Our Common Principles: Exploring Harm Reduction Based Drug Policy as an Avenue for Sustainable Development in Urban Contexts
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This thesis explores the conceptual and practical relationship between the goals of sustainable development and of contemporary drug policy in Canadian provinces and municipalities. By failing to address the global issue of substance abuse, particularly in urban contexts, the sustainable development community is likely unable to achieve many of its substantial social and ecological objectives. In Canadian cities, the abuse of recreational drugs has had deep social, economic and ecological consequences that have been accelerated, or in some cases created, by traditional prohibition-based approaches to drug policy. However, a more recent policy approach may provide a viable opportunity for sustainability scholars to engage with and help address this issue: the harm reduction approach. This thesis focuses on the exploration of this opportunity by identifying overlapping principles and objectives that exist between harm reduction and sustainable development discourses. I review the literatures of harm reduction and sustainable development in order to identify common principles and historical experiences that could help to create a foundation for future collaboration. Emphases on social justice, social cohesion, community wellbeing and quality of life are identified as shared objectives throughout the literature. In addition, through the application of a sustainability assessment tool, several Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal harm reduction policy documents (HRPD) are shown to implicitly address a variety of sustainability concerns. I find that the HRPDs maintain a focus on a multitude of issues relevant to sustainability such as health, access to services, and democratic governance. Nevertheless, the results show that these documents largely fail to engage with ecological concerns relevant to drug policy, presenting an opportunity for learning and policy improvement in future iterations through the incorporation of a sustainability perspective. By understanding these synergies and disparities, future policy can be engaged to create co-beneficial, cross-discipline outcomes that help make progress toward more socially and environmentally sustainable communities, with an emphasis on wellbeing, inclusion and social justice. Other contributions of this research relate to the identification of potential bridging concepts, drawing from theories in geography, environmental governance and environmental justice. The identification of these concepts enables future research to be conducted and may be able to facilitate the translation of knowledge between the currently disparate literatures. Furthermore, recommendations are offered to both policy makers and practitioners that would help to make progress toward the goals of sustainable development as well as those of harm reduction. Overall, the findings of this research offer practical and theoretical contributions that serve to help address a pressing global issue, and in doing so identify substantial directions for new research.
Cite this version of the work
Alexander Mercado (2019). Our Common Principles: Exploring Harm Reduction Based Drug Policy as an Avenue for Sustainable Development in Urban Contexts. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15093