Mutual support and trustworthy information have proven to be pillars of responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives.
Cooperation, reliable data and evidence-based action are just as vital to addressing the many challenges posed by the world drug problem, protecting people’s security and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s theme of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking — “Better Knowledge for Better Care” — speaks to the need to build solutions based on facts and shared responsibility.
The international community has a solid foundation for action, with an agreed legal framework and commitments outlined in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The United Nations, in line with its common position on drug policy, is also enriching the evidence base, including through the annual UNODC World Drug Report.
We must also strive to build on what works. As Prime Minister of Portugal more than two decades ago, my government launched a drug policy rooted in taking strong action in two areas. First, by cracking down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery. And, second, on making sure that those who need treatment get it. Those who develop an addiction to drugs are first and foremost patients and victims. That approach succeeded and drug consumption went down significantly, particularly among young people. Today, Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death rates from drug use.
Together, we can develop sustainable alternatives to illicit drug crop cultivation; tackle drug trafficking and related organized crime; and advance justice responses as well as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug use and related HIV interventions. And we can do so in ways that are sensitive to the needs of women, young people and marginalized groups and that respect human rights.