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UN experts call for human rights of People of African Descent to be central to drug policies

Drug policies

21 April 2016

GENEVA (21 April 2016) – With the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem under way in New York, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent expressed its concern about the serious consequences on people of African descent of international and national drug policies. Chair Rapporteur Ricardo A. Sunga III issued this comment on behalf of the Working Group: 

People of African descent are disproportionately affected by what are often poorly crafted and excessively punitive drug policies. In addition, racial profiling in many countries has made people of African descent a targeted group in the so-called war on drugs. 

We urge those responsible for formulating drug policies to take these serious consequences for the human rights of people of African descent into account.

We appreciate the challenges of international drug control but remain concerned at the focus on law enforcement and criminalisation.  We call for policies aimed at tackling the illegal drugs trade to incorporate fully an approach centered on public health and harm reduction – an approach that would be of benefit to all people, including those of African descent. 

The Working Group calls for an end to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance, including their manifestations in the adoption and implementation of international and national drug policies.


The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa); and Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland).

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. Learn more, log on to:

The International Decade of People of African Descent:

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