Summing up the recent weeks in Vienna and our work there concerning the prevention and reduction of harm caused by narcotic drugs, I tried to define what it is that distinguishes and separates the two sides within civil society…

I can record that we agree on many issues that appear to be dividing lines:

– No group wants to have or see a “war on drugs”.

However, unfortunately and falsely, we who stand up in support of the UN narcotic drugs conventions are being assigned to it time and again. Okay, some of the representatives of our side refer to the term when history is being described. I am convinced that we should avoid this term and IOGT has since its inception stood up for a world of peace and democracy.

– Both sides are against death penalty for narcotic drugs crimes.

As IOGT we are opponents to the death penalty in general. That this is not included in official documents is due to the fact that some countries keep blocking it. We also agree that patients in all countries (especially concerning Africa and Asia) should have access to pain relief medication that is UN sanctioned.

– We agree on preventive measures, rehabilitation, health aspects, and human rights.

Surely, our understanding of Human Rights encompasses and includes all human beings, especially the most vulnerable ones like children and women and not only substance users.

Harm reduction is in itself positive and often important but we think that the term has been hijacked and has become a generic term for contradictory and often counter-productive measures. That’s why we choose to clearly define where we stand without using this label.

– We have however, different opinions on the benefit of keeping narcotic drugs illegal.

We see a clear line from keeping narcotics illegal to social justice and morale to number of user and burden of harm on both individual and societal level. The other side does not find any or hardly any value in narcotic drugs policy. The only thing they see is repressive measures against the atomised user.

I think that if we only could start the discussion at this point, the debate about how to prevent and reduce the harm of narcotic drugs could happen on an acceptable level. And hopefully even the national governments would be able to discuss to what extent the UN conventions allow different specific measures.