In 2014, Harm Reduction International convened a global Harm Reduction Working Group to develop a set of shared goals and asks ahead of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs. During a series of meetings attended by the members of the working group the concept of the Harm Reduction Decade has emerged and was prioritised, alongside with the 10by20 campaign.

The concept of the Harm Reduction Decade is based on a number of ideas:

  • The ten year cycles of international drug policy agreements/reviews (recalling the misguided ‘drug free world by 2008’ slogan from the 1998 UNGASS on drugs);
  • A way to explain the success of harm reduction over the past decades versus the failures of ‘drug free’ visions;
  • Encapsulating political and scientific recognition not just for harm reduction services, but harm reduction philosophy;
  • Thinking past UNGASS to harm reduction as the foundational principle moving forward, including within post-prohibitionist systems;
  • A political challenge to a system, understood as national governments and international drug control regime, that has yet to fully endorse harm reduction;
  • A systemic challenge – one that questions current metrics of ‘success’ and reframes the objectives of drug policy to sit within a framework of public health, human rights and sustainable development and redirects funding accordingly (10by20).

The International Harm Reduction Conference taking place in Kuala Lumpur in October 2015 presents a major opportunity for the harm reduction and drug policy reform sectors to lay out a vision of the Harm Reduction Decade and to call for global leadership on 10by20 ahead of 2016 UNGASS on Drugs.