UN initiatives in support of harm reduction

Author: Jimmy Dorabjee

A number of high-level dialogues and initiatives have been commissioned by UN organizations to examine and address legal and political barriers to the provision and scaling up of harm reduction related to HIV and drug use.

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which is the UN body with the authority and mandate to convene intergovernmental meetings adopted the “Resolution 66/10” which underscores the need “to ground universal access in human rights and undertake measures to address stigma and discrimination, as well as policy and legal barriers to effective HIV responses, in particular with regard to key affected populations”.

In 2010, SAARCLAW, UNAIDS, IDLO and UNDP initiated a dialogue to promote a legal enabling environment and strengthen the legal response to HIV in South Asia, specifically to:

  • promote understanding of rights-based approaches and frameworks to respond to HIV and to support people most at risk of or living with HIV
  • advocate for reform of unjust practices and laws which interfere with effective responses to HIV and contribute to the vulnerability of key affected populations
  • work to eliminate all forms of discrimination and stigmatization of people living with or affected by HIV.

SAARCLAW is an association of legal communities of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries comprising judges, lawyers, academicians, law teachers and public officers. SAARCLAW has the status of a Regional Apex Body of SAARC, whose member states are Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In 2010, the Asia Pacific Regional Consultation of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law organized a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand for civil society and people who use drugs to document legal and policy barriers to the HIV response, including the stigmatization and discrimination of injecting drug users, to advocate and support the reform of discriminatory laws and policies which block effective responses to HIV and contribute to their vulnerability.

In November 2011, SAARCLAW, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), UNAIDS and UNDP have convened a Roundtable Dialogue on ‘Legal and Policy Barriers to the HIV Response’ in Kathmandu, Nepal to promote an enabling legal environment and strengthen the legal response to HIV in South Asia. The Roundtable intends to bring together legal professionals, advocates, community leaders, government representatives and parliamentarians from South Asian countries to discuss legal and policy barriers to the HIV response, and analyse the impact of the barriers upon the ability of people who use drugs and other key populations to access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and recommend strategies to overcome them.