UN to hear drug addictions as health problem not criminal offence

By Harata Brown

A New Zealand delegation is flying to New York to the United Nations General Assembly on the World's drug problem.

Māori Health Provider, Hāpai Te Hauora's Papa Nahi says that they hope to establish a regular meeting with other indigenous peoples to exchange ideas about an indigenous approach to drug policy. 

Some of New Zealand's health leaders want drug addictions to be seen as health problems rather than criminal offences. 

Chairman of The NZ Drug Foundation Tuari Potiki says, “We really want the country to stop seeing drug use as a criminal thing. It's actually a Hauora issue and we have solutions for that. We have a whole lot of health providers doing amazing things around the motu. Whānau Ora is all about well-being."

Ms Nahi says, “Who is most likely to go to jail for drug offences? It's Māori and not Europeans. That is the issue and a new strategy needs to be put in place.”

The small delegation from some of NZ's health organisations, along with the Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne, are travelling to the United Nations.
One of the aims is to emphasise a health approach to global drug policy. 

Mr Potiki says, “The big issue we want to raise with The United Nations is that no matter what their kaupapa, particularly for this, is to hear the indigenous voice and ensure that the voices of Ngā Iwi Taketake o Te Ao, the indigenous peoples is taken into account.”

The last World Drug Problem Assembly took place nearly 20 years ago.

Maori Public Health leader Papa Nahi hopes to establish a regular meeting with other indigenous health leaders.

Ms Nahi says, “So that we can discuss, and think about issues that affect indigenous people.”

The delegation will be away for nine days.