October 8, 2015
Intervention at the Third Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly
On Item 106: Crime prevention and criminal justice and Item 107: International drug control

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Third Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly

Item 106: Crime prevention and criminal justice
Item 107: International drug control

New York, 8 October 2015

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, my delegation wishes to underline the importance of this debate on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice as well as on International Drug Control.

In his Address to the General Assembly on September 25, Pope Francis referred to narcotics trade as a form of systemic violence, describing it as “another kind of conflict which is not always so open,” but which is “taken for granted and poorly fought,” and yet “is silently killing millions of people.” He underlined the close links that drug trafficking has with trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption, and noted that it has “penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, [has] given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.”

The Holy See firmly rejects the use of illegal drugs. Pope John Paul II referred to drug traffickers and pushers as “merchants of death” and warned potential drug users against using substances that offer the illusion of liberty and false promises of happiness. In his June 2014 Address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, Pope Francis said that “The fight against drugs cannot be won with drugs. Drugs are an evil, and with evil there can be neither surrender nor compromise.”  The Pope underlined that in saying “No to every type of drug use,” we must at the same time “say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities. If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”When someone is addicted, his whole family suffers. The Holy See cannot place enough emphasis on the importance of the family as the cornerstone of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health strategies. Families form the very basis of a society. Illicit drug abuse destroys the social fabric of individual families, which metastasizes to the community, and leads ultimately to the destabilization of civil society.

Research continually reinforces that the core principles of social interaction are learned in the home. Thus, children who have nurturing family environments receive the education necessary to help them say “no” to illicit drugs. Even with strong family ties, some individuals sadly do fall prey to the use and abuse of drugs. They, too, need the support and care of their family and community.

The fight against drug trafficking, the efforts in favor of drug prevention and suppression, as well as the need for treatment and care of those afflicted with addiction, are grave duties of those in public authority. Appropriate laws and their effective enforcement are crucial in protecting society and individuals from the danger of drug trafficking. Clearly, then, an effective prevention program can only be multipronged and a result of the joint efforts of all, from families to public authorities, from law enforcers to schoolteachers, from informal youth groups to counselling professionals. In this context, Pope Francis has urged us to combat the underlying causes of the use of drugs “by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future.” He has invited us to “hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to.”[1]

My delegation wishes to express particular appreciation to all health professionals who dedicate time and effort to the care and recovery of those addicted to drugs.

Mr. Chair,

The Holy See cannot express strongly enough its grief and concern regarding the abomination of trafficking in persons. While enslaving people and trafficking in persons are recognized as grave crimes both by international law and by national laws, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending trafficking in persons and slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.

In this regard, the Holy See concurs with the Report of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on “Improving the Coordination of Efforts Against Trafficking in Persons,” where he calls for increased prevention efforts and the need to address the various factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking.[2] The Holy See supports the various initiatives toward achieving a more effective, fair, humane and accountable criminal justice system to fight drug trafficking and all the crimes that are closely linked to it, in particular trafficking in persons.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.


[1] Pope Francis, Visit to St. Francis of Assisi of the providence of God Hospital, Rio de Janeiro, 24 July 2013.

[2] A/70/94