Human Rights Council issues resolution in advance of 2016 special session on world drug policy

Posted by Kate Barth on March 24, 2015

Far too often discussion regarding narcotics policy and law focuses on effective policing and neglects to consider the protection of the fundamental rights of drug users. From a right to health standpoint, the decision to use a narcotic is viewed as a legitimate, albeit poor, health choice. Much like refusing to go to the gym or eating too much junk food, the choice to abuse narcotics may be a bad choice, but one which should be respected if we are committed to respecting an individual’s autonomy. Dissuading people from abusing drugs is best accomplished by campaigns that aim at curtailing negative externalities of drug use (which can also infringe on third parties’ rights) while still respecting the rights of the drug users. A single-minded focus on policing and criminalization is neither effective nor compliant with a State’s obligation to respect the health rights of their people under Article 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In General Assembly resolution 67/193 of 20 December 2012, the General Assembly decided to convene a special session in early 2016 on the world drug problem. It is crucial that any such global conversation about narcotics policy and law keeps human rights at the forefront of the discussion. The recent resolution of the Human Rights Council, recalling the importance of incorporating human rights into these discussions and requesting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on the impact of world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights, is a welcome precursor to the 2016 special session.

To read the full text of the Human Rights Council’s resolution, click here.

Kate Barth is a legal officer at Lawyers Collective.