In the ten years since the last UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, the only measure that has repeatedly proven effective and has delivered what it set out to deliver is harm reduction. For that reason, the majority of the relevant UN organisations currently support core the harm reduction interventions of needle and syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy. Nonetheless, the term ‘harm reduction’ remains a flashpoint of controversy in international political negotiations.
To assist discussions in the run up to the UN High Level Meeting on drugs in March 2009 (which have stalled again on the issue of harm reduction) Harm Reduction International – in co-operation with Human Rights Watch have put together a ‘Book of Authorities’ to show the extent of the support for harm reduction from international agencies, bodies and experts in the HIV, public health, human rights and drug policy fields. The aim of this document – which is entitled Building Consensus: A Reference Guide to Human Rights and Drug Policy – is to assist supportive country delegations during key debates at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), by providing reference material on expert opinion and specific UN ‘agreed language’ on harm reduction.
The document demonstrates the successive multilateral agency reports and policy positions that support harm reduction. It is a work in progress, and will develop over time to include broader drug policy and human rights legal and policy authorities.