For information only - not an official document

11 December 2017

Human Rights Day - applying a human rights-based approach to drug control 


VIENNA, 11 December (UN Information Service) - On the occasion of Human Rights Day, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) emphasizes the importance of respecting and protecting human rights by Governments when designing and implementing drug control measures.

This year, Human Rights Day commences a year-long campaign that marks the upcoming 70th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The year 2018 also marks the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. In light of these anniversaries, INCB stresses that States uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms as laid down in international human rights law through developing and implementing drug-control laws, policies and practical measures that respect, protect and fulfil human rights.  This is in line with the core aim of the international drug control treaties, which is to ensure the health and welfare of humankind.

The outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem held in 2016 reiterates the commitment of the international community to respect, protect and promote all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals and the rule of law in the development and implementation of drug policies. In September 2015, the world leaders committed themselves to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including to protect and advance human rights principles and standards.

In fulfilling its mandated functions, INCB has identified a number of human rights issues that some countries face in implementing international drug control treaties. In response to those challenges, the Board has engaged in close dialogue with these countries to stress that respect for human rights is a prerequisite for effective and sustainable drug control efforts. The Board continues to highlight the need to protect and guarantee the right to health, the rights of alleged drug offenders and drug users at all stages of the criminal justice process, the need be proportionate in state responses to drug offences and to avoid any kind of extrajudicial responses to drug-related criminality as well as the need to abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences. 

The international drug control conventions, in particular Article 38 of the 1961 Single Convention and article 20 of the 1971 Convention, require Member States to give special attention to, and take all practicable measures for, the prevention of the use of substances as well as early identification, treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation and social reintegration. In this connection, the President of the Board stresses that Governments must "protect the rights of people impacted by drug use disorders and provide non-discriminatory access to treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services."

In the light of the aforementioned anniversaries, the Board invites Governments to take stock of progress fulfilling their human rights obligations while implementing international drug control treaties, effectively identify and address the existing challenges and cooperate effectively in this regard with other member states, the Board, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant United Nations entities.


The Vienna-based Board is an independent body, established by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, mandated to monitor and support governments' compliance with the three international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council to serve in their individual capacities for a term of five years.


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