Why do we need a Harm Reduction Decade?

Right now, ahead of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, governments and international organisations are discussing the future direction of drug policy which will determine policies of countries for the next ten years.

We are asking you to stand in solidarity with people who use drugs, their families and communities by signing the Harm Reduction Decade Declaration that calls on governments and international organisations to:

  • Endorse and adopt harm reduction as a key principle of drug policy throughout the next decade of the global response to drug use.
  • Redirect just a small portion of funding from ineffective punitive drug control activities into health, human rights and harm reduction responses, and deliver a global target of a 10% shift in such funding by 2020 at the upcoming UNGASS.
  • End the criminalisation of people who use drugs and the punitive legal frameworks that fuel HIV transmission, overdose, mass incarceration and human rights violations.

Why is it important?
Harm reduction has been proven to save lives, promote health and increase the human rights and dignity of people who use drugs. It has been recognised and endorsed by economic experts, UN agencies, including UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS and the World Bank, scientists and prominent individuals. Yet still very few countries include harm reduction in their national policy or provide lifesaving harm reduction services. Moreover, global funding for it amounts to just $160 million – only 7 per cent of what is needed. By contrast, each year governments spend over $100 billion waging an ineffective war on drugs.

Why do we need action?
In 1998, the international community gathered at the UNGASS on drugs in New York under the slogan ‘A Drug Free World – We Can Do It!’ Since that time, rather than achieving a world without drugs, what we have witnessed instead is the increasing damage caused by punitive drug control in all corners of the world: a catalogue that includes human rights violations against people who use drugs, the spread of HIV and HCV epidemics driven by unsafe injecting, high levels of overdose in many countries, and mass incarceration as a direct result of punitive drug laws.

Why do we need action now?
The world urgently needs alternatives to these failed and counterproductive policies. In April 2016, leaders will again meet in New York at another UNGASS on drugs, an event that offers the opportunity to learn from the policies of the past, and build an alternative response to drug use that is rooted in science, public health, human rights and dignity. It offers the opportunity to make harm reduction a driving principle of national and international approaches to drug use, one that focusses on protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs, rather than maintaining a focus on punishment and prohibition in the name of drug suppression.

What can you do?
Sign the Harm Reduction Declaration
Join our Thunderclap action.
Learn more about the #10by20 campaign
Share the information and call to action with your friends. Together we can achieve the change!