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H.E. the Permanent Representative Ambassador Korka presented closing remarks to a briefing on human rights and policies combating drug problems.

Wednesday, 01 November 2017

On November 1, 2017, the Permanent Mission of Greece, together with the Permanent Missions of Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay together with Penal Reform International, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Quaker UN Office and Humanas, hosted a briefing on human rights and their contribution to combating drug-related issues. In her intervention, Ambassador Korka stressed the need for mainstreaming Human Rights in revelant national and international drug-combating policies, with a view to dealing with the world drug problem in a more effective and sustainable manner.


Closing Remarks

Closing remarks by H.E. Ambassador Anna Korka
Permanent representative of Greece

Excellencies, panelists, esteemed guests,

I would like to firstly extend my warmest thanks for your participation to this briefing on human rights and drug policies. I am especially honored to address the closing remarks, after such an impressive panel.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the international community got together to face the world drug problem through the signature of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, its first concern was, as expressed in its first preambular paragraph, “the health and welfare of mankind”.

It would therefore not be a stretch to say that the connection between the drug problem and its Human Rights dimension was immediate: it is an issue which touches, perhaps first and foremost, the right to health, through its impact on the users, but also on healthcare. It is also a problem which affects welfare, and therefore human rights such as security and dignity.

The UN General Assembly’s statement, through resolution 69/201 and the UNGASS Outcome Document, that the world drug problem has to be countered with full respect for human rights further clarifies these linkages. It also underscores the underlying question of human rights protection when dealing with what is both a societal and criminal issue. The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has therefore argued that when the international drug control regime and international human rights law conflict, human rights obligations should prevail.

As we focus on the world drug problem, we therefore have to ensure that human rights are respected regarding both health and justice. Drug addiction is a disease which is linked to crime, and it is our responsibility as sovereign states, as well as international community, to make sure that these aspects are addressed, thus protecting both our societies and our shared values, paramount among which is the respect for Human Rights.

Bearing this in mind, Greece has put the individual at the core of its National Drug Strategy, as well as the fundamental principles of social cohesion, shifting the focus of interventions from repressive policies to policies that promote human rights and public health.

Today our esteemed speakers touched on key aspects of what can be done to better include a human rights approach to international drug policy. We heard of the timeliness of such an endeavour, and of the tools that can be used to better assess the human rights impact of such policies, such as Human Rights Indicators and the SDGs. We were also briefed on the ways to better gather and assess the necessary data on the subject matter, while a concrete case example allowed us to visualize what applying the information shared with us could entail.

Having these aforementioned tools to measure the efficiency of drug policies will indeed allow us to conduct a realistic review of the global response to the drug problem, with arguments and data on what is - and what is not - working, in order to improve our global approach.

Because it is clear that this approach needs improving. The traditional approach, which relies to a great extent on reducing drug supply and demand through prohibition, has shown its weaknesses. The human rights and public health dimension of public policies need to be taken into account.

This knowledge will be key in ensuring the necessary cohesion of the global UN approach, in view of the review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, in March 2019.

We are looking forward to the sharing of ideas and good practices in the relevant international fora, including human rights ones, using precise tools. The ideas shared today could be used as food for thought towards a new contribution of the HRC aiming to better incorporate the human rights approach in drug policies, which would be an important step towards closing the gap between discourse and practice and translating debate into a clear course of action.

I thank you