In the wake of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016, there has been growing recognition among UN Member States, UN entities and civil society that the current policy framework to address potential harms related to the use of psychoactive substances has itself caused serious harms and created an environment where human rights abuses are more likely to occur. This includes creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence, and instability; threatening public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalisation of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women, and youth. Many UN Member States, institutions and experts in health, human rights and drug policy have publicly espoused rights-based approaches to drug policy, but what these statements mean and what concrete commitments should be behind them lacks articulation.
In light of this, the HRDP and the United Nations Development Programme are collaborating to develop international guidelines on drug control and human rights as a tool to help states advance and be accountable for rights-centred drug policies. This project integrates years of work (and continued work) with the UN human rights systems as they advance the normative development of human rights in drug control into a concise, inclusive set of principles to guide policymakers and other key stakeholders in national, regional, and international drug control policy. Human rights treaty bodies and special procedures are engaged in the project development alongside Member States, civil society, and academia.