Human rights take centerstage in UNODC Philippines’ anti-drug initiatives

Manila (Philippines), 2 March 2022—Commending the efforts of the Philippine Government and the United Nations for an increased level of engagement and technical cooperation through the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights in the Philippines, UN Senior Human Rights Adviser Signe Poulsen lauds the contribution and mobilization of all stakeholders in ensuring the protection of human rights.

This happened during the second session of the webinar series, Recovery Support System for Persons Who Use Drugs (PWUD) or with Drug Use Disorders (DUD) in Jails and Prisons via Zoom Cloud Meetings.

Poulsen stressed that the work on human rights is not a one-way conversation, but an exercise of two-way learning characterized by a steady exchange of information, collaborative problem solving, and working together to ensure no one is left behind.

“It is important to ground our solutions in what we are trying to do in the Philippines. In essence, the Joint Programme is a collaboration between decisionmakers in the Government and the United Nations, but more importantly, it is a collaboration on the ground especially in places where human rights is really at the forefront, where you have to make choices to make impact in very profound ways in people’s rights,” Poulsen said.

Over 150 senior officers and staff of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), and Parole and Probation Administration (PPA) benefitted from the learning activity, which expounded on the role of government agencies in upholding a rights-based treatment and management of PWUDs and DUDs.

UNODC Health and Drugs Officer Milos Stoyanovic further emphasized the role that the UN plays in enforcing a common position on drug control policy.

Stojanovic underlined the need for a balanced, comprehensive, integrated, and evidence-based approach in solving the drug problem as he noted, “Drug use is a complex and multifaceted challenge, and we need to understand how we would approach it as one suit does not fit all recognizing its diverse impacts not on only on individuals but also on security, human rights, and development.”

Human rights protection as a collective endeavor

In its pilot run called “Healing Communities” held on 23 February 2022, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, Dr. Igor Koutsenok explored a human rights-based approach in treating drug dependence.

Dr. Koutsenok highlighted the importance of harnessing the role of the community to provide therapeutic healing to those affected by drugs, also known as “healing communities”.

“Even people with dysfunction and with criminal behaviour can become more and more functional by utilizing the group as a therapeutic power to shift a very dysfunctional and anti-social behaviour to more social and more functional norms, “ Koutsenok stressed.

The webinar series, running every Wednesdays until end of March 2022, is an initiative of the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights in the Philippines. For its next installments, Dr. Koutsenok will continue expounding on cognitive behavioral therapy, and will cover motivational interviewing, contingency management, medication assisted therapy, and sustained recovery and management options.

The series will culminate in a formal graduation ceremony on April to be attended by government leaders and the UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo González.

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