Harm Reduction: Revolutions

April 9, 2009

Debate on harm reduction at the UN high level meeting on drugs - is it really a storm in the teacup?

Altough harm reduction was not mentioned in the Political Declaration adopted by the high level UN meeting on drugs (March 11-12, 2009), 26 countries supported a statement made by Germany that interpreted the term “related support services” (a euphemism substituting harm reduction in the text) as harm reduction services. Other governments, like the US, Japan and Russia opposed this interpretation.

“Little more than a storm in a teacup” – this is how the head of UNODC described the heated debates on the term “harm reduction” in his closing speech. Not everybody shares his opinion. For example, the Transnational Institute (TNI) concluded in its excellent blog that this year the “Vienna consensus on drug control has cracked”. I tend to agree with TNI: despite the noisy celebarations of the “century of drug control”, there are signs that the global prohibition era is coming to an end. Maybe change will not come suddenly but step by step: each new harm reduction program is a small revolution against the old UNiform ways of drug control.

Posted by Peter Sarosi