Global Fund supports Harm Reduction

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Michel Kazatchkine, urged the president of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to send a strong message to the world with clear and specific language that calls for comprehensive harm reduction services.

This is yet another international official calling upon delegates in Vienna to stop the ongoing controversy about the inclusion of the concept of harm reduction in the political declaration for the 10-year UNGASS evaluation that has to be agreed upon for the next Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

In his letter Kazatchkine says, "As a doctor, researcher and advocate for science-based public-health policies, I have long asserted that harm reduction is an essential, evidence-based AIDS response." The Vienna outcome is important in his opinion, because the Vienna documents "will help provide the framework for drug policy and control efforts, what is included, and excluded, from the final declaration will send an important message to member states. Policy makers and public-health advocates."

Other international officials also called on the Vienna delegates to include harm reduction in the outcome of the 1998 UNGASS evaluation, such as Michel Sidibé, the new Executive Director of UNAIDS, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak.

"It is my hope that members states will live up to their international obligations, and recognize the benefit of harm reduction, an approach that promotes human rights, benefits communities, and saves lives," Kazatchkine end his letter.

The Global Fund is the largest multilateral funder in the fight against AIDS. Harm reduction approaches have been endorsed by the UN General Assembly and in numerous UN documents from UNAIDS, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the CND itself.

However, some member states, notably the Russian Federation and Japan, continue to oppose to include harm reduction in the political declaration. There is no obligation in the declaration for member states to adopt harm reduction approaches if they do not wish to do so. Nevertheless, some member states keep on denying that harm reduction policies are common practice in about 80 countries worldwide – a fact that should be reflected in a document about current drug policies of the international community.