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Share Your Memories and Photos of Allan Clear

Over the last twenty years Harm Reduction Coalition has grown vibrantHarm Reduction Working Group and powerful community. Powered by compassion and resilience, our community has successfully moved harm reduction from a politically untouchable concept that raised red flags to a concept recognized, respected, and invoked by governments throughout the country. We have squarely centered the health and well-being of people who use drugs at the forefront of public dialogue. We have facilitated the survival of thousands of sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and loved ones. As a community, we have changed the world.

The leadership of Allan Clear has significantly influenced the success of Harm Reduction Coalition and the shape of the harm reduction community. For the past 20 years, Allan’s capacity for relationship building, wisdom and strength born of experience/survival, and relentless belief in the worth of every human especially those touched by drug use, has ushered in a new era of harm reduction.

As Allan passes the baton to new leadership, help us celebrate his contributions to the work of our community. Help us celebrate our community by sharing your stories and pictures of Allan by emailing publications@harmreduction.org

With Allan, we have built 20 years of loving community, 20 years of experience getting to the table to negotiate, represent, argue, 20 years of making friends and building allies, and 20 years of making demands for all of this and more. Please partner with us to make sure we are there for another 20.


Allan CND with Peter S and 14 foot pic of Terrell“Allan has inspired me to be the person I am. I was having a hard time accepting myself, being a former drug user. Through many conversations, he made me realize that I am a human being and that no matter what has happened in my life, I deserve respect, [love, understanding and compassion]. Because of the life I have lived, I can help others…I can choose to be the voice of my community. Allan has [changed] my life…you will never know the feeling I had when he asked the Peer Network to be part of the opening at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Conference, a natural high that I still feel today. As [he] told me, change starts with oneself then works in community” – Terrell Jones



Portland Conference East vs. West Soccer GameThe first time I met Allan was at the Santa Cruz NASEN conference in 1994. I was at some panel, and during the session, a loud, brash, British voice from all the way back in the room started agitating. I immediately wanted to know what he was all about. I got to learn more when he stayed in our hotel room at the harm reduction conference in Paris in 1997. He was pissed that the international harm reduction association was adamantly against having its annual conference in the USA because “they say there is no harm reduction programs in the US.” In my dozen years on the Harm Reduction Coalition board, I have come to know, respect, and love Allan. An incredible voice for the disenfranchised. An unwavering leader. Unflappable in the midst of chaos. This is what HRC has come to stand for during his two decades at its helm. And upon his stepping down, it is just like Allan to make sure that HRC is in great shape moving forwards, as it looks towards the next two decades.” – Alex Kral


Allan + Alissa HRC Conference Football MatchApart from the obvious about Allan and his tremendous contribution to harm reduction work, the thing that stands out most for me is personal. Allan has been one of my “go to” guys. He has been someone to discuss work with and a person I can confide in about life’s travails. We share father stories, “war” stories, and our vision of what we want for our lives, and the lives of our daughters, in a world that is too often dreadful.

Beyond being one of my more competent colleagues, I consider Allan my friend. Even after long periods of time without seeing each other or even chatting on the phone, we pick up where we left off. His wisdom, sensitivity, and sense of humor bring out the best in me.

I am grateful for Allan and lucky to know him. Thank you Allan. Thank you for your work, your passion, your wit, intelligence, and kindness. All the best to you and your family as you embark on this incredibly cool new journey.” – Bernie Lieving



Kris Nyrop and Allan Clear at IHRC BelfastPerhaps it’s no surprise that some of my most memorable and meaningful interactions with HRC staff and Allan have been at conferences…whether it’s the biennial family reunions hosted by HRC since the first one in Oakland back in 1995 to last year’s gathering in Baltimore, or the old meetings of the North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN), or, more recently at the UN offices in Vienna arguing for change in global drug policy and prepping for next year’s UNGASS.

One of my favorite moments came at the NASEN conference in Minneapolis in late April 2001. Two moments in particular stand-out. The first was a surprise presentation modeled on the old TV show “This Is Your Life” that Allan organized in honor of Grampa Dave (Purchase). It was hysterical, touching, educational, and inspiring all at the same time.

The second came a couple of nights later when Dave asked Cowboy (his nickname for Allan) to make closing remarks for the conference. Allan grabbed the mike, took a few deep breaths, paced for a second or two, and then began by acknowledging the death of Joey Ramone two weeks before. And, with that, he was off on an improvisatory riff on the similarities between punk and harm reduction. It was pure Allan…by turns funny, serious, and a deep underlying compassion.

