How Civil Society Can Help: the Role of Civil Society in the Fight Against Drugs

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The fist in a series of conferences to help unite member sof civil society to forward government efforts in the fight against drugs.

Brussels, June 2005

In recognition of the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and just two days after the European Council adopted the Drugs Action Plan for 2005-2008, experts from around Europe met in Brussels, to define concrete actions for making the plan a reality.

The use of drugs, particularly among young people, is at historically high levels. Also, the incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst drug users is causing increasing concern in many Member States, which register nearly 10,000 drug-related deaths each year; though the true figure is likely to be much higher. Nearly one in five of the European Union population has used an illicit drug at least once. Recent surveys show an increase in drugs and organized crime tops the list of fears among EU Citizens, with 69% seeing it as the greatest threat to society.

During the afternoon conference, an array of experts from six Members States – England, France, Sweden, Hungary, Belgium, and Italy – focused on key topics related to the drug issue.

Mrs. Katalin Szomor, a Hungarian drug expert, president of the PRADO Foundation

(Prostitution, AIDS and Drugs Prevention Organization), former Ministry of Health officer in charge of drug affairs (1984-2004) and National Drug Coordinator of Hungary (1991-1997), provided a historical perspective on drug policies and strategies, emphasizing the importance of a balanced approach between the reduction of demand and of supply. She raised a crucial question: “Is it appropriate to make a cost-benefit analysis between law enforcement budgets and the life or death of human beings?”

Pedagogue and expert on drug addiction Dr. Diego Valeri, who is also the Vice President of the City Council of Cusano Milanino in the Province of Milan, argued that “treatments” that resort to substitute drugs “have caused the multiplication of harms, taking away the responsibility from parents, public institutions, law enforcement agencies and sciences.”

Another conference speaker was Mr. Jean-Luc Maxence of France, also a well-respected drug prevention expert. The founder and longer-term director of the former DIDRO Center (Documentation Information DROgue), Mr. Maxence is an administrator of the CNID (Comité National d’Information sur la Drogue). In his paper, he termed French drug prevention policy “a complete fiasco”, and explained that it took French government authorities 20 years to “rediscover the necessity of conducting basic prevention”.

In an interview on national Flemish radio conducted before she took the conference rostrum, Flemish Platform Against Drugs spokesperson, Dr. Mireille Vergucht, pulled no punches in her professional assessment of the harms of cannabis use.

Mr. Peter Stoker, Director of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, in England made a strong case for the workability and cost-effectiveness of drug prevention, engaging every sector of society. He stated, “Prevention techniques need to vary according to the setting in which they are delivered, the culture of the people to whom you are delivering them – and obviously the age group.” He denounced current “so-called harm reduction” as being aimed at “advancing libertarian radical agendas – and the facilitation of drug use.”

Mr. Bo Persson, President of Narconon Europe, in Denmark, described the effectiveness of the Narconon program, which is a drug-free non-profit drug rehabilitation program based on the discoveries of humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard, now deployed in 30 countries around the world. Mr. Persson shared his personal success with the program, which – he said – “saved my life 30 years ago”. Mr. Persson has since personally helped hundreds lead drug-free lives through Narconon.

Foundation for a Drug-Free Europe Advisory Board Member Mr. E. Kenneth Eckersley, a former UK magistrate and retired Justice of the Peace, stated, “The Foundation does not deal in ideologies – it is only interested in results!” Said Eckersley, “Proper drug prevention training does work, and comfortable lifelong abstinence can in a majority of cases be achieved by an addict when given training in a workable rehabilitation system. Whilst civil society must support all levels of government in the fight against drugs, government must take an exclusively result based approach in their evaluation and support of anti-drug initiatives.”

Foundation for a Drug-Free Europe was formed in March 2004 with the firm purpose of preventing and stopping debilitating drug use through educating non-users concerning the harmful effects that drugs can inflict upon the body, mind and personality, and by finding and directing existing users to programmes that can help them achieve comfortable abstinence for life.

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