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Vanderbilt University

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

Switzerland: Global Health and Development Policy


Although participation in health policy-making is a popular topic in the literature and a stated priority of the United Nations, very little research has been published examining the full spectrum of participation by people who use drugs (PWUD) at the UN level. This study aims to describe and evaluate this participation through a combination of a literature review that looks at academic sources, UN publications, and publications by organizations of PWUD, and a series of interviews with representatives of organizations of PWUD who have participated in UN level policy-making.

Data collected demonstrates that there is no comprehensive system for the participation of PWUD in policy-making at the UN, although they are more integrated into spaces concerned with HIV/AIDS than any other, and that people who use drugs face a variety of logistical, discursive, and structural barriers to meaningful participation. However, organizations led by PWUD have created inroads and developed strategies to participate both as activists and technical advisors at the UN, including public appeals, event attendance, and leveraging of UN contacts. Significant structural changes are needed at the UN to fully remove barriers to participation by PWUD.


European Languages and Societies | Health Policy | International Relations | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Social Welfare | Substance Abuse and Addiction


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