The Prague Declaration - 7 Principles for Urban Drug Policies

Peter Sarosi (HCLU)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

prague2smallThe Prague Declaration is a statement of representatives of municipal governments, decision makers responsible for local and municipal drug policies, workers in the field of drug prevention, regulation, treatment, and harm reduction, and researchers in the field of drugs. It was prepared in Prague for the conference Urban Drug Policies in the Globalised World (September 30 – October 2, 2010) and it is open to be signed by anyone interested in urban, municipal and local drug policy.

In the early 1990s the representatives of four European cities, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zürich and Hamburg endorsed a document later came to be known as the Frankfurt Resolution. They concluded that "the present system of criminally prohibiting the use of certain drugs has failed," and “drug related problems are not only caused by the effects of the drugs themselves, but are primarily the result of the illegality of drug consumption."

The Resolution promoted a new harm reduction approach to drug problems: it did not aim to eliminate drug use as such but to reduce the negative consequences of drug use and drug policies. Cities signing the document later set up a network called the European Cities on Drug Policy. By the end of the 20th century harm reduction programs such as needle and syringe programs (NSP) and opiate substitution treatment (OST) became major components of city-level drug policies in most countries of the European Union.

After the economic crisis hit the world we can witness the dawn of a new conservative area: it seems that many Europeans lost faith in the modern liberal welfare state and its pragmatic approach to solving complex social problems. There is an emerging trend of intolerance and political agendas with the promise to restore “law and order”. In this new area people who use drugs are more vulnerable to stigma and social exclusion than ever. There is a risk that European cities will sacrifice their unquestionable achievements in the field of drug policy at the altar of political populism.

Pavel Bem, the mayor of Prague and a former drug treatment professional himself, recognized this trend and the need to create a new platform to promote evidence-based, pragmatic drug policies among cities. He and his advisers prepared a new statement for the conference Urban Drug Policies in the Globalised World (September 30th – October 2nd, 2010) – the Prague Declaration (READ THE FULL TEXT HERE!). This document declared a simple and brief set of seven principles of effective drug policies at the local level:

1. No size fits all
2. Realism is the key
3. Human rights apply to ill people in particular
4. Public health and public safety concerns must not be seen as contradictory
5. Evidence-based decisions only
6. Evaluation and monitoring
7. Constant and improving mutual information flows between local, national and international levels of drug policy through a common voice

HCLU’s video advocacy team attended the conference and interviewed Mr. Bem and a couple of other decision makers and professionals about the Prague Declaration. We hope this video will contribute to the better understanding of the seven principles and this it will convince other city leaders to sign the Declaration.

Please 1) SIGN THE DECLARATION 2) SHARE THIS VIDEO among your peers and colleagues and 3) ASK YOUR CITY LEADERS to endorse the Declaration and the principles of evidence- and human righs-based drug policies!

Péter Sárosi is the drug policy program coordinator of the the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)