Narcotic Drugs: Italy in Vienna focuses on humanitarian drug policies

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VIENNA, APRIL 16 – Ambassador Alessandro Cortese, Permanent Representative of Italy to the International Organizations in Vienna, spoke today at a side event of the 64th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs organized to provide support of the promotion of a humanitarian drug policy.

Focus of the discussion was The Rome Consensus for a Humanitarian Drug Policy, a platform created in 2005 as a partnership among the Italian Red Cross, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) and Villa Maraini Foundation to promote a health-based approach to the suffering caused by drug use.

The Rome Consensus was countersigned by over 120 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Building on the 2005 initiative, The Rome Consensus 2.0 Manifesto was adopted in Vienna last year during the 63rd session of
the Commission. “The Consensus is a call to action to ensure that no one is left behind, and that therapy, care and aid are accessible to anyone in need,” Ambassadir Cortese said.

Today’s session was also attended by Massimo Barra, founder of Villa Maraini and Special Correspondent for Health of the IFRC, and Giovanna Campello of UNODC, who explored particular aspects of the Manifesto by taking a look at how programs and policies can and must overcome false dichotomies between harm reduction, prevention, therapy and recovery.

The session allowed presentations regarding the best practices of immediate, practical aid. These presentations also served to emphasize the crucial role of volunteers and health professionals in both addressing addiction-related disorders with a health-focused approach, while reducing stigma at the community level and facilitating access to therapy.

“The need to promote a health-centered approach to drug dependence is very much ingrained in Italy’s drugs policies”, said Cortese, describing the Italian model, where access to treatment is provided by the public service through a multidisciplinary approach: “There are around 570 drug dependence units, which provide free care to tens of thousands of drug users every year, and they are complemented by a vast network of hundreds of care and treatment centers, such as Villa Maraini in Rome, and therapeutic communities accredited by the public sector”.

The promotion of a health-centered approached to drugs rests on the recognition that drug dependence is a complex and multifactorial health disorder: “Moving from this definition, which is universally agreed, it is clear that we should not – we must not – criminalize (legally or socially) people who use drugs”, added the Ambassador: “On the contrary, it is essential to overcome stigma and discrimination, that often represent unsurmountable obstacles to the recovery and social reintegration of drug users. And I believe it is our duty – States, civil society, ordinary citizens – to promote more inclusive and less judgmental responses to the problem of drug dependence”.

With over 100 online side events held in the margins, the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) concluded today. The Commission, held this year in a hybrid format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, brought together participants representing over 130 Member States, 17 intergovernmental organizations, 76 non-governmental organizations and several UN entities in person in Vienna and online. (@OnuItalia)