Activists take to the streets to demand an end to the ‘war on drugs’

Posted by Editor on June 26, 2017



Local Actions, Global Voice:
Activists take to the streets to demand an end to the ‘war on drugs’

Today, thousands of people are taking part in events in more than 150 cities across more than 80 countries – as part of the Support Don’t Punish campaign’s Global Day of Action.

26 JUNE 2017,Windhoek– Partners of the AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) are organising events to give voice to the rights of people who use drugs, and call for drug policy reform and comprehensive harm reduction programmes in the region. Among others, the Tanzania Network of People who Use Drugs, Uganda Harm Reduction Network, Collectif Urgence Toxida in Mauritius, UNIDOS - Rede Nacional Sobre HIV/SIDA in Mozambique, the Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance in Malawi, and the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network will be joining other organisations in their countries, and organisations in Kenya and South Africa to mark the 26th of June “Support Don’t Punish” Global Day of Action.

People who use drugs in Southern and East Africa, like elsewhere in the world, face considerable stigma, discrimination, and violence. However, they are still too often ignored in the context of HIV and public health. Despite evidence of the high risk of HIV transmission faced by people who use drugs, countries in the region have been slow to include people who use drugs in their national HIV responses as key populations. Only nine countries in Southern and East Africa recognise people who use drugs as a key population, while only four countries currently provide any harm reduction services. Comprehensive harm reduction programmes, including but not limited to, needle exchanges and availability of opioid substitution therapy, are proven strategies that assist drug users in maintaining their health and empower drug users to make choices about their 

health. These programmes put the health and human rights of people who use drugs at the centre of the response.

By supporting partners in the region to mark the Global Day of Action, ARASA is joining civil society from all continents in proclaiming that the harms being caused by the war on drugs can no longer be ignored. It is time to leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudice and to prioritise health and human rights over incarceration and futile efforts to achieve a ‘drug-free world’. It is time to support, and not punish people who use drugs and other non- violent drug offenders.

The Global Day of Action is taking place on 26th June, as this is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – a day when governments typically celebrate their record of drug arrests and seizures. In the past, some governments have even commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders. Yet, by the United Nations’ own admission, the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to reduce drug use and has led to serious negative consequences – such as overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs, prison over-crowding, severe human rights violations, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalisation, violence and corruption.

“This is the fifth Global Day of Action, and the biggest ever global show of force in support for drug policy reform. It demonstrates the growing recognition around the world that a repressive approach towards drugs has failed. It is a waste of public money, and it is doing more harm than good, as can be seen today in countries like the Philippines, Cambodia, Brazil and others. We need drug policies that are meaningfully grounded in human rights, and that aim to address the health and social vulnerabilities faced by people who use drugs instead of exacerbating them”, said Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of NGOs which oversees the campaign.

“It is time for governments in the region to realise that the current drug control system is broken and in need of urgent reform. Punitive laws enforced against people who use drugs but do no harm to others fuel the spread of HIV and keep users from accessing services for HIV and health care. It is time for governments in the region to implement the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law by ensuring access by people who use drugs to effective HIV and health services, including harm reduction and voluntary, evidence-based treatment for drug dependence and decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use”, said Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA.



Notes to Editor:


“Support Don’t Punish” is a global campaign calling for changes to existing drug laws, for the decriminalisation of low-level, non-violent drug offences, and for investments in effective and cost-effective harm reduction responses for people who use drugs. The campaign was launched in 2013, and has grown year-on-year.

Global highlights this year include:

  • Concerts and debates in Brussels, Belgium
  • A dialogue with Parliamentarians and government officials in San Jose, Costa Rica
  • A 'Users Bazaar' in Odense, Denmark
  • A float parade to the Parliament House in Accra, Ghana
  • An online petition to promote harm reduction in Skopje, Macedonia
  • A football match between the police and people who use drugs in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • A dancing flash mob in Toulouse, France
  • A training workshop for religious leaders and the media in Port-Louis, Mauritius
  • Non-permanent street art in Portugal
  • Traditional dance and drama show on drug policy and harm reduction to the authorities in Zimbabwe.

See for the latest information from around the world.


The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) is a regional partnership of currently over 116 non-governmental organisations working together to promote a human rights approach to HIV/AIDS and TB in Southern Africa through capacity building and advocacy. ARASA partners comprise a diverse mix of more and less well-established organisations including networks of people living with HIV (PLHIV), legal aid organisations, women’s organisations, youth organisations and other AIDS service organisations. The basis of the partnership is solidarity and shared responsibility for advancing social justice in the region, with a focus on the realisation of the right to health.



Lesley Odendal, Communications lead
Phone: +27 72 9608991
Twitter: @_ARASAcomms  


Jamie Bridge, IDPC (London)
Phone: +44 7815 047 603
Twitter: @SDPcampaign