Speech by Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström at UNGASS Roundtable on Human Rights

UN Special Session of the General Assembly - UNGASS 2016
New York, United States of America, 20 April, 2016

Check against delivery.

Your excellences, Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen
I am very happy to have this opportunity to speak at this round table.

I represent Sweden, the world's first feminist government.

(This shouldn't be as controversial as some suggest)

When an individual considers him- or herself a feminist, this simply means believing in gender equality, acknowledging that we have not yet reached it, and acting upon this fact.'

So a feminist government simply does the same – systematically and in all policy areas. In all our work we actively consider the specific needs and perspectives of all our citizens – including the half that is made up by women and girls.

A feminist Government lets gender equality have a formative impact on all policy choices, priorities, and in allocation of resources.

It makes for better policies. Drug policy is no different.

Girls and women make up over half of the human race. So of course their rights are human rights, and gender equality is at the heart of those rights.

It means developing gender specific treatment programs, gender specific data in reporting and focusing on different situations and needs for women and men, in for example prisons.

Let me now turn to human rights issues. First, regarding the issue of death penalty in the UNGASS context.

For Sweden, the EU and for many other countries, opposition to the death penalty is strong and unequivocal in all circumstances. We therefore regret the missed opportunity to send a global signal that the death penalty is under no circumstance a proportionate response to drug related crimes, since it undermines human dignity and fails to act as deterrent to criminal behaviours.

And there are also several other human rights perspectives relevant to drug policy. Also enshrined in the right's package is the right to enjoy the highest possible standards of physical and mental health.

We all have a collective undertaking to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all and at all ages. The right to health, and not discriminating with that right - is both fundamental and essential.

This is also reflected in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

(So) as Member States of the UN, we must ensure prevention of drug use as well as access to treatment, risk and harm reduction and support services for persons with drug use disorders.

In taking a broad public health perspective to drug policy, we must and can combine initiatives for the whole population as well as measures directed towards individuals and groups with specific needs.

Human rights are universal. So they also apply to those who use drugs, and for those with substance use disorders.

Working in dialogue with those who use drugs will also provide us with invaluable insights into the realities involved and help us address their needs in a more effective way.

Including and involving those directly affected must be a key priority from now on.

I also want to address the important rights of children. I mentioned prevention of drug use as a key pillar in drug policy. But children's needs and rights are broader than that.

We also need to support children whose parent use drugs or are used in the drug trade industry.

We welcome the specific reference to children's rights in the UNGASS declaration. Now we need to engage in a dialogue with other partners, including the human rights institutions, on what further steps are needed.

This UNGASS can start to pave the way forward to a (smarter,) more coherent, inclusive, gender sensitive, human rights based and health-oriented international drug policy.

It is a step forward in the right direction and towards 2019.

We must work together to continue to mainstream and include different perspectives.

This is the only way we will fully understand the complexity and cross-cutting nature of today's drug phenomenon and in the future.

Mainstreaming is never easy, but necessary.

Thank you

Contact

Helena Paues
Press Secretary to Minister for Health care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström
Phone (switchboard) +46 (0)8-405 10 00