UN75—Race, COVID-19, and the War on Drugs
While the 2020 U.S. elections delivered an unprecedented wave of victories for drug policy reform measures across all parts of the country, this year also brought to the forefront the most egregious aspects of the war on drugs and racial inequality, magnified through the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many others. Violence and police misconduct, especially against people of color, continues to be rationalized by being tied to victims’ alleged and actual involvement with drugs. At the same time, Black, Preto, and BAME communities have suffered some of the worst health related effects of COVID-19.
In this discussion we bring together UN experts on racism and discrimination, parliamentarians, journalists, and activists to look at how race, drugs, and repression affect the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, and how these new, but not novel, abuses of power can be addressed effectively, through high-level policy change and tireless activism on the streets.
This event is part of UN75 Dialogues, an initiative to spark conversations on priorities for the future, obstacles to achieving them, and the role of international cooperation in making progress.
Sheila de Carvalho
Sheila de Carvalho is a human rights lawyer with Coalizão Negra Por Direitos.
Doudou Ndoye Diene
Doudou Ndoye Diene is a former United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
Kassandra Frederique is executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Aqeela Sherrils is executive director of the Newark Community Street Team.
Simon Woolley is executive director of Operation Black Vote.
In Their Own Words
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Public Health First
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Despite earlier promises to fight the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the number of nonviolent offenders in jails and prisons, governments worldwide are dragging their feet and prioritizing the drug war ahead of public health.
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While the world’s attention has shifted to the COVID-19 pandemic, the harms and injustices of the “war on drugs” are not only continuing; they’re being intensified. What can civil society reformers do in response?