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A Balancing Act: Policymaking on Illicit Drugs in the Czech Republic

February 1, 2020

In the early post-Soviet period, Czech authorities, unlike their counterparts in some former Eastern Bloc countries, turned away from repressive drug policies and developed approaches to illicit drugs that balanced new freedoms with state authority. The end of Soviet rule meant that drug markets and the use of a wide range of new drugs attained a magnitude and visibility not previously known to Czech society.From an early stage, some pioneering health professionals with expertise in drug addiction saw that the new drug situation would require greatly expanded services for drug users and collaboration between civil society and government to achieve this expansion. They were able to influence the new government and steer it toward drug policy that would define drug use as a multisectoral problem, not an issue for policing alone.The report A Balancing Act: Policymaking on Illicit Drugs in the Czech Republic traces the development of drug policy in the Czech Republic from the post-Soviet period to the present day. The report examines the impact of the Czech Republic's evidence based approach to drug policy, compares the country's path on drug policy to that of its neighbour Slovakia and discusses challenges to maintaining this approach in the future.Watch a video produced by the Rights Reporter Foundation based on the fin

Detention and Punishment in the Name of Drug Treatment

March 1, 2016

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.In some countries, people who use, or are alleged to use, illicit drugs may be detained involuntarily after little or no legal process, ostensibly for the purpose of receiving drug "treatment" or "rehabilitation."These detentions are variously described as compulsory treatment centers, drug rehabilitation centers, detoxification centers, or "centers for social education and labor." It is far from clear that all persons detained in this manner are drug-dependent or in need of treatment. If they are, there are international standards to guide treatment of drug-dependence, but drug detention centers often subject detainees to treatment methods that are scientifically unsound, punitive, cruel, inhuman, and degrading. In March 2012, 12 UN bodies—including the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), WHO, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Labour Organization, and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights—jointly issued a call for the closure of compulsory drug detention centers and an expansion of voluntary, scientifically and medically appropriate forms of treating drug dependence in the health system.The 2012 joint UN statement on compulsory drug rehabilitation centers was a very important step, but a declaration from UN member states condemning these institutions and calling for their closure would advance the cause of ending the abuses they represent. Detention and Punishment in the Name of Drug Treatment highlights considerations that should be brought to bear in the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem, toward the goal of ending arbitrary detention and grave human rights abuses in the name of drug treatment. 

The Economics of the Drug War: Unaccounted Costs, Lost Lives, Missed Opportunities

March 1, 2016

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Fiscally minded policymakers should invest in drug policy reform. Many national drug control policies are centered on aggressive policing and military efforts to reduce drug supplies and punish drug consumers. But these policies come with a very high price tag, rarely resulting in sustained control of drug supply or demand. The economic wastefulness of the drug war is one of the most important motivations for reform.A new report from the Open Society Foundations, The Economics of the Drug War: Unaccounted Costs, Lost Lives, Missed Opportunities, documents both the wastefulness of ill-conceived investment in ineffective policies and the missed opportunity of failing to invest in effective policies and programs that embody good public health practice and human rights norms. The case of Colombia, for example, illustrates the futility—and the harms to individuals and society—of extremely expensive coca eradication efforts. For all the money spent, the efforts merely resulted in a geographical shift of coca production to new and sometimes more environmentally fragile locations. The environmental and health damage caused by aerial spraying of coca crops also negatively impacted the productivity of rural families. Many countries fail to invest in and scale up programs that yield significant economic returns in reduced crime, reduced death from overdose, reduced illness and injury from unsafe injection, and improved productivity of patients who are able to get on with their lives. Programs that provide clean injection equipment are among the most cost-effective interventions in all of public health because they prevent HIV, but too many governments still believe erroneously that they encourage drug use. And overincarceration for nonviolent drug offenses is a drain on public resources that fails to make a dent in drug markets.Health-centered drug policy conceived with human rights norms in mind is effective and cost-effective compared to many status quo approaches. This report explains why less punitive drug policy is good fiscal decision making.

The Economics of the Drug War: Unaccounted Costs, Lost Lives, Missed Opportunities - Spanish

