Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Taipei Times, The (Taiwan)
Copyright: 2009 The Taipei Times
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR? : At issue is whether a pledge on 'harm reduction'
should be included in the next UN declaration of intent, or if a
'drug-free' line will be kept.

A rift between the EU and US over how to deal with global trafficking
in illicit drugs is undermining international efforts to agree a new
UN strategy. The confrontation has been heightened because of
suggestions that the US negotiating team is pushing a hard-line, Bush
administration "war on drugs," in contrast to the EU position, which
supports "harm reduction" measures such as needle exchanges.

Talks are said to be at breaking point in Vienna where representatives
are hammering out a new UN declaration for a drugs summit in the
middle of next month. Negotiations, which have been going on for three
months, were due to resume today.

At the heart of the dispute is whether a commitment to "harm
reduction" should be included in the UN declaration of intent, which
is published every 10 years. In 1998 the declaration was "a drug-free
world  --  we can do it."

EU countries, backed by Brazil and other Latin American countries,
Australia and New Zealand, say even with the best of intentions the
world will not be drug-free in 10 years and some commitment to
tackling HIV and addiction through needle exchange programs and
methadone and other drugs should be included.

The US position, as maintained throughout the Bush years, is that such
inclusion sends the wrong message and must be resisted. US President
Barack Obama has already lifted the ban on federal funding for needle
exchanges and is known to have a more liberal approach to the issue,
but the US negotiating team is opposed to varying the "drug-free"
strategies of the past. The US is backed by Russia and Japan.

Governments at the talks acknowledge that no consensus has been

"Negotiations are currently complex but we are hopeful that a
satisfactory conclusion can be achieved," a UK Home Office spokesman
said on Monday.

Drugs policy experts expressed concern at the stalemate.

"It is troubling that, despite clear global evidence of the
effectiveness of harm reduction in reducing HIV and its acceptance in
every other UN body, that the US is still resisting its inclusion,"
said Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium and
former UK deputy drugs tsar. "We are sure the incoming administration
will take a different view but they will have to move fast or this
will be the position for the next 10 years."

Danny Kushlick of Transform, the British drugs reform charity, said
talks were at a crucial stage.

"The race is now on to change the instructions from US officials
before the ink dries on the previous administration's line," he said.
"The implications of changing the political line is enormous for those
who have suffered under the US administration's refusal to support
basic harm reduction measures."
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