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New post for Helen Clark: advocating for drug law reform

Media release, 9 November 2017

New post for Helen Clark: advocating for evidence based drug law reform

The NZ Drug Foundation welcomes the appointment of former Prime Minister Rt Hon Helen Clark as the 25th member of the highly respected Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Clark joins former heads of state and high profile leaders within the UN system, including Kofi Annan who was Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, and prominent business people and cultural leaders such as Sir Richard Branson. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jose Ramos-Horta, former Prime Minister and President of Timor-Leste has also joined the Commission.

“Having Helen Clark join this select group of global leaders is a real coup. The Commission has become well known for championing cutting edge, health-focused approaches to drug problems,” said Ross Bell, Drug Foundation Executive Director.

During her tenure at the United Nations Development Programme, there was a sea change of views on drug policy within the agency. At the UN’s general assembly meeting on the world drugs problem in April 2016 the UNDP strongly criticised current international drug policy, highlighting the disastrous costs it is producing particularly for the world’s poor.

She told Reuters in 2013 that there is no doubt from a health position that we should treat the issue of drugs as primarily a health and social issue rather than a criminalised issue.

This position is consistent with statements she made as New Zealand Prime Minister between 1999 and 2008. Clark repeatedly urged people to turn to the evidence.

In 2002 the NZ Herald reported Clark saying, “A lot of parents worry about their kids being dogged or stigmatised with a heavy criminal penalty for using cannabis when really the key issue we want to get across is a public health message."

“The mana of the Commission will be further strengthened by Ms Clark’s appointment. And while her role will be globally focused, it’s likely New Zealand will find ways to involve her in the domestic discussions we will soon be having about health approaches to drugs and cannabis law reform,” said Ross Bell.

“It is very welcome that Ms Clark will throw her weight behind global efforts to drop punitive approaches to drugs in favour of putting health first. She knows gender issues inside out and has talked about the connection between drug production, poverty and the environment. Drug law reform makes sense on so many levels so it is reassuring that someone of Helen Clark’s stature and drive has joined the Global Commission on Drug Policy.”

[Ends]

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