(*) The 2nd Preparatory Meeting for Brazil’s Position on World Drug Policy took place December 16th, sponsored by the Rio de Janeiro NGO Psicotropicus with the support of Reduc (a Harm Reduction NGO) and consulting from the anthropologist Bia Labate. The meeting lasted from 10:00hs to 14:00hs in the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo.
Close to 40 invited participants were in attendence and representing NGOs related to the movements of HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, and Harm Reduction, academic researchers, health agencies of the government, addiction treatment institutions, the LGBT movement and politicians (State Congressman Simão Pedro, Alderwoman Soninha and an aid to the Federal Congressman Paulo Teixeira), among others.
The event was opened by the executive director of Psicotropicus, the psychologist Luiz Paulo Guanabara. He explained presented the objective of redirecting the political declaration that represents the position of Brazil’s civil society in the next meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND, the committee at the center of creating policy for the system of drug control in the UN), that will take place in Vienna in March of 2009.
Next, the lawyer Critiano Maronna, of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Sciences (IBCCrim), gave a presentation on the conventions of the UN and the political problems of prohibitionism. Congressman Simão Pedro – who was instrumental in organizing the meeting in the Assembly – greeted all present and highlighted the importance of political debate on the topic of drugs.
Before the activities started, one of the participants questioned the absence of drug users from the discussions of the public policies on the issue. Others noted that, because the consumption of drugs is considered a crime, it is difficult for drug users to “disclose themselves,” but the lack of inclusion of the “native” perspective compromises the democracy of the process as well as hampering the establishment of efficacious proposals for dealing with the issue.
The participants then split into three Working Groups: 1)HIV/AIDS; 2) Harm Reduction; 3) Human Rights. Each group had a discussion in which they outlined the limitations and successes of the current public policies on drugs, and they make suggestions for the declaration that will be read in the Vienna meeting. Next, the three groups presented their proposals in a plenary session.
The Working Group for Harm Reduction, represented by the lawyer Maurides Ribeiro, emphasized with vigor the necessity of including the phrase “harm reduction” in UN declarations – a position that is still met with enormous resistance. The social scientist Maurício Fiore (of NEIP) was chosen to speak for the Working Group for Human Rights and he proposed “non-criminalization” and “regulation of drug use” as fundamental points to be raised and discussed in the next UN meeting. Teresino Pinto, of the AIDS Prevention and Treatment Association (APTA), reflected on the question of whether “the public policies of drugs in Brazil represent a de facto attack on person living with HIV/AIDS?”
The representatives of the Working Groups committed themselves to submitting the minutes of their groups, so that they can be systematized by Reduc and Psicotropicus and whose results will be summarized in the a similar meeting in Rio de Janeiro shortly before the Vienna meeting. A virtual debate to be held through the Internet will serve towards the consolidation of the final text to be presented in Vienna.
The historian Henrique Carneiro (of NEIP), the activist Renato Cinco (of the Movement for the National Legalization of Drugs), and the student Thiago Moraes (of the March for Marijuana), proposed another meeting next year that would assemble many sectors of society for the creation of a broad movement for the reform of public policies and legislation on drugs.
The objective of this national forum would be to consolidate a social movement of “resistance to the harms of prohibitionism.” There was a debate on how such a movement should be named since not all of those present seemed to broadly and openly support the title “Anti-Prohibitionism.”
A general consensus appeared to permeate the meeting was that it is necessary to take political stances in the context of today’s debate on drugs, which is highly irrational and moralized. The case of the researcher Stella Almeida was brought up; Almeida is currently at the center of a political inquiry for having distributed a flyer with basic instructions on harm reduction for ecstasy users. The prohibition of debate, as is known, is also a characteristic of today’s culture of prohibitionism.
This initiative of Psicotropicus was warmly welcomed by the participants. There was a feeling of optimism in the air, a sense of hope for the development of something new, which at the same time seemed to coexist side by side with a healthy dose of skepticism in relation to the possibilities of transforming the official, international anti-drug bureaucracy of the UN (that, nevertheless, will probably be calmly greeted by the official delegation of the Brazilian government, which is composed of members of the National Anti-drugs Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Relations, among others).
Daniela Piconez (of Reduc), the main speaker of the meeting, closed the day’s session. She and João Pedro Padua, the legal director of Psicotropicus, urged those present to follow the progress of the harm reduction Law 1692/2007 proposed by Federal Congresswoman Cida Diogo, which is now being considered in the Legislature (the proposed Law is currently open for amendments).
The results of this meeting will soon be made available on this website.
(*Translated to English by Brian Anderson)