Potential for active engagement: making the Universal Periodic Review work for people who use drugs

Potential for active engagement: making the Universal Periodic Review work for people who use drugs

Aidsfonds, together with Harm Reduction International (HRI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) has recently published a research report Making the Universal Periodic Review work for people who use drugs. The report was made possible thanks to the support of the Bridging the Gaps (BtG) and the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) programmes. It will be officially presented this week at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Porto, Portugal.


The goal of the report is to support the advocacy efforts of civil society actors working on harm reduction and drug policy, and provide useful resources for the effective use of international human rights mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The publication provides an overview of the UPR and highlights its importance to both people who use drugs (PWUD) and civil society activists. It also presents a global analysis of the recommendations made by UPR cycles between 2008 and 2017, and offers recommendations and guidance to civil society on how to maximise the opportunities and make a positive impact on upcoming UPR processes.

UPR as an advocacy tool

The UPR, alongside other international and national human rights mechanisms, is an important tool for holding UN Member States accountable for respecting, promoting and fulfilling the human rights of people who use drugs, as well as fulfilling the pledges countries have made through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Due to its uniquely inclusive and universal character, the UPR constitutes an important tool for civil society to raise awareness of the wide spectrum of human rights violations endured by people who use drugs and their communities, and to hold states accountable.

Seizing opportunities

In general, the UPR is contributing to positive change on the ground. Yet the two completed review cycles fail to give the necessary attention to the rights of people who use drugs. For instance, findings show that a total of 129 recommendations in the UPR explicitly relate to drugs, drug policy and drug control. However, they represent only 0.2% of all UPR recommendations between 2008 and 2017. In addition, only one recommendation was made on harm reduction in previous two reporting cycles. Therefore, it is important to maximise the opportunities under the UPR for drugs related issues. This can be done by increasing civil society organisations’ (CSO) engagement with the UPR processes, and using drug related topics already included in the review.

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