14 March 2019

Drug Addicts Need Treatment, Not Punishment, Secretary-General Says in Message to Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the ministerial segment of the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, being held in Vienna on 14-15 March.

Thank you for taking part in this ministerial segment of the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  Last year, the UN launched a task team to enhance coordination and deliver more comprehensive assistance to countries facing drug-related challenges.

This team has produced a brief that showcases a number of successful experiences that we have found over the last decade in law enforcement, prevention, health care, human rights and development.

Let me tell you about my experience as Prime Minister of Portugal two decades ago.  The country was reeling from drug abuse.  We took on the drug traffickers, ensuring law enforcement officers got the information and equipment they needed.  At the same time, the Government assumed its responsibilities for prevention and treatment, rooted in the conviction that drug addicts are victims who need treatment rather than punishment.  This policy worked.  The seizure of drugs went up.  Drug consumption went down significantly.  Today, Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death rates from drug use.

I have no doubt that by learning from one another and sharing experiences, we can be more effective in reducing supply and demand, improving security, protecting health and human rights, and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, as envisioned by UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly special session on drugs).

Let us build on shared commitments and make the best use of practices that work.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.