The EAPC has recently been involved in discussions within the European Union (EU) in preparation for the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). Dr David Oliver, Board member of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) and Honorary Reader, University of Kent, UK, explains the background and why it’s so important for the EAPC to be involved.
The UNGASS meeting is to be held at the United Nations in New York on 19-21 April 2016 and will look at drug control measures. The EAPC was recently invited to join the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSF) – the official NGO (non-governmental organisation) engagement mechanism in EU policymaking processes around drug issues. The whole Forum meets annually, although there are ongoing working group meetings throughout the year. The main aim is to look at issues related to drugs and make recommendations to the EU. I have had the privilege to join the meeting and take part in these discussions.
The CSF has made recommendations including:
Promoting risk and harm reduction
Encouraging the EU Member States to ensure that harm reduction measures and drug dependence treatment services are available and ensure laws and policies do not inhibit these services, for instance by law enforcement.
Encouraging the UN to make unequivocal statements in favour of removing criminal sanctions against people using drugs, to allow access to treatment, states should look at alternative sanctions for drug-related crime, and all UN agencies to promote harm reduction.
Considering human rights
EU states should abolish the death penalty – in accordance with the right to life.
Drug policies should be non-discriminatory and responsive to the needs of women and girls, ethnic minorities, LGBT communities, indigenous groups, children and youth.
Ensure adequate access to controlled substances for medical purposes.
Greater involvement of Civil Society organisations in these discussions at UNGASS.
The UNGASS meeting will be important for palliative care, as it is vital that access to opioid medication, for medical reasons, is not affected by drug control regulations. The UN drug control regime establishes a dual obligation for Member States – firstly to prohibit the production, trade and use of controlled substances for recreational purposes, but secondly and importantly to ensure there is access to these substances for medical and scientific needs.
The CSF has been very supportive of the EAPC in including this in their discussions with the EU and it has been very interesting in working with all in the Forum over these past months.
- See also a new report published by Human Rights Watch on 1 February 2016: ‘National drug control strategies and access to controlled medicines’. Read more here and download the report.
- You can read more about issues on the world drug problem in the January 2016 issue of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC). See Advocacy and Policy page, with articles from Katherine Pettus and Diederik Lohman.