Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why drug user activists need an international network

We are people from around the world who use drugs. We are people who have been marginalized and discriminated against; we have been killed, unnecessarily harmed, jailed, and denied our basic human rights; we have been depicted as evil, dangerous and irresponsible, and treated as disposable. With this declaration, we raise our collective voices as citizens, seeking to establish our human rights and to reclaim the right to be our own spokespersons striving for self-representation and self-empowerment
We seek to:
· enable and empower people worldwide who use drugs currently deemed illegal to survive, thrive and exert their voices as human beings, and by so doing, demand to have meaningful input into all decisions that affect our lives
· promote a better understanding of the experiences of people who use illegal drugs, and particularly of the needlessly destructive impact that current drug policies have, not just upon drug users, but also upon our non-using fellow-citizens. We consider this to be a key element in the development, at local, national, regional and international levels, of equitable social policies.
· use our own skills and knowledge to train and educate others, particularly our peers and any other fellow-citizens concerned with the impact of drugs, and the health of drug users in their communities.
· advocate for universal access to all the tools available to reduce the harm that people who use drugs face in their day-to-day lives, including, i) access to appropriate medical care without stigmatisation, ii) regulated access to the pharmaceutical quality drugs we need, iii) universal availability of safer consumption equipment and paraphernalia, including syringes, needles and pipes as well as, iv) facilities for their safe disposal, v) peer outreach and honest up-to-date information about drugs and their safer use, and vi) safe consumption facilities which are especially important for homeless drug users.
· establish our right to evidence-based and objective information about drugs, and the means to protect ourselves against the potential negative impacts of drug use, not just through universal access to harm reducing paraphernalia, but also through universal access to equitable and comprehensive health and social services, safe, affordable, supportive housing and employment opportunities.
· provide support to established local, national, regional, and international networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other harm reduction groups, making sure that active drug users are included at every level of decision-making, and specifically that we are able to serve on the boards (of directors) of such organizations and be fairly reimbursed for our expenses, time and skills.
· challenge the national legislation and international conventions that currently criminalise and stigmatise us preventing most of us from living safe, secure and healthy lives.

Well aware of the potential challenges of building such a network, we strive to:
· value and respect diversity and recognize each other's different backgrounds, knowledge, skills and capabilities, and cultivate a safe and supportive environment within the network regardless of which drugs we use or how we use them
· spread information about our work as widely as possible in order to support and encourage the development of user organizations in communities/countries where no such organizations exist
· promote tolerance, cooperation and collaboration, thus fostering a culture of inclusion and active participation
· build democratic principles and a structure that promotes maximum participation in decision making
· include and involve as broad a group of drug users as possible, with special focus on those who are disproportionately vulnerable to oppression on the basis of their gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.
· ensure that people are not incarcerated solely for their drug use and that those who are incarcerated have an equal right to healthy and humane conditions and treatment, including drug treatment and access to health-promoting, harm reducing supplies such as syringes and condoms, and medical treatment of a quality that is equal to that which they would receive outside
· challenge the execution and other barbaric forms of punishment meted out to people who use drugs worldwide
Ultimately, the most profound need to establish such a network arises from the fact that historically no group of oppressed people has ever attained liberation without their direct involvement in the struggle against their oppression. Through collective action, we will fight to change existing local, national, regional and international drug laws and formulate an evidence-based drug policy that respects people's human rights and dignity instead of one fuelled by moralism, stereotypes and lies.

The International Network of People Who Use Drugs
30 April 2006, Vancouver Canada

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