Research on drug policy reform focus of Cities Summit of the Americas event

  • Date

    Thu 4 May 23

City and community leaders from across the Americas heard how to use the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy to develop more humane, evidence-based and effective approaches to drug policy at the Cities Summit of the Americas (CSOA) in Denver.

Julie Hannah, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy based at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, and Principal Investigator on a range of research grants to develop and implement the Guidelines said: “This event is an opportunity to raise the profile of our pioneering partners across the Americas who have centred human rights and the needs of their communities in their understanding of and response to oppressive, punitive, and harmful drug policies.”

The Cities Summit of the Americas was held from Wednesday 26 April to Friday 28 April and brought together mayors, governors, public officials, alongside civil society leaders to engage in discussion across a range of issues and is sponsored by the United States Department of State.

The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy were developed through a collaboration between academics, UN entities and civil society. The project was co-led by Julie Hannah at the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, based at the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Guidelines which have also just been endorsed by a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution were co-sponsored by the UNDP, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the World Health Organization.

A discussion of the Guidelines was at the heart of the Summit session titled ‘Healthy Communities Track Session - Human Rights Close to Home: Local Governance for Sustainable Action on Drugs’.

Julie said: “Punitive drug prohibition has been a hallmark response to drug control across the Western hemisphere (and beyond) and communities and local leaders are pioneering humane and evidence-based innovations that directly challenge law enforcement led responses to drugs with tremendous impact.

“The Guidelines are a tool that can help communities use the normative power of human rights to innovate new directions for drug policy reform. This is an opportunity for more than 400 mayors and local leaders from the Western hemisphere to hear the stories of change from community leaders and activists.

“Likewise, this is an opportunity to share and disseminate the Guidelines to local leaders and community actors. This is the first ever Cities Summit and a moment where drug policy reform is becoming a hot button political issue. We were privileged to be selected amongst a competitive pool of applicants and are the only group selected to focus on drug policy reform. It’s an exciting means to showcase the ways in which our years of research alongside community partners can produce a meaningful impact.”

Speakers taking part in the event, which was also co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme and the Washington Office on Latin America included:

  • Lisa Sanchez, México Unido Contra la Delincuencia
  • Ilze Brands Gehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, United Nations
  • Ernesto Cortés, Latin American and Caribbean Network of People Who Use Drugs, Costa Rica
  • Svante Myrick, People for the American Way, and Former Mayor of Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Railda Silva, Association of Friends and Families of Incarcerated Persons (AMPARAR), Brazil
  • Mario Moreno, Chief of Staff, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, United States

The events was recorded and a recording is expected to be available soon.

For more information go to the Cities Summit of the Americas website