March 1, 2016

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Fiscally minded policymakers should invest in drug policy reform. Many national drug control policies are centered on aggressive policing and military efforts to reduce drug supplies and punish drug consumers. But these policies come with a very high price tag, rarely resulting in sustained control of drug supply or demand. The economic wastefulness of the drug war is one of the most important motivations for reform.A new report from the Open Society Foundations, The Economics of the Drug War: Unaccounted Costs, Lost Lives, Missed Opportunities, documents both the wastefulness of ill-conceived investment in ineffective policies and the missed opportunity of failing to invest in effective policies and programs that embody good public health practice and human rights norms. The case of Colombia, for example, illustrates the futility—and the harms to individuals and society—of extremely expensive coca eradication efforts. For all the money spent, the efforts merely resulted in a geographical shift of coca production to new and sometimes more environmentally fragile locations. The environmental and health damage caused by aerial spraying of coca crops also negatively impacted the productivity of rural families. Many countries fail to invest in and scale up programs that yield significant economic returns in reduced crime, reduced death from overdose, reduced illness and injury from unsafe injection, and improved productivity of patients who are able to get on with their lives. Programs that provide clean injection equipment are among the most cost-effective interventions in all of public health because they prevent HIV, but too many governments still believe erroneously that they encourage drug use. And overincarceration for nonviolent drug offenses is a drain on public resources that fails to make a dent in drug markets.Health-centered drug policy conceived with human rights norms in mind is effective and cost-effective compared to many status quo approaches. This report explains why less punitive drug policy is good fiscal decision making.

Harm Reduction

September 1, 2015

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Harm reduction is based on the idea that people have the right to be safe and supported even if they are not ready or willing to abstain from illicit drug use. A harm reduction approach involves giving people who use drugs choices that can help them protect their health. For many people who use drugs, harm reduction services are the most likely entry point into health care and the most likely means of protection from life-threatening conditions. As United Nations agencies have noted, the effectiveness of harm reduction services for HIV prevention and prevention of drug-related mortality is beyond dispute. The UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016 is an opportunity to re-energize the commitment to harm reduction pledged by UN member states at the 2001 UNGASS on HIV/AIDS. Funding for proven and cost-effective harm reduction services that protect not only people who use drugs but entire communities should be a top priority. This report details how harm reduction is a central pillar of effective drug response, critical to reaching people who use drugs with services that can help protect them, their families, and their communities.

Harm Reduction: Spanish

September 1, 2015

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Harm reduction is based on the idea that people have the right to be safe and supported even if they are not ready or willing to abstain from illicit drug use. A harm reduction approach involves giving people who use drugs choices that can help them protect their health. For many people who use drugs, harm reduction services are the most likely entry point into health care and the most likely means of protection from life-threatening conditions. As United Nations agencies have noted, the effectiveness of harm reduction services for HIV prevention and prevention of drug-related mortality is beyond dispute. The UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016 is an opportunity to re-energize the commitment to harm reduction pledged by UN member states at the 2001 UNGASS on HIV/AIDS. Funding for proven and cost-effective harm reduction services that protect not only people who use drugs but entire communities should be a top priority. This report details how harm reduction is a central pillar of effective drug response, critical to reaching people who use drugs with services that can help protect them, their families, and their communities.

Solidarity Sidelined: Is There a Future for Human Rights-driven Development Assistance for Health at the Global Fund?

April 1, 2015

As the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria embarks on a new strategy, it must take care to avoid measures that are inconsistent with both its stated objectives and the history of human rights activism that helped to bring it into being. In spite of irrefutable epidemiologic and programmatic evidence, meaningful inclusion of key populations and protection of the human rights of people affected by and at risk of HIV, TB, and malaria are still seen as side issues by governments and donors. The Global Fund must reclaim and act on the spirit of solidarity that characterized its origins to be a leader in making human rights central to global health programming.This report reflects on the founding values of the Global Fund, where it has made progress and where it has fallen short. It outlines three critical areas that require attention and advocacy:realizing the Global Fund's human rights objectivespreserving support in middle income countriessupporting access to medicines for all at the lowest possible priceA period of changing global health governance and a dramatically shifting geography of poverty are part of the context for this briefing paper's consideration of the impact of changes at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, including the Fund's so-called New Funding Model.This report is a resource for advocates working to assess the impact of the New Funding Model and to help shape the next five-year strategy. 

The Global Fund at a Crossroads: Informing Advocacy on Global Fund Efforts in Human Rights, Support to Middle-income Countries, and Access to Medicines

April 1, 2015

There is an urgent need to revive and re-energize civil society advocacy to hold the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria accountable to its origins and founding principles. Recent changes in Global Fund policy and practice have taken it away from the country-driven character that set it apart from other aid agencies. It risks becoming less centered on rights-based strategies to support national responses to AIDS, TB, and malaria.In April 2015, the Open Society Public Health Program convened a consultation of experts and advocates concerned about the future of the Global Fund, particularly in these key areas:preserving support to important programs in middle-income countriesrealizing the Global Fund's human rights objectivessupporting access to essential medicinesWithout concerted and well-informed efforts by advocates the Global Fund risks repudiating its own history, undermining its investments, and damaging its stature as a leader in global health. Furthermore, the Global Fund's ambitious strategy to end the epidemics by 2030 will be a pipe dream without a reinvigoration of commitments in these three key areas. This briefing paper summarizes the deliberations of the consultation, and provides recommendations that the Global Fund should undertake in order to uphold its founding values.

