From August 14th to 17th, 2023, the vibrant city of South Africa, Cape Town, hosted a significant event on the continent's policy calendar – Africa Policy Week. This gathering saw delegates from governmental bodies, civil society, academic institutions, and directly affected communities converge to delve into the intersection of policies and people. The overarching objective was crystal clear: to drive policies that place people's interests at the forefront. Aptly themed "Putting People First," this year's conference underscored the significance of human-centric policy frameworks.
The 2023 Africa Policy Week was truly a distinctive occasion that coordinated perspectives from Southern, East, and West Africa. It brought together policy influencers and architects from diverse spheres and those deeply invested in advocating for policies that champion the well-being and safety of individuals across the spectrum.
Images from Africa Policy Week 2023
Throughout the week's agenda, a tapestry of presentations and shared experiences were woven, with experts in the field engaging intimately with key populations and vulnerable communities. Despite the diversity of backgrounds, a common purpose was palpable: the collective endeavour to transform prevailing paradigms. Among the prevailing sentiments, a conviction emerged that Africa should actively embrace the decriminalisation of drugs while committing substantial resources to robust harm reduction programmes and services. This shift is underscored by concrete evidence illustrating that punitive measures and criminalisation are more expensive and extract a greater societal toll than the alternative, harm reduction.
Elevating the cause of decriminalisation not only amplifies the effectiveness of harm reduction but also significantly enhances the day-to-day lives of those who use drugs. This connection resonates powerfully when considering the experiences of various communities, including the sex workers and LGBTQ demographic. The clarion call for decriminalisation assumes even greater urgency in such contexts.
The Africa Policy Week acted as a compelling link where regional, local, and global organisations synergised their efforts to grapple with the pressing challenges encountered by marginalised communities. From drug users to sex workers and the LGBTQ community, the event magnified the need for inclusive, sustainable solutions.
A pinnacle moment arrived with the keynote address by HE Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa and esteemed member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. In a resonating speech, HE Motlanthe probed the World Health Organisation's stance on drug policy reform. His thought-provoking query captured the issue’s essence: "If access to vital information is the essential determining palliative care for the most vulnerable global populations, why did the World Health Organisation retract its 2011 guidance that aimed to bring steadiness to national controlled substance policies?”
Beyond this, the symposium bore witness to impassioned appeals for an all-encompassing and empathetic approach that places affected communities' well-being and fundamental rights at the forefront. This is especially pertinent for communities necessitating decriminalisation and the therapeutic embrace of harm reduction methodologies.
The Africa Policy Week 2023 marked a pivotal juncture in the collective drive to prioritise people in policy narratives. As discussions reverberated within the city's confines, the ripple effects are destined to radiate well beyond, casting a new light on the intersection of policies and human lives.
Images from Africa Policy Week 2023