A clear (pardon…) example of harm reduction being punk and flying by the seat of your pants had come a couple of years earlier in October 1997 in Denver. HRC had taken a big leap of faith and organized a conference called “Drugs and HIV in the Rocky Mountain States”. Luckily, Allan had guessed right and there was a real thirst for this conversation. Folks from all over the inter-mountain west (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico) came to Denver. For many of them it was their first exposure to harm reduction and the conversations of how to bring things like syringe access to rural and – often deeply conservative – areas were inspiring. One of the best parts of the conference, however, came after it was supposed to end.

On the last day it began snowing just before dawn and by mid-morning it was several inches deep and not long thereafter the Denver airport shutdown. And dozens of folks found themselves with an unplanned extra couple of days. From Friday afternoon until Sunday evening when the airport reopened there was nothing to do except hang out in the hotel and talk to each other.

Allan has promised he will be joining at HRC’s conference next fall in San Diego…and he’s not leaving the harm reduction family. For that I am deeply grateful. Allan has been a source of inspiration, wisdom, leadership, and support for all of us in the harm reduction world for over 20 years….ride well Cowboy!”- Kris Nyrop

Allan, Luceo Photobooth Campaign“I think one of the bars to entry in working with people who inject drugs is really a fundamental acceptance that inclusiveness actually means everybody regardless of their struggles, lifestyle, and personal choices. It means letting go of the categories and classifications that are socially reinforced which separate those who are worthy of dignity and those who are not.

One thing —the primary thing —that I have always admired about Allan is that his brand of advocacy comes from a very simple ethos that insists that all people are worthy of dignity and respect. It’s deceptively uncomplicated, but deeply challenging to actually live by. He makes it look easy and, from the outside looking in, I suspect that is why he has been so effective focusing HRC’s mission for the last two decades. “Matt Slaby




Allan and Suzie KoI met Allan when my friend/sister Sue was rallying to get me a temp job with HRC. I was figuring, just another temp job… They needed someone to help find a conference hotel for Miami. The old office was a wide open floor plan, small staff, not sure if everyone had desk space, no walls that I remember, except Allan’s tiny office in the corner. Thin, spiky haired, English accent, paper all around. We spoke briefly and I got the job.

From a temp job that was supposed to be about searching for conference sites and helping Paula with logistics, I could never have imagined how crazy my harm reduction education would be and how much it would shape my outlook on life (and death). I saw firsthand how fucked up people can be to each other but also how inexplicably kind people can be. Allan made sure that I got to meet people at the local harm reduction programs. I came to love them like family, and I have a pretty awesome family.

Allan and HRC are responsible for helping so many people embody harm reduction. Through all the trainings, the conferences, overdose prevention, random phone calls from all over the country, simple conversations walking to the record store at lunch, it all added up to learning how to care more about each other.

Allan always created space for us to think about how to make the movement better, stronger and inclusive. I think that is a huge reason why HRC has been instrumental for all these years and why it will continue to press people in our society to recognize our connectedness and support people impacted by drug use.” Suzie Ko

Allan and Paula Santiago Oakland Conference“I met Allan sometime in 1990 or 1991. I was a IV drug user at the time and it was prior to the opening of LESNEP. I want to say it was at a vacant lot between C & D on 4th.

I had heard about some people that were providing “Clean” syringes so I went to check it out. Sure enough there was a few good citizens providing without any requirements. Seemed legit. This became a regular event and overtime they opened what I believe was the first store front Syringe Exchange where I became a regular visitor.

At the time I was dating a deaf girl and thought if I played deaf as well I would gain a level of sympathy and care that I so much needed at that time in my life. Overtime I became a regular visitor to LESNEP and was familiar with the volunteer staff. This was before Allan was part of the HRC.

Eventually the day came where I HAD to change my life and went to the exchange and revealed the truth asking to use the phone to find a detox. Allan NEVER turned his back on me through my dishonesty and provided me with the corner stone of what I understand today as UNCONDITIONAL caring.

We use to joke that I was the first client of LESNEP to go from street junkie to mainstream …I have stayed in touch periodically over the years. I am disease free (was treated for HEP C in 2011 and cured) and drug free since Oct 25 1992. I always attribute my “Sobriety” to my experience at LESNEP and specifically to Allan. I believe that I would not have the life I have today if it was not for Allan, his kindness and lack of judgement. I feel always indebted to Allan and all he stands for.” – Peter Hirsch

Heather Anne Allan CND


“A few years ago, I was another corporate cog working away at a law firm. Fast forward to a month ago, when alongside Ambassadors from Colombia, Switzerland and Norway, I addressed members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on “the World Drug Problem, putting people, health, and human rights at the center.” Looking out at the faces in the audience, I felt completely humbled and amazed. How the *#@! did I get here?

Allan Clear, that’s how!

