Asian Red Cross societies pledge to advocate humanitarian drug policy

From: “People’s Daily Online” September 29, 2007

Nine National Societies of Red Cross and Red Crescent from Asia on Saturday signed a consensus aimed at promoting health-based measures to fight drug abuse and clear social stigma tagged to drug takers. Delegates from the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand signed the Rome Consensus in Manila after a two-day discussion on advocating a humanitarian approach to tackle drug abuse in the region. Richard J. Gordon, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Red Cross, said the Red Cross can play “a strategic role” in preventing drug abuse by mobilizing its volunteers to provide services that would improve self-worth of individuals that include counseling, youth development, livelihood and reporting of the cases in community.

“We can also advocate with the government to harmonize the policies related to drug use problems based on humanitarian values, ” said Gordon, who also sits in the Senate of the Philippines. Yang Xusheng, the official representing Red Cross Society of China, said it is important to phrase out punishing measures towards drug takers, eyeing to help them better rehabilitate and to retain normal social relations. “Violence and force will only meet resistance,” Yang told Xinhua but admitted that there is still a long way to go before the humanitarian approach to treat drug addicts can be widely recognized in China, given to the discrimination and social stigma tagged to drug takers.

Yang’s view is echoed by Massimo Barra, Chairman of the Rome Consensus Leaders Group, who said “Stigma kills, Indifference and discrimination kill more than the abuse of substances. Drug users are treated more as criminals than as sick people.” He said the Red Cross and Red Crescent, therefore, will “speak loudly on behalf of the most vulnerable ones.” The Rome Consensus is an innovative framework for dialogue and cooperation that commits currently 58 national societies of Red Cross and Red Crescent from Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East to promote a humanitarian approach to drug policy.