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ID: HR23-668
Presenting author: Shaun Shelly

Presenting author biography:

Shaun Shelly brings academic, programmatic, research, clinical, and lived experience into a 360 degree-view of the complex issues that inform our understanding and response to certain drugs and the people that use them. He has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

Imperialism through funding: How funding from the US undermines harm reduction and human rights in Africa

Shaun Shelly
When the Biden administration came to power, American domestic drug policy shifted. Many approved of the reported move towards "evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services". US funding for harm reduction services in Africa comes from several sources, with CDC/PEPFAR taking the lead in South Africa. The US Department of State directly or indirectly funds several organisations and initiatives that address drug-related issues, including prevention, treatment and education. A large proportion of the Department of State funding is channelled through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The stated aim of the INL is to "keep Americans safe by countering crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad." The INL has a prohibitionist agenda and provides resources, training and funding to strengthen criminal justice systems in several African Countries. In addition, the INL funds several organisations in the drug education and treatment field, including the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Plan, the International Society of Substance Use Professionals, the International Technology Transfer Centre and the International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR)

In my presentation, I will show how the extensive influence of the INL shapes the understanding and response to drug use in Africa and how the funding seeks to strengthen the prohibitionist approach to drugs, increase the militarised law enforcement approach to drug prevention and silence the voices of people who promote harm reduction and human rights-based approaches and policy. I go on to argue that the undue influence of the Department of State funding is a form of imperialism designed to maintain the status quo established by the war on drugs and is ultimately a form of colonialism.