Evaluating the Support. Don’t Punish campaign: A global show of force going from strength to strength

'Support. Don't Punish gave us tools and a stage for others to share their concerns over drug policy. It is not too centralised as it is a framework, a generic, global umbrella that gives weight to local campaigns' (Alliance Ukraine).

This is some of the feedback we received from our partners when they were asked to evaluate the Support. Don’t Punish campaign.

Support. Don’t Punish was launched in 2012 as part of the Community Action on Harm Reduction project, by a group of national and international advocacy NGOs. This global campaign aims to raise awareness of the harms caused by the criminalisation of people who use drugs, the need to expand and adequately fund harm reduction interventions, and the necessity to mobilise public action in order to push for drug policy reform.

The campaign includes a website, a social media component (10,000 likes on Facebook), and an interactive photo project in support for the key messages of Support. Don’t Punish – in which more than 4 200 people participated, including people who use drugs, activists, policy makers, United Nations representatives and celebrities.

But the campaign highlights are the two Global Days of Action on 26th June 2013 and 2014. 26th June is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day sometimes used by government officials to display their zero-tolerance approach towards drugs (China has held public executions of people involved in the drug trade on this day). The objective of Support. Don’t Punish is to reclaim the day and gather activists from all over the world under one banner and similar advocacy messages: the need to move away from the criminalisation of drug use and develop a humane approach towards people who use drugs, the need to provide harm reduction services and remove legislative and ideological barriers to accessing these interventions, and above all, the need for compassion and an unequivocal respect for human rights.

At the end of 2014, an independent evaluation of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign was initiated. After three years of existence and two Global Days of Action, we believed it was time to seek out constructive feedback from our partners and identify lessons learned around what could be done to improve the campaign in the lead up to the next Global Day of Action on 26th June 2015.

We were overwhelmed by the positive feedback received from all over the world. The campaign has exceeded all expectations. It has grown from strength to strength since its creation, and the Global Day of Action, in particular, has been able to bring thousands of people from across the globe together under one banner to call for drug policy reform – displaying a true global show of force against repressive drug control policies and practices. The campaign has helped give a voice to some communities of people who use drugs, and supported activists to move the focus towards harm reduction and human rights. Although promoting a simple message, the campaign was able to adapt easily to local contexts and advocacy messages that fit each city in which events were organised. Overall, Support. Don’t Punish has been able to support local efforts to promote, and in some cases move towards, policy reform.

In the lead up to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, we will continue to work together with local and international partners to make the 2015 Global Day of Action even bigger. Preparations have already started, so if you would like to take part and organise an action in your city, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Read the independent evaluation of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. Annexes are available here.

The author of this blog, Marie Nougier, Senior Research and Communications Officer, International Drug Policy Consortium