Skip to content
  • Menu
  • Harm Reduction Decade

    Harm Reduction Decade

    Read our latest report calling for a Harm Reduction Decade, sign the Harm Reduction Decade Declaration, call for #10by20, and stand up for human rights of people who use drugs, their families and communities.

  • 10 by 20

    10 by 20 Campaign

    Everything you need to know about the 10 by 20 campaign

    10 by 20 Pie Chart

  • Global State of Harm Reduction

    Global State of Harm Reduction

    Our flagship publication is the biennial Global State of Harm Reduction report. First published in 2008, it involves a coordinated effort across practitioners, academics, advocates and activists to map global data and responses to HIV and hepatitis C epidemics related to unsafe injecting and non-injecting drug use. It is the only report to provide an independent analysis of the state of harm reduction in the world. The information collated within the report is stored and regularly updated on an interactive e-tool for researchers and advocates.

    The Global State of Harm Reduction report is supplemented by regular thematic reports and advisories on key issues and emerging challenges. Please search our Resource Library for more information or join our e-list for regular updates.

    Interactive e-tool

    Global State of Harm Reduction’ e-tool is an interactive resource containing up-to-date information on harm reduction policy and programming around the world. Users can select countries or regions and create tables for an at-a-glance guide to the current state of harm reduction worldwide.

  • News

    News and Announcements

    Read the latest announcements and updates from HRI.

  • About

    About HRI

    HRI is a leading non-governmental organisation working to reduce the negative health, social and human rights impacts of drug use and drug policy by promoting evidence-based public health policies and practices, and human rights based approaches to drugs. Read more about HRI’s history.

    Vision and Mission

    Our vision is a world in which individuals and communities benefit from drug laws, policies and practices that promote health, dignity and human rights.


    Meet our staff at HRI


    HRI is governed by a nine person Board of Directors, elected for three-year terms.

    What is harm reduction?

    Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs.

    Harm reduction definition and principles in 12 languages

    Contact Us

    Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or queries about our website, our work, membership or the international harm reduction conference.


    HRI benefits from the generous support of the Open Society Foundations, the European Commission, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the MAC AIDS Fund, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank, The Robert Carr Networks Fund and the Swiss Government.

    Harm Reduction International Awards

    HRI presents a number of awards at outr international conference to acknowledge the contributions of outstanding groups or individuals in the field.

    Strategic Plan

    An international environment supportive of harm reduction scale up

  • Our Work

    Evidence for advocacy

    HRI produces groundbreaking research and policy analysis informing advocacy across our sector.

    Spending where it matters

    Funding for harm reduction services is dangerously short while billions are wasted on drug enforcement. HRI works to assess resourcing needs and advocates for a reinvestment in health.

    Human rights-based policy

    Human rights abuses and drug enforcement go hand in hand. HRI challenges laws, policies and practices that generate harm.

    The Death Penalty for Drug Offences

    HRI monitors the death penalty for drugs in law and practice worldwide, and also considers critical developments on the issue.

    Sector strengthening

    HRI builds advocacy coalitions and supports emerging harm reduction networks to strengthen the international harm reduction sector.

    International conference

    Harm reduction is a global movement. Our biennial gathering is the International Harm Reduction Conference, convened by HRI.

  • Resource Library

    Resource Library

    Use our extensive resource library to search for HRI, NGO and academic reports, articles and presentations, including materials from past international conferences.

    Harm Reduction Journal

    Harm Reduction Journal,, is an open access, peer-reviewed, online journal whose focus is on the prevalent patterns of psychoactive drug use, the public policies meant to control them, and the search for effective methods of reducing the adverse medical, public health, and social consequences associated with both drugs and drug policies.

  • Support Us


    HRI relies on trusts, grants and donations to continue our work. To make a donation or pay membership fees, please use our secure payment page.

    Or why not fundraise for us with ‘Discover Adventure’?

    Contact Us

    Harm Reduction International
    Unit 2C09 Southbank Technopark
    90 London Road
    SE1 6LN  

    Tel: +44(0) 207 717 1592
    Fax: +44 (0) 207 922 8822
    Join us on facebook at: Harm Reduction International
    Or join us on Twitter at: HRInews


    Sign up to receive email updates, report launches, harm reduction advisories and information about the forthcoming international harm reduction conference

Russia, human rights and the building understanding of harm reduction and the right to health

Date: 24 May 2011

  • Print
  • Bookmark and Share
Russia CESCR 2011

The UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has just days ago released its ‘Concluding Observations’ on Russia’s implementation of one of the core UN human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The treaty, agreed in 1966, sets out the clearest articulation of the right to health in international law and has been ratified by 160 UN member states.

Every five years States that have ratified the Covenant must report to the Committee on progress towards implementing the obligations they have taken on board. Over the past eighteen months the Russian Federation has been going through this process. HRI has been involved, as part of an initiative led by the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, submitting information on harm reduction in the country.

In 2010 members of the Committee visited Russia to meet with people who use drugs who spoke about their experiences of Russian anti-harm reduction and anti-HIV prevention policies. The visit was co-ordinated by the Andrey Rylkov Foundation with the assistance of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Moscow Office. The effect of this is visible in the concerns raised by the Committee to the Russian government and the recommendations.

Noting its concerns about the “growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and tuberculosis in the Russian Federation”, the Committee went on to say that it “remains concerned about the continued ban on the medical use of methadone and buprenorphine for treatment of drug dependence and the fact that the Government does not support opioid substitution therapy (OST) and needle and syringe programs which are strongly recommended by WHO/UNAIDS, UNODC, and other international organizations, as effective measures for prevention of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users

This concern was made in relation to article 12 of the Covenant – the right to health. It follows previous recommendations from this Committee relating harm reduction (Tajikistan 2006, Ukraine 2007, Poland 2009, Kazakhstan 2010, Mauritius 2010) but this is a first for two reasons:

First, the Committee deals with a ban on opioid substitution therapy and calls explicitly for law reform to rectify the situation, strongly recommending that Russia “provide clear legal grounds and other support for the internationally recognized measures for HIV prevention among injecting drug users, in particular the opioid substitution therapy (OST) with use of methadone and buprenorphine, as well as needle and syringe programs

Second, the Committee recommends legal grounds and other support for "overdose prevention programs" as a requirement of the right to health. While overdose has been raised on rare occasions by other human rights monitors (e.g. the Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to Norway in 2010) this is the first time is has been explicitly connected to the right to health under the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights so that people who use drugs “do not forfeit their basic right to health”.

What we have seen in the past five years or so is therefore a building body of jurisprudence from this UN (quasi judicial) Committee on the normative content of article 12 of the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights as it relates to drug use and harm reduction. From these latest recommendations and those referred to above, we find that article 12 requires, at the least:

  • Needle and syringe programmes (Mauritius 2010, Russia 2011)
  • Opioid substitution therapy (Tajikistan 2006, Ukraine 2007, Poland 2009, Kazakhstan 2010, Mauritius 2010, Russia 2011)
  • Overdose prevention (Russia 2011)
  • Youth focused harm reduction services (Mauritius 2010)
  • Prison harm reduction (Ukraine 2007, Mauritius 2010)
  • Law reform to facilitate harm reduction (Mauritius 2010, Russia 2011)

Harm Reduction International is proud to have been involved in the Poland, Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Russia processes, working closely with national and regional partners.

blog comments powered by Disqus