WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas


22 Jun 2023 | WOLA Statement

Intervention by the American Coalition on Drug Policy (CAPD) Remarks Delivered by John Walsh, WOLA

Dialogue of Heads of Delegation, the Secretary General, the Assistant Secretary General and Civil Society Representatives, Workers, the Private Sector and other Social Actors

June 21, 2023

Fifty-third Regular Session of the Organization of American States General Assembly

June 21-23, 2023 in Washington, D.C., United States of America

“Strengthening a culture of democratic accountability with human rights promotion, protection, and equality in the Americas”

One year ago, UN human rights experts proclaimed that the so-called “war on drugs” undermines health and social well-being and wastes public resources while failing to curb the demand for illegal drugs or curtail illegal drug markets. They also noted that current policies have far-reaching negative implications for a wide range of human rights, including the rights to:

    • personal liberty;
    • fair trial and equal treatment before the law;
    • health, adequate housing, and a clean and healthy environment;
    • freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association;
    • freedom from forced labor, ill-treatment and torture; and
    • freedom from discrimination.

It is obvious to us, as citizens of the Americas, that drug policies focused on prohibition, criminalization, eradication, and militarization are  counterproductive, and that drug consumption and trafficking have not diminished in our region.

The urgent need to create drug policies based on respect for human rights was installed on the hemispheric agenda a decade ago. This was reflected in the June 2014 OAS Resolution on “Promotion and protection of human rights in the search for new approaches and effective solutions in the development and implementation of policies for addressing the world drug problem in the Americas.”

But despite some important advances in several countries, the task of promoting human rights in drug policy is still incipient and requires a renewed commitment from all Member States in collaboration with Civil Society.

We thus urge Member States to:

      • End repressive drug policies. End the criminalization of people who use drugs and ensure alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offenses.
      • Address problems associated with drug use and dependence from a public health perspective. Guarantee universal and voluntary access to high-quality prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, harm reduction and social integration services, with a gender focus.
      • Facilitate unrestricted access to health care for persons with problematic drug use who are deprived of liberty.
      • Do not apply policies that put at greater risk the lives of indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant communities that cultivate crops deemed to be illicit.

Finally, we urge OAS Member States, with the full participation of Civil Society, to re-open an inclusive and taboo-free debate on the design and implementation of drug policies with a vision anchored in human rights, health and sustainable development.

Thank you very much.