Speech on the occasion of the presentation of the UNODC/WHO

Joint initiative on Drug Dependence, Treatment and Care
Massimo Barra,
Vice President of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
From:”UNODC/WHO Joint initiative on Drug Dependence, Treatment and Care” Vienna, 11 March 2009

Thank you Chair, for giving me the floor. I greet all of you on behalf of the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, that is present with National Societies in 186 countries. Our Movement is inspired by 7 Fundamental Principles, among which Neutrality. Neutrality means that our Movement does not take part in any political, social and religious controversy. But the Red Cross and Red Crescent is not neutral when we speak about human suffering.

We fight human suffering with concrete actions on the ground and with advocacy and humanitarian diplomacy, speaking worldwide at all levels on behalf of the most vulnerable people. No doubt that the millions of people who use – and especially abuse – drugs are among the most vulnerable people in the world. Not only drugs create vulnerability and suffering, but in many cases, in many countries, unfortunately, prejudice brings the political answer to create more damages that the same substances.
I speak about many countries that we all know, where drug users are humiliated, bullied, put in prison, stigmatized, discriminated, where their human rights are not respected even with the complicity of so called experts and doctors. We well know that stigma kills and that violence brings always other violence.

That’s why we congratulate this joint initiative of WHO and UNODC, we congratulate both institutions for the documents that have been distributed to us today, we congratulate Dr Gerra and Dr Saraceno for the very clear speeches they have pronounced at the beginning of this meeting.
Your documents on harm reduction are inspired by scientific and logical evidence that is very clear. The opposite of harm reduction is harm increase, and no strategy can have as an objective the one to increase the damages of the sick persons.

The international Movement of RC/RC Societies has a long history helping drug users in many countries of the world and advocating for an evidence based approach to this problem. I remember our documents “The Rome Consensus for a Humanitarian Drug Policy” and “Spreading the light of Science” that you can find in the web site of International Red Cross.

Finally, our Movement is ready to join the initiative you start today. We can bring our added value; I mean our capillarity, the presence of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers everywhere as part of the community, even in small villages; and also the trust of people in our Emblems, that are well appreciated and respected everywhere in the world.