Dr. Massimo Barra, Chairman of Italian RC

Key note speaker, Rome Consensus Regional Meeting
From: “Regional meeting of the Rome Consensus for Asia and Oceania”; Manila- Philippines, 27-29 September 2007

Dear Friends,
It’s a great honour to speak to you, tonight during this dinner offered to the participants of the First Regional Meeting of the Rome Consensus in Asia and the Pacific.
I would like to mention again that in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, Asia was in 1922 and in 1926, the first Continent which addressed the drug problem, the consequences for the young generation at that time and the problems related to the discrimination
Following these decisions, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement adopted many resolutions inviting the National Societies to take initiatives in order to reduce and alleviate the suffering of the Drug users. In the recent years the NS decided to do more in this field, recognizing that the problem is growing worldwide and the need to put in practice the Principles; base on that I would like to mention my understanding of the Fundamental Principles in relation to the humanitarian drug policy:
Substance abuse can be seen as a humanitarian catastrophe, which is severely affecting more than 200 Million people, their families and communities in the world.
No discrimination, offering services to all, based on individual needs
It’s the care seeker that has to be at the centre of the service and not the other way round
The assistance offered has to be based on the needs of affected people, free of any external conditioning choices
Involve Youth and volunteers at all level, especially in advocacy issues, peer to peer education. Drug users could be also invited to join the local RC/RC Society: Former drug users at Villa Maraini are now active and committed RC Volunteers
The activities should strengthen the RC/RC image and programs at the local level
The Rome Consensus is a clear demonstration of the will of National Societies worldwide.

RC/RC not only as an operational actor, but also as Advocacy player…
You know, as well as I do, that stigma kills. Lack of interest and stigmatization is worst than the abuse of drugs.
My own experience as founder of Villa Maraini, the Italian RC therapeutic community in Rome shows that, by applying these principles thousands of lives of people affected by drug dependency have become less miserable, giving the possibility to find the doors of rehabilitation opened to the most excluded ones as well.
Unfortunately, a big part of this painful situation is caused as much by the criminal policies as the substances themselves.
Stigmatization and indifference kill more than the abuse of drugs. Moreover, discrimination and lack of care for drug users are not intelligent and destructive not only for the victims themselves, but also for the families, friends and communities in which they live.
Everywhere in the world, even in countries that uphold human rights, drug users are still denied basic citizen rights. Drug users are humiliated, bullied, discriminated and treated more as criminals than as sick people. Public opinion and well thinking people are often accomplices of this stigmatization.
Discrimination means that drug users are not given any chance to fight their addiction and that drugs end up affecting the society as a whole through the spread of AIDS, violence and social misery.
The policies developed to tackle drug use too often contribute to make the situation worse. The use of violence against users has no rational and logical basis. Violence engenders more violence and suffering.
In this regard, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement speaks loudly on behalf of the most vulnerable ones…

The situation in the Asia and Pacific region
As mentioned in the document prepared by the Rome Consensus and the Senlis Council, the situation is getting worse in the Asia and Pacific region.
The vulnerability is growing not only because of the traditional drug problems such as heroine and cannabis use but also caused by the rise in the production and consumption of pills in the region (ecstasy and other amphetamines such as shaboo and ice, anxiolitics, hypnotics, etc), which shows the urgent need to try different approaches other than criminalization.
But this evening let me introduce another subject to your attention. A subject that the World Health Organization defined as “The Pain crisis”

The Pain crisis
The lack of painkiller medicines such as Morphine and codeine is in fact another major problem that deepens the humanitarian crisis.
In an article published on September 10, 2007 the newspaper New York Times reported that (and I quote): “millions of people in the world’s poorest countries are destined to die in pain. They cannot get the drug they needs — one that is cheap, effective, perfectly legal for medical uses under treaties signed by virtually every country, made in large quantities, and has been around since Hippocrates praised its source, the opium poppy. They cannot get morphine.
Narcotics incite fear: doctors fear addicting patients, and law enforcement officials fear drug crime. Often, the government elite who can afford medicine for themselves are indifferent to the sufferings of the poor.
The World Health Organization estimates that 4.8 million people a year with moderate to severe cancer pain receive no appropriate treatment. Nor do another 1.4 million with late-stage AIDS. For other causes of lingering pain it issues no estimates but believes that millions go untreated.
Figures gathered by the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency, make it clear: citizens of rich nations suffer less.
Six countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Australia — consume 79 percent of the world’s morphine, according to a 2005 estimate. The poor and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s people live consumed only about 6 percent. Some countries imported virtually none. (Segue alla pagina successiva >>)