As world leaders, government delegations and other ofﬁcials gather in Vienna for theHigh Level Segment of the 52
session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, howmany are considering how their deliberations might affect children and youth around theworld?The past 10 years have seen a failure to achieve
a drug free world
has had devastating consequences for young people who too often become thecasualties of misguided policies.The message has been
kids should not do drugs
. But kids
doing drugs. They usethem for fun. They use them to ﬁt in. They use them for survival and to deal with hunger.They use them to cope and to alleviate pain. The ideal of a
drug free world
has nomeaning for children, adolescents and young people who are growing up and living in aworld where drugs are more available to them than accessible education, information,health and social services are. The concept of prevention is lost to the millions who arealready using drugs.While politicians debate whether harm reduction should be included in their politicaldeclarations, policies and programmes, children and young people are dying for lack ofthese life saving services. As scientiﬁc and evidence-based interventions and policiescontinue to be disputed and blocked by ideologically driven objections, children andyoung people suffer the consequences.We ask all who are present here to consider the effects their policy making will have onthe 13-year -old boy smoking yaba in Thailand who fears being sent to a rehabilitationcamp where he will be forced to stay in a room with 50 adults; Or the 16-year-old girl inthe USA who cannot access a needle exchange service because of her age, leading herto share needles with her much older boyfriend; Or the estimated thousands of underageinjecting drug users in Manipur. What happens to the 51% of street children who haveexperience injecting in St. Petersburg, Russia? And the 30% of youth who startedinjecting between the ages of 15-18 in Ukraine who lack access to HIV prevention andharm reduction services?
We call for leaders to recall the four general principles in the Convention on theRights of the Child, ratiﬁed by all but two UN member states:
: Removing age-related barriers such as requiring parentalconsent or denying conﬁdentiality to underage youth, removing age restrictionsfor accessing harm reduction services such as syringe exchanges and opiatereplacements, and providing sexual and reproductive health services to youngpeople.2.
Best interest of the child
: All drug policies adhere to international human rightslaw. This will ensure that drug policies are required to take into considerationthose most vulnerable and in need of support such as child drug users, youngsubstance users and street-involved youth.