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20 th International Harm Reduction Conference


BANGKOK (Thailand), 22 April 2009 - The 4-day 20 th International Harm Reduction Conference hosted by the International Harm Reduction Association was held from 20-23 April 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand, with around 1,000 delegates attending from over 80 countries. Through a series of conference sessions, poster presentations, workshops and film screenings on a large range of topics relating to the conference theme of "Harm Reduction and Human Rights", the conference aims were to:

  1. Enable the exchange of knowledge about new scientific research and evidence on psychoactive drug use (including alcohol and tobacco), drug-related harms, and the effectiveness of harm reduction interventions.
  2. Raise awareness of human rights issues related to psychoactive drug use and harm reduction, and to promote ways to reduce the stigmatization of people who use drugs and protect them from human rights abuses and discrimination.
  3. Enhance advocacy in the region for harm reduction and public health approaches to reducing drug-related harms.
  4. Enable the transfer of harm reduction knowledge and the sharing of best practices - including future challenges and directions.
  5. Increase the capacity of participants to introduce, implement and improve harm reduction interventions in their home regions and countries.

The participants to the conference represented a wide variety of key players at global scale, including politicians and government officials, front-line workers, HIV/AIDS and drug user advocates, people working in criminal justice, human rights advocates, law enforcement personnel, researchers and scientists.
UNODC was significantly involved in the organization of this year's conference. As a member of the Executive Programme Committee, UNODC contributed to the formulation of the conference programme and to preparation of Major Sessions on:

  • "Compulsory Drug Dependence Treatment Centres: Costs, Rights and Evidence"
  • "Drug Policy, Gender Roles and Women Who Use Drugs
  • "Harm Reduction Advocacy with Law Enforcement Agencies"

Furthermore, presentations were given by the UN RCEAP Representative on "The role of the UNODC in working with police and other law enforcement agencies for harm reduction" and by the co-ordinator for the United Nations Regional Task Force on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS for Asia and the Pacific on the topic: "Estimating resource needs and gaps for harm reduction in Asia".

Finally, UNODC organized in partnership with the WHO the event "HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care: UNODC/WHO Consultation with the Community of People who use Drugs in Asia", and presented at the Satellite session "Harm Reduction Policy and Programme Moving Forward in Thailand" on the topic of "Drug Use, Prisons and Compulsory Drug Treatment Centers".

For the full programme and background documentation (in English and Thai) visit the official conference web site

On 23 rd April, at the UN High Level Segment of the conference, the UNODC received a community petition organized by drug users and drug user advocates signed by 202 people. This petition calls for the UNODC to enact a number of significant changes to the implementation of international drug control, and to address the issues of a) law enforcement training; b) combating stigma; and c) improvement of conditions in closed settings (such as prisons and drug rehabilitation centres) in its communications with local country governments.