Global Health Centre
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Leaving No One Behind in International Drug Policy

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Auditorium Ivan Pictet B | Maison de la Paix

The impact of drug policy on public health: the role of the scientific community. Organised by the Global Health Centre and the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Drug policies often have detrimental outcomes for public health. The prohibition and criminalisation of drug use are at the heart of the matter. The associated high incarceration rates have not only undermined the right to health but also continue to fuel infectious diseases, especially HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis, among people who use drugs both in prisons and in the wider communities.

The Johns Hopkins University-Lancet Commission on International Drug Policy and Public Health (JHU-Lancet Commission) examined the scientific evidence from around the world and reconfirmed the above findings in its report published in March 2016. One month later, the UN General Assembly held a Special Session on drugs with hopes of reducing the demand and the supply of illicit drugs, and strengthening the judicial cooperation between UN Member States.

Despite these efforts, a consensus on drug policy reform is still far from reached and many challenges remain in protecting the health and human rights of people who use drugs, especially within a changing global political context.

The Global Health Centre, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the Geneva Platform on Human Rights, Health and Psychoactive Substances have invited three members of the JHU-Lancet Commission to draw attention to this policy area which directly impacts over 250 million people globally. The following questions, among others, will be addressed in the panel discussion:

  • How successful was the Commission’s report in bringing the scientific voices into the global discourse on drug policy?

  • What is needed to foster the political will for action on harm reduction and health promotion among drug using populations?

  • Are the SDGs on NCDs, infectious diseases and access to essential medicines achievable without drug policies reforms?

  • What are the most important next steps to ensure that no one is left behind?

The panelists are:

  • Chris Beyrer, Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins University

  • Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, University of Malaya; Co-chair of the JHU-Lancet Commission

  • Michel Kazatchkine, Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Senior Fellow at the Global Health Centre; Co-chair of the JHU-Lancet Commission

Event materials


Biographies of speakers

List of participants

Presentation by Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman