The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) will convene multi-faith leaders in New York in April to participate in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to discuss Global Drug Policy as practiced by countries and nations around the world. The U.N. official sessions will commence April 19, 2016.
By elevating the components of compassion, care and health, the goals of SDPC and the other faith leaders are to examine and impact drug policy worldwide, to shift those policies from being punitive to those which will reduce harm to individuals and communities.
At a meeting held in Washington, DC in October, 2015, SDPC and other multi faith leaders agreed that while there has never been a “drug-free” society, there are ways that policies can be made and implemented which will “reduce negative and destructive consequences associated with drug use.”
Prior to the official opening at the UN, SDPC will co-host an interfaith worship service at the UN chapel on April 18 at 11 am, and a community-based program later that evening at 6:30 pm at Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The UNGASS events in New York will be a watershed moment for faith leaders to advocate for global policies which can reform and transform the criminal justice systems and address drug policies related to HIV prevention, drug production and trade agreements, human rights and public health practices, law enforcement and sentencing policies, and to create “compassionate models of care for the families and communities impacted by drug addiction.”
Drug policies of those countries which seem to represent the compassionate policies being sought in the United States and elsewhere in the world will be studied. Harm reduction practices and policies, such as medicalization of drugs, decriminalization, and compassionate responses to addiction, including partnerships with the faith community, have been proven effective.
The UNGASS participants will include representatives from all over the world who are engaged in every aspect of the study of drug policy, including representatives from a multitude of religious traditions from many countries. Faith leaders have much to add to the discussion.
Faith leaders can and must play a critical role in impacting the discourse and outcomes of intersecting drug policies. The summary report of the October convening indicated that faith leaders have “a moral imperative to …meld collective activism with non-punitive policies in order to counter human suffering and foster community well-being.”
Recommendations to adopt more effective ways to address current drug problems include spending more on public education, and creating compassionate treatment and interventions for those individuals who suffer from the challenges of drug addiction. Also recommended is the decriminalization of drug users. There is overwhelming evidence that criminalization of drug- users is counter-productive to creating and maintaining healthy communities and a healthy society overall. The criminalization creates a cycle of mass incarceration, more poverty, income inequality, and a loss of family stability.
Systemic analysis from many perspectives is required to dissect the role of race, gender, religion and class in drug policies. In the United States this is critical relative to the devastating consequences of the War on Drugs on African-Americans and Hispanics. It is also recognized that sex trafficking is deeply affected by drug addiction; the two behaviors feed each other, and, as in mass incarceration, cause great poverty, pain, and the loss of family stability. The faith leaders will be examining how current drug policies might be changed to impede any increase in the sex trafficking industry.
Faith leaders participating in the UNGASS event will examine the challenges that drug use imposes on their respective societies and will identify the particularities of drug policies that intersect with their society’s criminal justice and health systems. The desired end-result is a set of final recommendations that will support the goal of Harm Reduction with policies that include the components of care, compassion, and an attention to the health of affected individuals.
The SDPC-sponsored event at Abyssinian Baptist Church on April 18 will be open to the public, and it is hoped that there will be widespread community participation. “Current drug policies in the United States and around the world too often violate the human rights of affected individuals,” said Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of the organization. “We are trying to impact sensitivity to that on a global level. Compassion and care in public policies, in the long run, provide better and more humane approaches to fighting the horrific consequences of the War on Drugs and problems of drug use and addiction faced by countries all over the world.”
Contact: Susan Smith, Communications Consultant at614 216-8725/ Susan@sdpconference.info