Madam Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia
May I begin by thanking you for the kind invitation to attend and speak at this very important gathering of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It was just over 10 years ago that I attended the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on illicit drugs in New York out of which the 10 year plan for tackling drug misuse arose.
Time has flown and it is timely and necessary that we review our efforts and plan for the next phase of our work.
I offer my comments as President of the Mentor Foundation – an international non-governmental organisation focussed on the prevention of drug misuse. It has actively sought to support the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in its work to implement the strategy proposed in 1998 with respect to prevention and drug demand reduction. It has also been very active in the review and the planning for our next steps.
I say “our" next steps as I feel it is very important that this is a team effort where the United Nations and governments from around the world work together with civil society- the non-governmental organisations, -the NGOs, - in the review, planning and implementation of our efforts to tackle this major problem that causes so much harm and distress to individuals, families and communities in all parts of the globe. I hope that the voice of the non-governmental organisations will be listened to and not only heard.
They are key players in our team to ensure our efforts reach the target populations in each of our countries. I hope you will allow me to stress their role in this major milestone event where Governments come together to reflect and plan ahead. So that you might make best use of the collective goodwill and commitment of NGO´s from across the globe in your assessment of progress and your planning for the future,
Beyond 2008, was created with support from UNODC and with substantial financial contributions from member states, including from my own country. The initiator was the Vienna NGO Committee – a group that represents the NGO sector in its collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and which has received significant input from Mentor.
Many of you are already well aware of the historic initiative that brought together over 900 NGO representatives – they came from around the world, sat together in 13 regional meetings and gave their advice, insight and recommendations on how best we can collectively address the impact of drug use on our youth, in our communities and in our families.
Mentor Foundation was pleased to contribute to the leadership of this initiative. My officials have briefed me along the process and you could sense that there was a genuine enthusiasm and commitment from NGO´s to substantively contribute to the 10 year UNGASS Illicit Drugs review.
The culmination of the Beyond 2008 process occurred in July last year – just next door in the Boardroom – where 300 NGO´s from across the globe, representing very different ideological perspectives and experiences – yet they sat together, debated – sometime strenuously – and came away with a consensus Declaration and three resolutions.
Those documents were introduced to your preparatory work and I am pleased to note the many points of commonality between these NGO recommendations and those outlined in the Political Declaration and Action Plans. Beyond 2008 brought three key areas to the discussion.
First, it spoke very clearly about the concept of shared responsibility in addressing the impact of drug abuse, a concept you have included as one of the topics for the round tables. As is well known, it is only through an effective partnership between member states, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UN organizations and NGO´s that we can make a true difference in the lives of those affected by drug use.
Mr. Costa is known for saying “drug issues are too important to be left to governments alone". I would suggest to you all that Beyond 2008 shows a serious and concerted attempt by NGO´s to be held accountable for their actions and shows their willingness to work alongside you. There is a real opportunity now to take this willingness on board and to find improved mechanisms for collaboration, partnership and shared responsibility.
Next, Beyond 2008 brought the voice of those most affected to the table. Most of us in this room enjoy a living standard and opportunities which are far beyond those of the vast majority of the world's population. Often it is those who are most marginalized and most at risk that have the weakest voice and yet we must hear that voice and work with them.
Beyond 2008 brings a fresh and insightful perspective to this debate. It may be difficult at time to connect in a tangible fashion the impact of your work on people across the globe, yet there is an inextricable linkage between your decisions and priorities and the health of people. Beyond 2008 sought to bring that perspective to the table.
Finally, Beyond 2008 created a call for action. While you gather here to adopt a Political Declaration and Action Plans, we know this is but a milestone on a long journey. NGO´s have demonstrated their resolve, capacity and willingness to work with you as member states, with the Commission itself and the UNODC and related organizations. Beyond 2008´s recommendations along with your Political Declaration and Action Plans are both statements of resolve and responses to a major concern affecting so many lives. I look forward to these calls for action being merged into a single, global effort.
I appeal to you to provide the Beyond 2008 Declaration and Resolutions the serious and ongoing attention they deserve. I know we will all be the better for it. You will learn more about this work when the Chair of the Beyond 2008 Steering Committee, Mr. Michel Perron, addresses this plenary.
I look forward to your continuing commitment to address drug use and the harmful consequences for individuals, families, communities and nations. I urge you all to invest your time and energy in areas we know work best including prevention and treatment. These are the key elements for our long term success and for the health of all our citizens.
As Mentor's Executive Director is always keen to stress not only do we need the team effort of the United Nations, Governments and NGOs working together, we also need to see the approach we take show a team effort. Supply control with the efforts of the police, customs and legislators is important – but it is not enough on its own.
We need to offer a response that offers help and support to those who are the victims of drug use; we are dealing with a health issue not just a legal issue. And finally the team needs a strong contribution from those working to prevent and educate – indeed this may be the best and most cost effective long term investment if we are to manage and reduce the incidence of drug misuse.
Together, working as a team with shared objectives to provide safer, healthier and fulfilling lives free from the harms that drugs can cause, we can make a difference.
We may never succeed in eradicating the problem of drug misuse but that should not stop us in our efforts to prevent it and the harm and misery it can cause.
I wish you every success in your work over the days ahead.