Ben Scher invited to speak at 67th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Multiple rows of national flags on flagpoles against a bright blue sky.

This past week, DPhil student Ben Scher was invited to speak at the 67th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The Commission meets annually as an opportunity for member states to adopt and propose amendments to the UN international drug control treaties. Member states, NGOs and international organizations can also host side events to present innovations in drug policy, research and practice in their home countries.

Ben's research looks at 3 case studies of overdose prevention centres in Birmingham, Vancouver and Athens and was invited to present his doctoral research during two of these UN side events.

'Innovative Solutions for a Safer Tomorrow: Unveiling Greece's Pioneering Initiatives in Overdose Prevention and Access to Services'

The first was titled 'Innovative Solutions for a Safer Tomorrow: Unveiling Greece's Pioneering Initiatives in Overdose Prevention and Access to Services' and was hosted by the Greek delegation. With the focus of this panel being the recent developments in the provision of harm reduction services in Greece, Ben was asked to discuss his qualitative evaluation of Athens’ new drug consumption facility. Collaborating with 2 local researchers (a graduate student and a peer researcher) the research consisted of 5 weeks of rapid-ethnography, a community consultation, 5 focus groups with people accessing the DCR, interviews with staff and interviews with people who use drugs in street-based settings who do not access the service. Recommendations from his research have resulted in tangible policy changes within the DCR as OKANA (the Greek organization delivering the service) have sought to adapt their policies to increase access to the service and make the service more responsive to the specific needs of the local community.

'Quality and Community in Drug Consumption Rooms/Overdose Prevention Centres'

The second talk was hosted by the Portuguese delegation and GAT (the primary provider of harm reduction services in Portugal) and was titled: 'Quality and Community in Drug Consumption Rooms/Overdose Prevention Centres' with the Portuguese delegation. Although Ben’s fieldwork was not conducted within a Portuguese facility, he was asked to discuss the methodological approach employed in his DPhil research. In particular, they were interested in hearing about how he worked with peer researchers through the various stages of research design, data collection and analysis. The focus here of Ben’s talk was how working with community researchers within the context of qualitative, ethnographic fieldwork, can improve the quality of the research, resulting in a more accurate picture of how best to implement evidence-based drug related interventions.

It's great to see our students contributing to such meaningful discussions. If you have any questions for Ben regarding his research or his time at the UN feel free to reach out at Benjamin.scher@spi.ox.ac.uk