International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

1. Data collection

States should:

i. Collect and disseminate appropriate information to enable the formulation and implementation of human rights-compliant drug control laws and policies. These data should be disaggregated by relevant factors, including health status (such as drug dependence), age, sex, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and economic status (including involvement in sex work).

ii. Ensure that data collection for the purpose of drug law and policy formulation, implementation, or other analysis complies with relevant international standards for data protection.


International law and standards recognise that the collection and disaggregation of necessary data, including statistical and research data, is critical to help uncover patterns of discrimination with respect to drug use, drug-related harm, and drug enforcement efforts; to identify and address barriers faced by affected individuals and populations in accessing relevant drug-related and other health-related information, treatment, and care, as well as their affected rights and associated remedies; and to thereby assist States in the implementation of their human rights obligations.860

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has raised concern about the lack of data on women who use drugs, both inside and outside prison, and among different age groups,861 including the lack of data on the availability of antiretroviral drugs for this population;862 the need for and availability of drug dependence and other health care treatment for women who use drugs;863 and the incidence and impact of drug and other substance dependence on women and gender relations.864 The Committee has recommended that States collect data on drug use and drug dependence among women and take measures to address these issues, in prison and society at large, to determine the extent of the problem865 and its incidence and effects.866 Specifically, it has called on States to develop appropriate interventions for drug dependence and determine the number of those living with HIV in need of medical care;867 to understand the possible correlation between drug use and violence against women;868 to provide information on measures to prevent and reduce abuse;869 and to provide information on the availability of counselling and rehabilitation services.870 The Committee has also recommended ‘[c]onducting a nationwide study to establish the number of women who use drugs, including while pregnant, in order to inform strategic planning’.871

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has raised concern about the disproportionately high rate of incarceration among indigenous peoples and persons belonging to minority groups, in particular African-Canadians, due in part to the over-policing of these populations, drug policies, and racially biased sentencing and has recommended systematic data collection and public reporting on the demographic composition of the prison population and sentencing of minority offenders.872

The Committee against Torture has raised concern about the lack of relevant statistical data and information on the maximum duration of solitary confinement of people in compulsory drug treatment centres and has recommended the collection and regular publication of comprehensive disaggregated data on the use of solitary confinement and restraints, and of related suicide attempts and self-harm.873 The Human Rights Committee has noted with concern the availability of the death penalty for a number of crimes, including drug-related crimes, that do not meet the threshold of most serious crimes within the meaning of article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights, as well as the lack of publicly available data on the number of persons sentenced to death, executed, or on death row. It has recommended the publication of official figures on death sentences and executions, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity, religion, and crime.874

Resolutions issued by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs have highlighted the importance of tools to improve data collection and the monitoring and evaluation of international commitments and have called on States to consider committing budgetary resources for these purposes.875 The UN General Assembly Special Session 2016 Outcome Document likewise promotes ‘reliable data collection’, requesting that States submit, on a voluntary basis, information about ‘human rights and the health, safety and welfare of all individuals, communities and society’.876