By Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch for The Huffington Post.Last month, close to 1000 advocates, service providers, community leaders, researchers and government representatives met in Kuala Lumpur for the 24th International Harm Reduction conference. This year, the conference took place in Asia to inspire the region to consider drug policies that offer alternatives to the failed goal of Drug Free Asia by 2015 set by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Malaysia was selected for two reasons. First, to highlight the good and the bad – Malaysia’s commitment to improve lives of people using drugs by scaling up harm reduction services and evidence based drug treatment and also, Malaysia’s death mandatory death penalty for drug offences. Somewhat uncomfortably, both approaches sit alongside each other and while hundreds of people are receiving methadone treatment, and close to a thousand are on death row for drug offences.
This spring, the UN will convene a special assembly session on drugs (UNGASS), providing a perfect opportunity for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to lead on an issue that is of urgency in his own region.