The Czech Republic shows leadership in drug policy, declares The Senlis Counci

Da: “The Senlis Council” Drug Policy Advisory Forum – Praga Press release, 23rd June 2004

On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking on the 26th of June, The Senlis Council, an international drug policy think-tank, recognised the leadership taken by the new EU member state, the Czech Republic, in terms of its national drug policy.

The structure of Czech drug policy, which is high on the political agenda of the Czech Republic, and its context within the recently enlarged European Union, were discussed today in Prague at “The 2004 Prague Symposium on Drug Policy: The Czech National Drug Strategy: Realities and Challenges Ahead”, at the Lichtenstejn Palace in Prague. The symposium was organised by the Secretariat of the Czech National Drug Commission together with The Senlis Council.

“The innovative drug policy developed by this new EU member is an example of how drug policy can provide alternatives to the US led “War on Drugs”, said The Senlis Council. “The Czech strategy is not only well in step with the general European consensus towards progressive and evidence-based reactions to the reality of the drug crisis, but is an outstanding example of how European member states can develop effective new drug policies.”

“During the week leading up to the International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, we think it is important to recognise Czech drug policy as an example of a national strategy which has shown real innovation and courage in its policy responses to the drug policy crisis”, said Mr Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council. “That this has been achieved by a small, new European country is even more impressive.”

Examples of these innovative policies are harm reduction measures such as syringe exchange programmes, and substitution treatment programmes, which contribute to the combat against the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C.

Speakers at the Symposium included Mr Josef Radimecky, Director of the Secretariat of the National drug Commission and Dr Massimo Barra, Vice President of The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who at the Symposium also acknowledged the Czech Republic’s position as a role-model in the future of European drug policy.

“The International Federation supports and welcomes national endeavours such as the Czech National Drug Strategy,” said Dr Barra. “The strategy represents what I believe to be the only way forward in fighting the global drug problem. It is an important example of how policy can have a positive impact on the drug issue. HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C are major threats to world health, and pragmatic, scientific and evidence-based policies such as the Czech example are the only way to combat this threat”.

“The Czech Republic has been building its drug strategy over the past few years in preparation to its entry into the EU,” said The Senlis Council. “They have developed a strategy and policies which are specifically adapted to the situation in the Czech Republic, but also drawing on alternative policies which have been proven to work in other countries.”

One exceptional component of Czech policy is the regular analysis and measurement of the success of the programmes”, said Mr Emmanuel Reinert, “This analysis is missing from most national drug policies and the Czech Republic’s policy is a very positive and encouraging example of how countries can tackle the drug crisis and all that it encompasses.”

“Many of those responsible for international drug policy do not appear to be asking themselves whether or not the methods used to combat drug abuse and trafficking over the past 40 years of the drug war are working or not. The repressive, law-enforcement-based “War on Drugs” approach has clearly not been effective, and other solutions should be considered. Within Europe, the general trend is moving towards the development of alternative policies, which have proved to be effective. But this is not necessarily the case at the international level”, said The Senlis Council.

“The ineffective and outdated policies which are contributing to the crisis situation in drug policy will be reviewed at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2008.” said Mr Reinert. This review will be the opportunity to build and validate a new global consensus for drug policy, based on effective new approaches such as those implemented by the Czech Republic.

We have to begin to work now on promoting these new models in order to see the failed drug war come to an end in 2008. The government of the Czech Republic has shown true leadership in the fight against drugs, addressing this very difficult issue in an innovative and responsible way. This leadership will contribute to making the 2008 UNGASS a historical moment, during which a new consensus for drug policy will emerge”.