International Summer University in Social Work 

The ethical Watchdog of Swiss Drug Policy. Why social workers have to go political

Jean-Félix Savary, General secretary, Groupe romand d’études des addictions (GREA), Lausanne

Switzerland is often seen as a success when it comes to drug policy. This is certainly partly true, as some great results have been achieved through the implementation of harm reduction measures. However, we shall not forget the difficulties that have come along with its implementation. This has been a difficult process, that is not over yet.
The history of swiss drug Policy is a good example of the role played by the professionals on the filed like social workers, as a watchdog for human rights and dignity. The four pilars strategy has requested to pass agreement with various interest in the society. If we all dream of a more humane society, the realty might be sometimes more complex. Concerning drug users, fears of the unknown and concerns about public safety have long been dominant, which is still partly true, like every where else.
Build from the ground up, harm reduction implementation requested complicated compromise to be passed between various forces and interest in the society (mainly security and health). Dignity and citizenship of drug users were not necessarily the main focus. On the field, the social workers has to invent a new way of looking at thinks, building bridges with others, previously not welcomed partners. They have been playing a complex role of watchdog to defend the status of drug users.
The presentation will show how the swiss Policy has develop on the field and what kind of political process made it possible. Based on this example, it will advocate for the « political » dimension of the social worker, which is a compulsory part of the job in this filed, and will try to show how their role has been key for ethical questions to remain open, mainly about human rights, drug consumption and stigmatisation.