October 4, 2017
Third Committee Intervention on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and International Drug Control

Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Third Committee Agenda Item 107:  Crime prevention and criminal justice, and
Item 108:  International drug control

New York, 4 October 2017

Mr. Chair,

The Holy See wishes to reiterate its support for creative and determined initiatives to fight the evil of international drug trafficking and drug use that shatter lives, families and communities, even tearing entire countries apart, and waste lives and resources. They are problems that demand urgent attention at all levels, from the family to the international community.

My Delegation, therefore, expresses its appreciation for the work that is being done to combat the drug trade on the international level and support efforts to treat those whose lives are threatened by drugs.  In particular, we recognize the importance of efforts “to promote justice, the rule of law, crime prevention and reform of criminal justice institutions as important aspects of the global development agenda,”[1] as stated in the Report of the Secretary-General, and we urge that resources and expertise continue to be devoted to these important efforts.

Mr. Chair,

In an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis warned of the toll that drugs take on their victims. “Drugs,” he said, “have inflicted a deep wound on our society and ensnared many people in their web.  Many victims have lost their freedom and have been enslaved to them.”[2]   Drugs take their toll on so many more lives than those who use them.  Family members, friends, children, and entire communities are deeply harmed when drugs steal the minds and destroy the bodies of those who are caught in substance abuse.

This untold suffering must be addressed by a renewed commitment to concrete steps to fight the production of and trade in illicit drugs.  In the absence of a robust national, regional, and international commitment to ending the criminal profit from such activities, generations will continue to suffer and be discarded and wasted.   As my Delegation noted last year, we must resist the temptation to address this problem by simply easing restrictions on drug use.   Rather, we must pursue more vigorously than before the end to drug production and, consequently, to drug trade.

We must also commit to the more difficult task of confronting the problems that provoke or underlie substance abuse, “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.”[3]  As Pope Francis reminds us, “[e]very drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified.  We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed.  The dignity of the person is what we are called to seek out.”[4]

Because it is so difficult to break the bonds of addiction once they take hold, and because the stakes are so high, we must keep a constant focus on prevention.  While we encourage the pursuit of solutions that the international legal regime may offer, we also know that mere legal initiatives and enforcement efforts will be insufficient to curb the demand for drugs. Here again, concrete initiatives at every level, in particular in the family and in the local community, are indispensable support for persons suffering substance abuse and for families and centers taking care of them.

In addition to the harms that drugs directly cause to those who use them and to those around them, illicit trade in drugs is also deeply intertwined with other threats to human dignity.  It is connected with such evils as trafficking in persons, increase in poverty, breakdown of families, money laundering, government corruption, threats to the rule of law, loss of employment and educational opportunities, risks to health and personal safety, increase in the use of weapons, harm to children, domestic violence, and economic insecurity. This long litany of evils and crimes seriously threaten the ability of all to live with the dignity.  Our common objective to enable all to live in dignity should compel us to do all that we can to combat this scourge of illicit drugs.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. A/72/125, 1
2. Pope Francis, Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the Meeting Sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on: Narcotics: Problems and Solutions to this Global Issue, 24 November 2016 [hereafter “Academy of Sciences Statement”].
3. Pope Francis, Address at His Visit to St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, 24 July 2013.
4. Academy of Sciences Statement.