I met Allan one day in 2009 when I walked into a presentation he was giving called “Harm Reduction Policy.” I had been interested in harm reduction for a long time and wanted to do more in the field but wasn’t sure how to approach it. Allan had just come back from Vienna and was talking about his battle to get something called the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to recognize the term “harm reduction” in something called a Political Declaration and Plan of Action. I had zero idea what he was talking about, but the more I listened, the more excited I got. So, a bunch of diplomats were making decisions about drugs in Vienna? When I realized he was talking about international drug law I thought I had died and gone to heaven (in reality I think I nearly peed my pants). And that’s where it all started………………..

The last six + years has been a wild ride. Allan and I (and sometimes the fearless and brilliant Sharon Stancliff) have traveled to Vienna every year, sometimes twice, to advocate for harm reduction measures at the CND.

We’ve watched endless proceedings, taken part in all sorts of crazy demonstrations, strategized in stuffy conference rooms, drank a lot of drank a lot of cappuccino (or “Melange”), and caused big trouble.

Or at least Allan caused trouble! Not me. Never me.

In 2012 we decided to be proactive and draft a resolution on overdose prevention – after months of behind-the-scenes advocacy with Allan’s fellow superhero Sharon Stancliff – including a trip to the White House – the resolution was championed by The Czech Republic and adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This resulted in UNODC officially promoting naloxone as a “best practice” in preventing overdose death – which, along with many other efforts, helped to increase its availability in the US and abroad.

It was then that I TRULY realized the power of international advocacy.

Allan CND with Heather and Leah SDP photoAllan Benjamin UN HQ Ban Ki-MoonBut we didn’t stop there. In 2013 we set our sights on New York where the UN General Assembly had just scheduled a Special Session on Drugs to be held in 2016 (the “UNGASS”). I was fortunate to join the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) as its NY Consultant, and although it was still three years before the meeting, Harm Reduction Coalition, along with our colleagues at IDPC led by the heroic Ann Fordham, started to prepare for the 2016 UNGASS.

We had no platform at UN Headquarters in NY– there was no reason for anyone there to listen to what we had to say. We started meeting with missions, holding IDPC/HRC panel events and starting to engage member states in drug policy.

At the same time (at the urging of another hero, Michael Krawitz), we set about reorganizing the long-dormant New York NGO Committee on Drugs. Rosalind Harris, now retired at 93 years old, handed over the reins and we went with it. We worked really hard (along with the dedicated Benjamin Phillips) to build NYNGOC into a thriving committee with a 10-member Executive Committee from Canada, the US and Latin America.

Allan Heather Roz Micheal NYNGOC meeting

Allan, Heather, Roz, Michael: NYNGOC meeting

The NYNGOC now has over 100 members from every region in the world and is now once again recognized as the official committee representing drug policy NGOs, under the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (“CoNGO”).

Through NYNGOC we, with the Vienna NGO Committee, were able to convene a 31-member global Civil Society Task Force for UNGASS 2016 as the “official liaison” for civil society engagement in UNGASS, which was officially launched at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in December 2014. The CSTF is made up of 2 representatives from nine global regions, as well as representatives of affected areas and global voices: farmers, youth, drug users, recovered users, families, access to essential medicines, criminal justice, prevention, and harm reduction.

Through the CSTF we’ve been able to do more than we ever imagined – besides holding civil society hearings at the UN in NY and Vienna, the CSTF has conducted consultations for UNGASS with NGOs in every region of the world, and were called on by the President of the General Assembly to recommend speakers in the High Level Thematic Debate on Drugs held in May 2015. A month ago the President of the General Assembly agreed to our proposal to hold a one-day interactive consultation with civil society as part of the offAllan Sharon CNDicial preparatory process for UNGASS 2016. This will be the highest level and most in-depth civil society consultation ever held by the UN in the area of drug policy.

It’s hard to describe why this matters so much but suffice it to say that before NYNGOC and the CSTF, all of this would have gone down quite differently. None of it was easy – we fought against heavy opposition and political resistance – and were told “no” more times than I can count, but in the end, we earned an equal seat the UNGASS table for the drug policy reform and harm reduction communities. It is not overstating it to say that the landscape of civil society participation around drugs at the UN has been forever altered.

None of this – and I mean NONE of it – would have happened without Allan. Allan put a face on harm reduction and Harm Reduction Coalition, at the United Nations.

And so, now that he’s changed the world of international drug policy, it’s time for Allan to move on. To approach all of this from a new angle. On our last trip to Vienna this past December, I was a little sad, but mostly excited for him. Because we both know it won’t be his last.” – Heather Haase


Help us celebrate Allan’s contributions to the work of our community. Help us celebrate our community by sharing your stories and pictures of Allan by emailing publications@harmreduction.org to be included here.

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