Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement by H.E. Prof. Fernando Araújo, Secretary of State Assistant and of Health, at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

New York, 20 April 2016

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Esteemed delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to stress that Portugal associates itself with the statement made by the European Union.

Allow me also to express our appreciation for the adoption of the UNGASS outcome document, which constitutes a step forward in the debate on addressing the world drug problem and provides a solid input towards the target date of 2019 and beyond.

Portugal considers that one of the major achievements of this UNGASS process was the recognition of the need to rebalance drug policies towards a human rights and public health based approach. The Portuguese approach on drugs has been considered a model of best practices, due to the fact that we recognize drug use as a health issue and drug dependence as a chronic and treatable multi-factorial health disorder which needs to be treated and not punished.

In Portugal, decriminalisation created a legal framework for implementing policies to reduce the harm caused by drug consumption and to refer drug users to the most suitable responses. Even if drug users are not in a position to quit using drugs, we consider that they still deserve the investment from the State in order to improve their health and social condition.

Decriminalisation is, therefore, a part of a comprehensive drug demand reduction approach that includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and social reintegration. The implementation of evidence based harm reduction measures is considered to be a key factor of our policy, as they protect not only drug users but society as a whole, improving health and wellbeing of drug users and their families.

Therefore, the focus on a risk and harm reduction approach is a key principle for which Portugal stands for, as such measures have proven its effectiveness and should be further promoted and implemented.

Mr. President, Portugal reiterates its commitment to the three international drug control conventions, which in our view have sufficient scope and flexibility for States to design and implement drug policies according to national priorities and specificities, based on solid scientific evidence and on the respect for human rights.

Indeed, the INCB Chair stated on several occasions that the Conventions do not require the criminalisation of drug use and that the Portuguese model of decriminalisation is in line with the Conventions.   Portugal firmly believes that our efforts in addressing the world drug problem must incorporate a human rights perspective. In this regard, we deeply regret that the outcome document does not address the abolition of death penalty. I would like to underline Portugal’s unrelenting opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, including for drug-related offences. We therefore call on all countries that retain the capital punishment to establish an immediate official moratorium, with a view to its permanent abolition.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Portugal strongly believes that the international community must pursue its efforts to address all aspects of the drug problem and I would like to assure you that my country will continue to contribute actively in this endeavor.

Thank you for your attention.

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