April 21, 2016
United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem
As delivered in New York on April 21 2016

United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

New York, 21 April 2016

Mr. President,

My delegation welcomes the convening of this United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem and wishes to thank all those who participated in the preparatory process leading to this Special Session.

The Holy See firmly rejects the use of illegal drugs and the legalization of the use of narcotics. In his Address to the Thirty-first Edition of the International Drug Enforcement Conference,  Pope Francis affirmed that "a reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use; rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these 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.” For the Holy See “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called recreational drugs are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint but they fail to produce the desired effect.”

In addition, His Holiness insisted that “the fight against drugs cannot be won with drugs. Drugs are an evil, and with evil there can be neither surrender nor compromise.”  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.”

The Holy See cannot emphasize enough the importance of the family as the cornerstone of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health strategies. The family forms the very basis of society. When a member is addicted, the whole family suffers. The grave consequences of substance-abusing members lead in so many cases to imbalance in household relationships and places severe strain on family life. The negative effect of illicit drug use on the family extends to the community, and leads ultimately to the destabilization of civil society.

Research continually reinforces the key role that the family plays in the fight against drug abuse, as it confirms that the core principles of social interaction are learned in the home. Thus, children who have nurturing family environments generally receive the education necessary to help them say “no” to illicit drugs. The scourges associated with the production and trafficking of illicit drugs exist because of the demand of addicted individuals. Thus, educating our children and young people on the harm of drug abuse is one important element in the fight against drug use on the demand side.

Even within families with strong ties and in communities living harmoniously and peacefully, some individuals sadly do fall into drug abuse. They, too, need the support and care of their family and community. People suffering from drug abuse require all the support we can give them, including comprehensive health and social services that are accessible, effective and affordable.

Not all crimes related to illicit drugs are of equal gravity. International drug traffickers, local pushers and drug users have to be treated differently according to the principle of proportionality. Disproportionate responses would be against the spirit of justice, and would not help in the rehabilitation of those who have become addicted to illicit drugs.

The drug problem and its related evils transcend borders and affect citizens worldwide. Hence international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy is required in order to counter them.  The most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to protect all citizens of the world from the scourge of illicit drugs.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1 Vatican, June 20, 2014.