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Prospects for humane and effective drug policies in Southeast Asia

Sept. 18, 2018

During the week of March 13-17th 2017, the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took place in Vienna, Austria. At one of the side events focusing on Southeast Asia region, Nguyen Minh Trang, VNPUD Networker from the Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) had a presentation about the organization and the development of voluntary drug treatment services in Vietnam.

The International Drug Policy Consortium and civil society partners in Indonesia (Rumah Cemara), Vietnam (SCDI) and the Philippines (NoBox Philippines) work at country and regional levels in Southeast Asia to advocate for drug policies that result in positive outcomes for public health, human rights, development and the security of individuals and communities.


 In a region where illicit drug markets and drug policies have exacted a damaging toll on human life, quality of health, community safety and justice institutions, there are notable efforts to make a difference. In the Philippines, there are champions of humane and harm reduction-centred approaches to drug use. In parts of Indonesia, free legal assistance is available to people who use drugs to help ensure access to alternatives to incarceration. In Vietnam, SCDI is establishing community-based treatment services as an effective alternative to compulsory rehabilitation.

Photo: Minh Trang is presenting about voluntary addiction treatment in Vietnam. Source: Esbjörn Hörnberg

In her presentation, Ms. Minh Trang introduced the evolution of Vietnamese law relating to HIV/AIDS with outstanding documents and timelines such as Law on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control (2006) and Decree No 108/2007 contained legislation to protect the rights of towards people living with HIV and ‘New’ National Strategy (a revision of the earlier document) on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control to 2020, with a vision to 2030, with the aim to promote the effectiveness of HIV prevention as well as to reduce stigma towards people living with HIV, for more humane intervention. Specifically, in 2013, the Prime Minister approved the landmark “Drug Rehabilitation and Renovation Plan”, where drug addiction is recognized as a chronic, relapsing condition; the compulsory system will be replaced by a voluntary, community based and evidence based drug treatment system; moreover, compulsory centres will be renovated and transformed into voluntary community-based treatment sites by 2020.

Photo: Snapshot of the presentation about Community-based consultation and supports points. Source: Minh Trang

In the presentation of SCDI’s work and the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, the PITCH project implemented by SCDI in Vietnam was illustrated in Minh Trang's presentation. In 2013 – 2014, SCDI was assisting the Department of Social Vices Prevention (DSVP) in developing a training package for the Community Social Volunteer Teams throughout the country. SCDI also works with the Advisory Group to the Chairman of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control. As international organizations refused to be related with the compulsory centers, SCDI gained the trust of the government by a “support, don’t punish” approach.

The outcomes are promising. Currently, the project is supporting 6 provinces to implement voluntary addiction treatment model, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Bac Giang, Khanh Hoa, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Thai Binh. A few other provinces interested in developing the model in the near future are Global Fund implementing sites, Son La, Dien Bien. Local authorities include voluntary addiction treatment in their budget, aiming to increase the proportion of PUDs receiving treatment to 70%, the percentage of PUDS to reintegrate working community to 50%, according to the Drug Rehabilitation and Renovation Plan in Vietnam.

Along with other representatives in the region of Southeast Asia, this event offered a space for civil society representatives working with policymakers and grassroots communities in Southeast Asia to explore prospects for humane and effective approaches to drug use more widely in the region.

Vân Anh



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