First NGO statement to the Plenary – call to consider drug dependence as a humanitarian challenge

Statement by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:

We note the stress on needs of women, men, youth and children in this thematic debate, and the understanding that drug addiction is a multi-factorial disorder. The consequences of drug use and abuse are recognised today as a humanitarian and public health challenge. It has not always been the case, and this is mainly due to civil society and NGO work.

We seek to persuade decision makers to act in the interest of all people and in respect of human rights. Today, this assembly is combining efforts to address drug dependence as a public health issue. We stand ready to support states in the fulfilment of this engagement.

Governments need to develop national health plans with the inclusion of NGOs, volunteers and effective groups to ensure that programmes are delivered to all in need. Next year will be marked as the international year of volunteers.

The response of states has been varied. We are ready to share our best practices. Civil society is locally based and has closed ties with vulnerable populations, including drug users, who are usually stigmatised. Other groups prefer to seek services of civil society rather than governments, and we are better placed to provide prevention programmes to those most at risk, with interventions tailored to local realities and culturally sensitive. One of the resolutions presented to the CND refers to a drug-free community-based coalition. In any case, States must keep a sense of humanity. These people have rights and needs, and must be provided with real alternatives. Mr. Costa’s statement from yesterday is appreciated in this sense.

Private sector actors, such as entertainment industry, are key players for media messages.

There should be no place for glorification of substance abuse. The youth of the Red Cross adopted a declaration to promote the right to know about substance-related harms, but called on the governments to address drug abuse as a humanitarian challenge, not as a criminal one. We urge all states to give special attention to this challenge. We seek to intensify partnerships with governments and other international and non-governmental organisations.

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