The meaning of the Vancouver Declaration to the community of people who use drugs


In Vancouver, in 2006, activists (people who use drugs) from all over the globe, would come together at an international  harm reduction conference and create what became known as the first statement of unity by people who use drugs around the world, known as 'The Vancouver Declaration'. 

Nothing About us Without Us
— The mantra of the user movement

Click the image to see a different Manifesto, 'Nothing About Us Without Us', to support the Vancouver Declaration. For the report entitled Nothing About Us Without Us - Greater, Meaningful Involvement of People Who Use Illegal Drugs: A Public Health, Ethical, and Human Rights Imperative, click here.

The ‘17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm’ took place in Canada between April 30th and May 4th, 2006. The event was attended by 1,300 delegates from over 60 countries. Activists from all walks of life,  (including people who use drugs) came together believing it was time to both look towards the formation of an international network for people who use drugs and, the development of a global declaration.

 It was felt that one way to develop solidarity and unity across the globe of people who use drugs, would be through a statement or 'declaration' that everyone could sign up to. It aimed to set out a number of rights and demands from the community of people who use drugs, that spoke to the international community.  This statement has become the document that would underpin the international user movement that we have today. The Vancouver Declaration demands that the world meaningfully involve us, listens to our voices as a community, end the human rights violations that confront us daily, and work with us as partners and equals, in an effort to improve the health, welfare and rights of people who use drugs. 

A report which looks more closely at the issue of  'meaningful involvement' entitled "Nothing About Us Without Us"—Greater, Meaningful Involvement of People Who Use Illegal Drugs: A Public Health, Ethical, and Human Rights Imperative, examines why it is important to increase meaningful involvement of people who use (or have used) illegal drugs in the response to HIV and HCV, and explores how this can be done.Two new editions of the report—an international version now available in English, and a Russian language edition focusing on Eastern Europe and Central Asia—were prepared through a consultation process involving hundreds of drug user activists. The 83 page report published in English and Russian can be found in the Resources section of our website. The Manifesto Nothing About Us Without Us, is also available.


The Vancouver Declaration


Vancouver, 2006

To enable and empower people who use drugs legal or deemed illegal worldwide to survive, thrive and exert our voices as human beings to have meaningful input into all decisions that affect our own lives.

  • To promote a better understanding of the experiences of people who use illegal drugs, and particularly of the destructive impact of current drug policies affecting drug users, as well as our non-using fellow-citizens: this is as an important element in the local, national, regional and international development of these social policies.
  • To use our own skills and knowledge to train and educate others, particularly our peers and any other fellow-citizens concerned with drugs in our communities.
  • To advocate for universal access to all the tools available to reduce the harm that people who use drugs face in their day-to-day lives, including, i) drug treatment, appropriate medical care for substance use , ii) regulated access to the pharmaceutical quality drugs we need ii) availability of safer consumption equipment, including syringes and pipes as well as iii) facilities for their safe disposal, iv) peer outreach and honest up-to-date information about drugs and all of their uses, including v) safe consumption facilities that are necessary for many of us.
  • To establish our right to evidence-based and objective information about drugs, and how to protect ourselves against the potential negative impacts of drug use through universal access to equitable and comprehensive health and social services, safe, affordable, supportive housing and employment opportunities.
  • To provide support to established local, national, regional, and international networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other harm reduction groups, making sure that active drug users are included at every level of decision-making, and specifically that we are able to serve on the boards (of directors) of such organizations and be fairly reimbursed for our expenses, time and skills.
  • To challenge the national legislation and international conventions that currently disable most of us from living safe, secure and healthy lives.

Well aware of the potential challenges of building such a network, we strive for:

  • Value and respect diversity and recognize each other's different backgrounds, knowledge, skills and capabilities, and cultivate a safe and supportive environment within the network regardless of which drugs we use or how we use them.
  • Spread information about our work in order to support and encourage development of user organizations in communities/countries where there are no such organizations.
  • Promote tolerance, cooperation and collaboration, fostering a culture of inclusion and active participation.
  • Democratic principles and creating a structure that promotes maximum participation in decision making.
  • Maximum inclusion with special focus to those who are disproportionately vulnerable to oppression on the basis of their gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.
  • To ensure that people who use drugs are not incarcerated and that those who are incarcerated have an equal right to healthy and respectful conditions and treatment, including drug treatment and access to health-promoting supplies such as syringes and condoms and medical treatment or at least equal to that they would receive outside.
  • To challenge execution and other inhuman treatment of people who use drugs worldwide.

Ultimately, the most profound need to establish such a network arises from the fact that no group of oppressed people ever attained liberation without the involvement of those directly affected by this oppression. Through collective action, we will fight to change existing local, national, regional and international drug laws and formulate an evidence-based drug policy that respects people's human rights and dignity instead of one fueled on moralism, stereotypes and lies.

The International Activists who Use Drugs
30 April 2006, Vancouver Canada