For The Antiprohibitionist Reform Of The UN Conventions On Drugs

The reasons why we wished to hold this two-day seminar are common knowledge: the fact that in Mach 2003 in Vienna, the conference assigned by the United Nations to review policies on drugs, will have to assess the war on drugs launched five years ago – to be precise by the Vice-President of the United Nations, and by Pino Arlacchi the Vice-Secretary of the United Nations. It was a very ambitious project, it was aimed at wiping out drugs off the face of the earth in 10 years. At this midway assessment, we are aware of the many years of battles, initiatives, and anti-prohibitionist actions. I will then try to explain the value of anti-prohibitionism, which is not an initiative against prohibitionist policies, but is, above all, a proposal of alternative government. Well, five years after the United Nations plan, and on the occasion of the meeting to be held in Vienna in March 2003, we wish to take a stand not simply as concerns the questions of principle, but we also wish to take a stand by attempting to reunify all the forces which, during these years in different parts of the world, have opposed, with enormous difficulties, what was a conformist and moralist position. This is why it is important that we have with us a militant radical, who has decided to also shoulder some significant political responsibilities – Professor Arnold Trebach. There is not much to be said, history is far more eloquent than any words. He has worked on this front for many years, dozens of years. He has worked in the USA – let’s put it this way – on scientific research to supply the political decision-makers with concrete, reasonable motives for governing the phenomena of legal drugs. For me, for us who work in the European Parliament, it is particularly important that Mr. George Estievenart is here – he is the European Executive Director for drugs and drug-dependence. It is also particularly important that Ms. Eliana Bryekman is here – she is a member of the General Law and Internal Affairs Management of the European Commission. Because we have often met and argued through the years, with Olivier Dupuyis and Gianfranco Dell’Alba in the last legislative period, and with myself and Marco Cappato in the present legislative period. That is because we apparently have two different approaches rather than two different viewpoints. Our approach is to overcome the barrier that still exists between science and politics. I must honestly say that only lately, after many years of organisational efforts, the European Observatory on drugs and drug-dependency is to a greater extent highlighting scientific evidence. It is therefore risking something, as it casts doubts on the policies of the Member states, the policies of the United Nations, and, let’s say it, the policies of all those countries which find common ground in prohibitionism. But what I’d like to draw your attention to, not just as a part of this morning’s debate, but within the sphere of the entire seminar, is: from where do we start to evaluate these policies? I do not say this to provoke - after three years of consideration by the Public Freedoms Commission of the European Parliament and by the Budget Commission, our amendment to set aside funds for north-south co-operation on drugs, was unanimously accepted. Clearly, the European Parliament did not suddenly decide to adopt an alternative approach to what is a common approach. We think that, simply, the minimum level for which we have always fought, has been exceeded: that is to say, to obtain cost-effectiveness verifications of these policies. We are not asking the European Parliament, the European Commission and the United Nations to espouse the anti-prohibitionist stand, we are asking for scientific evaluations, firstly those in the current anti-drug programme. There is no need for me to talk at length about the what happened to UNO Vice-secretary Arlacchi, when – in the name of the anti-drug fight, as if it were almost a battle, a holy war – in having to trample even over the administrative practices of the United Nations, he was forced, I think in good faith from a certain point of view, to meet and reach agreement with the worst regimes of the earth, dictator-guided and dictatorial regimes, military and religious regimes, in the attempt to observe what is the commitment of the United Nations today. Therefore our response cannot be other than firstly to invite the institutions and to supply them with as much research and in-depth study material as possible. We are convinced that only when we succeed in making decision-making politicians and governing persons understand the importance of associating science with their decisions and not just adhering to ethical questions only, which are quite different from organising states, western states, or democratic lay western states. Only then will we be able to have a concrete debate, not based purely on prejudices. Unfortunately, today the current policies seek silence only, a sterile agreement without the any possibility of public debate, because they are based on the denial of research, on the government’s denial of these problems. I am a member of a party in which our leader, Marco Pannella, began to practice civil disobedience in the 70s. In Italy today, there are dozens of radical militants facing trial. For a purely technical reason, Marco Pannella is not an absconder but expects to become one in a few days’ time. So we do not just have deep convictions, but also the force of the method – non-violence – which enables us to face this unassailable rubber wall also by violating laws which we consider not only unjust, but also – excuse this term, it’s the technical one – criminogenous.

Prohibitionism, prohibitionist laws on drugs produce crime, and strengthen crime, they are the laws which, in vast areas of the planet, even put democratic institutions at risk. In view of the great attention focused today on the fight against terrorism, we do not thinks the same amount of attention is addressed to the fight against forbidden drugs. Those who use terrorism as their fighting tool, often succeed in being present thanks to the trade in these substances, a trade which our countries have handed over to the monopoly of crime.

Maurizio TURCO, president of the MEPs of Lista Bonino