Throughout the meeting, participants discussed shared challenges and concerns and identified national priorities for human rights-centred drug policies across four thematic areas:
1. Criminal justice - Participants addressed the excessive use of incarceration as a tool of drug control and the need to implement alternatives to incarceration and other measures to address prison overcrowding as well as poor prison conditions, including a lack of healthcare services in detention. Participants also raised the need to end and prevent egregious human rights violations occurring in the context of drug control (such as extrajudicial killings, police abuse, discrimination in the judicial system) by moving away from the predominant paradigm of punitive populism, compulsory treatment, militarization and state violence in the name of the war on drugs.Decriminalisation of personal, adult use of controlled substances (both nationally and internationally), cultivation for personal use and cultivation as a means of subsistence were identified as priorities.
2. Health - Delegates agreed on a broad set of shared issues for ensuring that drug policies promote and protect individual and public health. Among others, priorities identified were improving primary care services, sexual and reproductive rights and attention to mental health and psychosocial issues, including rethinking funding to justice and law enforcement vis-à-vis funding for health. Participants also highlighted the need for further research and evidence-based information, education and harm reduction services catering to the needs of different groups and access to voluntary, quality and scientifically sound treatment options.
3. Development - Participants highlighted the intersectional nature of development and thus the need to accompany any drug policy with comprehensive development policies. Criminalisation was also identified as a challenge to development.Intersectionality was a central topic of conversation, together with the role of poverty and inequality in increasing vulnerabilities. Another key issue in the region is the current approach to drug cultivation, particularly forced eradication, as a measure that violates the right to an adequate standard of living, environmental rights and the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consultation.
4. Particular groups - The Guidelines currently address children and young people, women, people deprived of liberty and indigenous communities as ‘particular groups’. Participants stressed the need for a cross-cutting approach to public policy based on the needs of each group and for better coordination among all institutional actors involved. Essential to this is the collection of disaggregated data. Participants also proposed the inclusion in the Guidelines of other groups, such as Afro-descendant people, migrants and people from the LGBTQI community.
Participants agreed on a set of priorities for implementation of the Guidelines and the promotion of human rights-centred drug policies in the region.
The Guidelines have an instrumental role to play in achieving those priorities, and several pathways for implementation were agreed upon: