Research and Drug User Liberation

Research and the Drug War

  • The drug war didn’t start because of a lack of research or ‘bad’ research and we don’t think it will end because of ‘good’ research.  The active struggle of people oppressed by drug war policies, fighting for their liberation will be the decisive factor in ending the drug war.  Researchers can play a positive role when they act as supporters, allies and partners of this movement for liberation.
  • Research is political.  Research is shaped by funding, by the career aspirations of researchers, by the political tendencies of research institutions, by government funding and intervention, by peer pressure and by class, racial and gender biases.  
  • The relationship between the researcher and the researched is not in and of itself empowering or liberating. It only becomes so when organized movements of the oppressed group play an active role in shaping and carrying out the research.
  • Researchers should leave the organizations of oppressed people that they work with stronger than when they came in, if they don’t they are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Principles for researchers working with VANDU:

  1. Research should be consistent with our principles of achieving social justice.
  2. If researchers want to work with us they should really become allies of our movement.  That means supporting our movement with your research but also as a citizen!
  3. Please familiarize yourself with the VANDU website, mission statement and other materials to try to understand our work before you ask us to participate in your research project.
  4. We (VANDU Board) want to know where every cent of funding is coming from and where it is going (financial transparency).
  5. VANDU members must be included whenever research we were involved in is presented.
  6. VANDU representatives who participate in research should be supported to develop research skills and know-how.  Please make an effort to include VANDU members in various ways consistent with their unique capacities.
  7. Where the ‘peer’ involved in the research has the capacity, try to involve them in all aspects of the research, not just one small part.
  8. Researchers should make an effort to democratize the language you use, by using plain language and respecting that people who use drugs are whole human beings, not just research subjects.
  9. We want to see the research – in progress – to give feedback.
  10. Present us with an explanation and action plan on how the research will contribute to the empowerment and liberation of people who use drugs.
  11. If you are a researcher and you say that you are on the side of the oppressed and that you want to make positive changes, your first responsibility (as a researcher) is to work with the most representative, democratic and active organizations of the oppressed group to make sure that your research supports their work, or ask how it can.
  12. Being involved in the research should move more people into action and strengthen the existing organizations of the oppressed.

Elements of the Research Agreement:

  1. VANDU may charge a processing fee to consider the research proposal.
  2. Researchers must provide a written description of their project in plain language to be considered by the board, before the researcher will be invited to meet with the board.
  3. We want to see a budget for the project including all revenues and expenditures.  This should include all funding sources for the research, including government, foundation and industry funding.
  4. Stipends have to go through VANDU, the Board must agree on the stipends for the research project, and VANDU staff or designated representatives will do the payouts.
  5. We expect researchers to include a room rental and administration fee where applicable in addition to stipends.
  6. Please explain how the research will contribute to the empowerment and liberation of people who use illicit drugs.  This should include the expected research products, and an action plan for implementation and follow-up.
  7. Please explain how the knowledge and expertise of people who use drugs will be incorporated into the research and how it will be acknowledged.
  8. VANDU’s participation should be explicitly acknowledged and where applicable VANDU (not individual members) should be listed as co-author.
  9. Any presentation of the research should include VANDU members approved by the Board.
  10. Please be up front with us about who the other collaborators on the project are including other researchers, agencies, and community representatives.

VANDU Manifesto for a Drug User Liberation Movement


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