Presenting author: Benjamin Phillips
Presenting author biography:
Benjamin Phillips is the co-founder and Deputy Director of the International Drug Law Resource and Advocacy Center (IDLARC) and Manager of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs (NYNGOC). He has a Masters degree in global health and has nearly 2 decades experience working in harm reduction advocacy.
Louder Than Bombs: What Harm Reduction Can Learn From Anti-Cluster Munitions Activism and Modern Slavery Abolition for a New International Drug Treaty
Benjamin Phillips, Heather Haase, Adelya Urmanche
Background: Harm reduction advocacy within the UN system has flourished since the 2016 UNGASS on drugs. During this time the global consensus on ‘the world drug problem’ has become increasingly fractured. Some countries have adopted significant shifts towards harm reduction and rights-based policies. Meanwhile, other states have only further reinforced criminalized approaches. The fractured consensus presents a unique opportunity to shape international drug policy dialogue.
Methods: Drawing on historical precedent from a diverse range of social justice movements, we examine the sustained efforts of civil society activism and advocacy required to modernize international treaty systems. Successful campaigns against cluster munitions, anti-personal mines, modern slavery and forced labor that resulted in supplementary treaties to correct existing deficiencies will be critically examined.
Results: A proposed supplementary international drug treaty is a practical solution align the drug treaty regime with public health and human rights-based provisions contained in pre-existing, but non-binding UN resolutions and declarations. As many of these provisions have already been agreed by member states, there would be no basis for objection, meaning that member states would be free to join the treaty without violating their obligations under the existing system.
Conclusion: Adoption of a new international drug law treaty may be possible – and even necessary – for countries that remain committed to harm reduction and right-based approaches to drugs.