Update from Day Three of the 55th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Wednesday 15th March 2012

João Goulão, Portuguese National Coordinator for Drug Problems

This morning opened with a side-event which hosted João Goulão, who spoke about Portuguese drug policy. He explained that police still make arrests concerning drug use but that these cases now go to a panel rather than a court, which provides an opportunity for the person who uses drugs to receive treatment. Instead of hailing the Portuguese model as some sort of miracle success story however (you can see how Portugal compares with other EU countries here), he was careful to stress that "drug use in Portugual is not a solved problem".

Whilst there are pros and cons to the Portuguese model, one main element of the model is that they took a more comprehensive approach than they had done in the past, which included substantially increased investment in the areas of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, treatment, harm reduction and rehabilitation. The Portuguese National Strategy for the Fight against Drugs (NSFAD) (PCM1999), published in 1999, for example, established strategic options “To double public investment to PTE 32 billion (at the rhythm of 10% a year) over the next five years”.

Currently, he says the current economic climate is putting pressure on the system, with people being more tempted to become involved with smuggling. At the end of the seminar, he clarifies that "we cannot say there is a causal effect between decriminalisation and reductions in drug related deaths". People who over-sell the decriminalisation aspect of the Portugal model, so often overlook the much wider set of social and health responses that Portugal so substantially invested in during the same period. Decriminalisation, on its' own, in the context of a financial crisis and reduced healthcare services might be quite a different story.

Evidence Based Community Drug Prevention: Results from the Field

This very positive side-event, organised by CADCA, focused on the positive role community members can play in developing their own local drug prevention coalitions. The basis of the local coalition is that one single strategy is unlikely to succeed and that a set of reinforcing set of strategies has the greatest potential to reduce drug use.

Ideally, a coalition would convene locally and aim to combine talent and resources to address substance abuse issues by involving key local figures, such as law enforcement, youth, parents, businesses, media, schools, youth serving organisations, faith based sector, voluntary groups, health care professionals and any other relevant local agencies.

To support the beginnings of a drug prevention community coalition, CADCA offer support via the Drug Free Communities Grant Program (DFC) as well as through intensive training on coalition building and substantial follow-up support to ensure the continuity of the coalition. The coalitions do not start from the basis of fixing a prescribed problem, rather they leave it up to the community itself to establish its' own problem, goals and actions. What was so impressive from the CADCA presentation was its' focus on ownership at the community level.

The next CADCA Training Event is due to be held in Nashville, USA between the 22nd-26th June 2012.

Resolutions Discussed Today

A resolution which started the day as "preventing the use of illicit drugs" ended the day as "Promoting evidence-based drug prevention strategies and policies". Witin this resolution, Member States are urged "to develop, promote and implement cost-effective policies and interventions to prevent the use of illicit drugs, with special emphasis on children, youth and populations at risk and utilizing current academic, scientific and practitioner-based studies to achieve that objective".

A second resolution was discussed on "special marketing regimes for alternative development, including preventive alternative development" which will aim to facilitate and stimulate trade in products from areas affected by and vulnerable to the world drug problem.