Drug Courts: Equivocal Evidence on a Popular Intervention: Spanish

February 1, 2015

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Drug treatment courts, also called "drug courts," are meant to offer court-supervised treatment for drug dependence to people who would otherwise go to prison for a drug-related offense. Some countries have adopted drug treatment courts as a way to reduce drug-related incarceration.While there is considerable consensus in UN and other multilateral policies and statements that there should be an alternative to criminal sanctions for some categories of drug infractions, drug treatment courts are not specified as the only or principal means of providing that alternative, and there is no international law or treaty explicitly addressing drug courts.In spite of good intentions, these courts do not represent reform if they undermine health and human rights, if they put health decisions in the hands of judges and prosecutors who reject clinically indicated treatment, or if they impose punishment for relapses that are a normal part of drug dependence.Drug Courts: Equivocal Evidence on a Popular Intervention explores what the UN and other multilateral bodies say about drug courts, reviews the drug court experience in the United States and around the world, and examines other ways to avert incarceration for minor drug offenses.

Drug Courts: Equivocal Evidence on a Popular Intervention

February 1, 2015

As member states of the United Nations take stock of the drug control system, a number of debates have emerged among governments about how to balance international drug laws with human rights, public health, alternatives to incarceration, and experimentation with regulation. This series intends to provide a primer on why governments must not turn a blind eye to pressing human rights and public health impacts of current drug policies.Drug treatment courts, also called "drug courts," are meant to offer court-supervised treatment for drug dependence to people who would otherwise go to prison for a drug-related offense. Some countries have adopted drug treatment courts as a way to reduce drug-related incarceration.While there is considerable consensus in UN and other multilateral policies and statements that there should be an alternative to criminal sanctions for some categories of drug infractions, drug treatment courts are not specified as the only or principal means of providing that alternative, and there is no international law or treaty explicitly addressing drug courts.In spite of good intentions, these courts do not represent reform if they undermine health and human rights, if they put health decisions in the hands of judges and prosecutors who reject clinically indicated treatment, or if they impose punishment for relapses that are a normal part of drug dependence.Drug Courts: Equivocal Evidence on a Popular Intervention explores what the UN and other multilateral bodies say about drug courts, reviews the drug court experience in the United States and around the world, and examines other ways to avert incarceration for minor drug offenses.

Methamphetamine: Fact vs. Fiction and Lessons from the Crack Hysteria

February 8, 2014

The purpose of this report is to provide a critical examination of the available evidence on illicit methamphetamine use and its consequences in the United States and internationally. It is the aim of this report to dispel some of the myths about the effects of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs using the best available scientific data. Further, it is our hope that this analysis will lead to more rational policies for dealing with both legal and illegal amphetamine. The report begins with an examination of the lessons learned from the "crack cocaine scare" in the 1980s. In this way, the reader can draw parallels between society's response to crack cocaine then, and methamphetamine now. The report then describes distinctions and similarities between methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants. Also examined is the prevalence of methamphetamine use and public policies in response to the perceived increased use of the drug and perceived drug-related problems. Finally, the report critically reviews the scientific literature on the effects of methamphetamine on the brain, physiology, and behavior. The data show that many of the immediate and long-term harmful effects caused by methamphetamine use have been greatly exaggerated just as the dangers of crack cocaine were overstated nearly three decades ago. Recommendations are made in an effort to remedy this situation and to enhance public health and safety.

A Balancing Act: Policymaking on Illicit Drugs in the Czech Republi

February 1, 2012

In the early post-Soviet period, Czech authorities, unlike their counterparts in some former Eastern Bloc countries, turned away from repressive drug policies and developed approaches to illicit drugs that balanced new freedoms with state authority. The end of Soviet rule meant that drug markets and the use of a wide range of new drugs attained a magnitude and visibility not previously known to Czech society.From an early stage, some pioneering health professionals with expertise in drug addiction saw that the new drug situation would require greatly expanded services for drug users and collaboration between civil society and government to achieve this expansion. They were able to influence the new government and steer it toward drug policy that would define drug use as a multisectoral problem, not an issue for policing alone.The report A Balancing Act: Policymaking on Illicit Drugs in the Czech Republic traces the development of drug policy in the Czech Republic from the post-Soviet period to the present day. The report examines the impact of the Czech Republic's evidence based approach to drug policy, compares the country's path on drug policy to that of its neighbour Slovakia and discusses challenges to maintaining this approach in the future.Watch a video produced by the Rights Reporter Foundation based on the f