based approach to drug-related issues.

Special rapporteurs and independent experts at the UN are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system.

UN courtesy photo of Tlaleng Mofokeng

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Posted In: CannabisNewsRegulationsHealth CarePoliticsTop StoriesTlaleng MofokengUN Special RapporteurUN's Right to HealthWar on Drugs
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