Human Rights and Drug Policy Education in Asia

The first ever course on human rights and drug policy in Asia at the Jodhpur National University in India, concluded last month after thirty-two students completed 10 days of lectures and seminars on the impact of drug laws on human rights. The course brought scholars from around the world and sparked off lively debates about how these two subjects of international law interact.

“The discussions will help to evaluate and assess the gap between rights and practice in the implementation of drug policies within the region and globally,” said Mr. Kamal Mehta, chairperson of Jodhpur National University.

The course in Jodhpur was inspired by the highly successful drug policy summer course at the Central European University. The latest term recently wrapped up in August and we once against exceeded the target intake – accepting 26 students from 207 applicants from 23 different countries (60% women) including practitioners working in law enforcement, security, public health and international human rights.   

As the number of applicants from Asia was substantive – which created numerous logistical challenges for Central European University (visas, cost of travel, etc.) – the Global Drug Policy Program decided to partner with an academic institution in Asia to launch a human rights and drug policy course. University of Jodhpur was natural ally in that they were the only institution in India offering a PhD in Public Health to non-physicians and had long expressed an interest in developing a specialization on drug policy for its public health and law students. 

Despite a truncated recruitment timetable, the program received applications from close to 100 prospective students from the region and beyond. Organizers selected 32 participants including individuals from 10 nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, USA) as well as a diverse group from different parts of India (Rajasthan, Nagaland, Assam,  Delhi, Manipur, U. P.,  Tamil Nadu and Imphal). 

The cohort reflected a range of backgrounds including individuals from regional and national governments, members of civil society organizations, postgraduates and practicing clinicians. As an area deeply affected by supply-side policies, there was a particular interest in the relationship between law enforcement and public health and experiences in producer countries.

The eclectic nature of the group ensured that inter-active lectures and ‘student-led’ presentations were extremely rich and diverse in both content and perspective. The high-caliber of the participants produced an impressively advanced debate and discussion with group members grasping new, and complex, concepts quickly as well as asking probing and sophisticated questions of each other and faculty. The group appeared to bond well and queries concerning follow-up activities suggest that there will be a strong alumni community within Asia.  This may complement the strong links forged by the sister course at CEU in 2011 and 2012.

As one note, which offered thoughtful constructive recommendations for the future said, “It was a treat to be able to interact with the approachable and brilliant faculty both in and outside the classroom setting. The course was well designed and well delivered and the JNU staff (and Jodhpur itself) were excellent hosts.” 

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