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Obama's Choice: Sane U.N. Drug Policy or the Same Old Failed War-on-Drugs Routine?

America's current foreign policy has very little impact on reducing supply, consumption or cultivation. Obama has a big chance to turn it around.

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(Try getting consensus in a group that includes the Drug Free America Foundation, National Narcotics Officers' Associations' Coalition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the American Civil Liberties Union! And that's just part of the U.S. contingent.)

The only government that was arrogant enough to meddle in the formative process was (surprise) the United States. But despite all that preparation -- and three days of meetings -- the Beyond 2008 Declaration is destined to be sidelined at the UNGASS review meeting, as there is no clear indication from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs that the views of civil society will be included in the March meeting. 

Who benefits from keeping the voice of civil society out of the UNGASS review process? The United States and Russia, primarily, as they both maintain positions that civil society opposes. The United States wants to keep syringe exchange and harm reduction off of the agenda; the Russians want to continue to demonize methadone. 

In a letter co-sponsored with our allies at Physicians for Human Rights and co-signed by more than 60 public health and human rights organizations, the Harm Reduction Coalition has asked the Obama administration to immediately appoint a more progressive U.S. delegation to the UNGASS review process -- one that reflects the president's stance on syringe exchange and puts civil society at the table where it belongs.

The time has come to return to drug policy based on best medical practices, to recognize the human rights of drug users and to produce a political declaration that will shift the focus of international drug policy toward a public-health-based approach that will aid rather than hurt drug users.

Allan Clear is the executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition .

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