The UN Human Rights System and Harm Reduction Advocacy: A training package for civil society organisations

Training cover with logo

Human rights abuses in the name of national and international drug control are well known. There are various mechanisms to bring these violations to the attention of human rights monitors and experts. These mechanisms can help with national and international advocacy on particular issues. This is an avenue of advocacy that has not been utilised very often in the context of drug policies.

Unfortunately, these human rights mechanisms, and the very concept of human rights are not always very well known to civil society groups. They can also seem complicated and remote. This training is intended to be a point of departure for how to use human rights in a programme of work. It provides an opportunity to see how human rights may apply to a particular organisation’s work and how it could fit into a group’s advocacy.

Aims of the training
This training is therefore aimed at providing civil society groups with a basic introduction to the core concepts of human rights, the UN human rights system and some of the skills needed to engage with the various mechanisms within it.

The training will not, however, provide exhaustive training or detailed human rights education. No-one will leave a human rights lawyer! Nor will it go into detail on specific mechanisms. Rather, it will provide an introduction to human rights concepts, human rights law and the UN human rights system, as well as using human rights law and mechanisms in harm reduction advocacy.

Format of the training
The training is a mix of discussion, group work, games, exercises and presentations, and is divided into two modules.

Module I is an introduction to human rights. Its aims are:

  • To introduce the basic concepts of human rights
  • To understand accountability and participation as core elements of human rights
  • To introduce international human rights law

Module II is about using the UN human rights system. Its aims are:

  • To provide participants with a more detailed knowledge of the various types of UN human rights mechanisms
  • To discuss why NGOs might engage with such mechanisms, what they would want to get from the process, and what they might expect from it
  • To identify human rights issues from real life examples
  • To connect rights issues to specific human rights mechanisms
  • To understand the main information required for human rights mechanisms
  • To articulate problems, their causes and consequences, and apply a rights analysis to them

Training document: 'The UN Human Rights System and Harm Reduction Advocacy: A training package for civil society organisations'

Resources (needed for exercises - refer to training document for how/when to use)

  • Film clips (both were entered in Harm Reduction International's annual harm reduction film festival, FrontAIDS winning the festival award in 2007): 
  • Using the UN human rights system - Examples:
  1. CEDAW complaint mechanism - AT v Hungary
  2. Reporting to the CRC - Save the Children/Yemen
  3. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture - Jordan
  4. Individual complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health - Russia/OST (Russian. English translation here)
  5. UN human rights mechanisms in the media

Further reading

Human Rights Basics

The UN Human Rights System

Human Rights, Drug Policy and Harm Reduction

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