Address by Jim Corr, Chairman of the ECAD Advisory Board
It is my honour and pleasure to address this the 10th Mayors' Conference as Chairman of the Advisory Board of ECAD.
I wish to spend some time looking at our organisation "10 years on".
The initial conference came about because of the vision, commitment and drive of the then Lord Mayor of Stockholm Mr. Carl Cederschiöld who contacted colleagues in European capitals concerning the social problems arising from liberal drug developments in Europe.
That resolution rejects all demands for legalising illicit drugs and advocates the development of positive strategies to tackle the difficult social problems related to the abuse of drugs. The Stockholm Resolution encourages co-operation between cities in order to share experiences and progress the essential work of protecting people from the infamous trade of the drug barons and drug pushers.
Thanks to Stockholm
Growth and development
When ECAD was formally launched here in Stockholm in April 1994 it had some 20 member cities. Today ECAD has 260 member cities located in 30 countries throughout Europe.
A few years after it's establishment the Mayors' Conference decided to set up an Advisory Board which was chaired by Peter Rigby until his sudden death last year.
Mr. Rigby who was one of the most enthusiastic and energetic supporters of the ECAD concept showed a never-ending interest to discuss and develop measures to fight the drug problem and to put in place facilities to rehabilitate people adversely affected by drug abuse and to support their families also.
After the first Mayors' Conference in Stockholm future conferences were held in London, Athens, Paris, Lugano, Valletta, Cork, Belfast and Reykjavik.
I refer, of course, to Torgny Peterson, Paulina Lönnroth and Åke Setréus.
Soon after the establishment of the ECAD a co-ordinating office, headed by Torgny Peterson was set up in the City Hall of Stockholm to "spread the word" about the new organisation and to recruit more member cities. During a number of very hectic years, ECAD staff travelled all over Europe to tell governments, politicians and law enforcement agencies about the philosophy and policies of ECAD.
Through Torgny Peterson ECAD was involved in setting up American Cities Against Drugs which was launched in Atlanta, Georgia, and then Latin American Cities Against Drugs which was launched in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I salute the knowledge, wisdom and the commitment of Mr. Torgny Peterson who has carried the flag of ECAD with distinction not only in Europe, North and South America, but at United Nations. Torgny made a major contribution to the formulation of the declaration from the Special Session of the UN General Assembly 8th - 10th June 1998.
I wish to acknowledge the professionalism and loyalty of our secretary Paulina Lönnroth who has worked so diligently for ECAD since it's foundation and likewise the untiring focused work of Åke Setréus.
Since our current Director Tomas Hallberg joined ECAD a lot of good work and effort has been put in place to assist cities and organisations in dealing with drug problems in the Baltic states and Russia and we have opened regional offices in Riga and St. Petersburg.
Theme of the conference
Many countries seem to have given in to the forces behind the drug trade and appear to have resigned themselves to the lowest common denominator of reducing harm rather than reducing the demand for and the supply of drugs.
It is important to keep in mind the fact that reducing harm is is not a preventive measure in the real sense of the word. On the contrary, it is what some countries have decided to do when they have failed in real prevention, i.e. to reduce the demand and supply.
A new opponent
Consequently, drug liberal individuals and organisations have tried in recent times at the UN CND (Commission on Narcotic Drugs) meeting in Vienna to undermine the UN Conventions on Drugs.
The 1.3 million signatories presented to the CND Plenary session in Vienna in April included 309 parlamentarians and 185 organisations on all continents, all taking a stand against a small but well-funded group attempting to undermine the UN Conventions on Drugs.
This indicates that there is a widespread support to uphold the UN Conventions on Drugs and for the policies and activities pursued by ECAD.
Democratic and restrictive
1. Safeguarding the contents of the UN Convetions on Drugs and Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
2. Effectively opposing efforts to legalise drugs
3. Counteracting disinformation on drugs and of the consequences of drug experimentation presented by those people in favour of easier access to drugs
4. Educating politicians and the general public about devastating harmful social consequences inherent in a free drug society
On the ground
In a broadcast of the 18th february 2000 Prime Minister Tony Blair said: - " There is not a community from here in the centre of London to the remote parts of our countryside, which is free from it (drugs). Not a parent - rich or poor - that doesn't worry. Not a family that is immune to the threat".
Exactly the same story is to be found in many other European countries.
A common strategy
However, there is a lack of a common strategy and common goals in the fight against drugs.
In addition, some countries and cities in Europe are actively advocating the legalisation of drugs and they promote a policy which undermines other countries' efforts to limit the supply of and demand for drugs.
While all of this is happening millions of Europeans are affected directly by drug abuse while their parents and family suffer anxiety and stress. We continue to read in our daily newspapers serious crimes being almost excused because they were drug related.
A drug free Europe
Too often, however, politicians and others seem to act according to what they think is possible to do rather than what is necessary to do.
Co-ordination and intensification
It is necessary to co-ordinate and intensify the battle against drugs in a similar way.
A united leadership
The essential component in such a united response would be:
1. The establishment of a drug political centre where politicians, officials and non-governmental organisations could co-operate on a range of measures to combat the misuse of drugs. Such a centre could be a joint venture between the European Union and the Council of Europe so that a great cross-section of European countries could participate.
2. One of the most important tasks for such a centre would be to function as a clearing house for knowledge and support for research about the injurous effects of drugs on the individual and society.
3. The centre would encourage and support NGO's that would be Required to sign a proclamation against drugs.
4. A united European leadership would encourage each European school to design an action plan to achieve a drug free school.
5. Each city and municipality should create a strategy to identify at an early age young people exprerimenting with drugs and put in place a system of close ongoing co-operation between child care services, schools, youth centres, social services and the police authorities.
6. Each country should take steps to ensure that their prisons are drug free and every imprisoned drug addict should have access to a rehabilitation programme.
7. Customs should be reinforced and given more resources to ensure that border controls are more effective.
8. Each European state should examine it's current legislation to protect people from the effects of drug abuse and if necessary, such legislation should be updated to make it more effective.
I make these suggestions because we must continually revise our approach to the drug problem lest our strategies would become frozen in time.
Care of the people
Our work to remove the abuse of illegal drugs from our society is undertaken because we care for individual persons, families and communities.
The fact that we have not in the first decade of our existence turned the rising tide of drugs must lead us to renewed and vigorous efforts to achieve the attainable objective of a drug free society for our European homeland.
The 18th century political thinker Edmond Burke said: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men should do nothing".
The men and women who support the ECAD movement in 260 cities across Europe do not believe in doing nothing about the presence of illicit drugs in their neighbourhoods and communities.
Martin Luther King said. " It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness".
ECAD over past ten years has lit and is lighting many candles across the continent of Europe. Candles which are showing the way to an improved quality of life for people, candles which are giving hope to people who are fighting to recover and retrieve their lost dignity and freedom from drug addiction.