Ladies and Gentlemen,
It only remains for me to bring down the curtain, as it were, on the 16th Mayors’ Conference of ECAD, and the 2nd World Mayors’ Conference.
I want to thank sincerely the City of Göteborg for their generosity in hosting the 2009 conference and also to thank people who made long journeys from South Africa, Vietnam, North America, South America, Jamaica, and from all over Europe, to share with us their opinions, policies and experiences in dealing with the most complex problem of protecting people from the real dangers inherent in experimentation with illicit drugs and in responding to the needs of unfortunate addicts, so that they may have their dignity restored and returned to the mainstream society as individuals capable of progressing their lives in accordance with their ambitions.
Many of us at this conference are elected representatives. Just as we must overcome the problems associated with unemployment, bad housing and social exclusion in our city communities, so also we wish to place at the top of our political agendas the desire to respond in a meaningful way to the problem of drug addiction arising from the availability of illicit drugs.
Drug addiction has become an almost endemic urban problem. Ever increasing numbers of people are living in urban environments which are attractive locations for drug pushers and drug dealers.
We admit freely that the problem is primarily due the the highly organised drive on the part of the drug dealers to sell their insidious products and the willingness of vulnerable people to purchase them, experiment with them and too often become addicted.
We have listened to a number of eminent speakers on this social problem. We realise that our policies should be based on research and solid evidence. We realise that there should be active coordinate between statutory agencies and voluntary community groups in every city if we are to make progress. These facts have been emphasized by a number of speakers.
I am appealing to every mayor and deputy mayor to review what is happening in his or her city to ensure, that there is an organised coordinated campaign to combat the availability and use of illicit drugs. Is that too much to ask of sincere, committed politicians?
Political parties may differ about housing policies, environmental problems, the availability of leisure and sports facilities, but they should all be united in their approach to combat drugs.
We also realise that there should be continuity in drug policy in city governments irrespective of what party or parties command the majority.
The reality is that ECAD has lost some very influential cities because of changing policies in relation to the drug problem.
I emphasized this reality yesterday at the Plenary session of ECAD members. Berlin, London, Belfast, Paris and Düsseldorf were at one time active members of the ECAD Advisory Board and they opted out of membership because of the results of local city elections, and a perception among the then city governments that ECAD was an inflexible organisation that was more interested in rules than in responding to real pain and suffering among people.
Nothing could be further from the truth. ECAD puts at the top of its agenda the welfare of people – young to old - irrespective of their standing in society.
We firmly and unequivocally proclaim that the welfare of people will never be advanced by legalising illicit drugs, we believe that the addict will never progressed back to normality by attendance of injection clinics or the so called coffee shops, but we will assist any community that asks for our involvement.
Martin Luther King said:
It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.
It is true that over the past sixteen years ECAD has been lighting candles of hope across Europe and has not acquisced in cursing the darkness.
You come along to annual conferences and you express your opinions with vigour and conviction. As long as we have people of your calibre and commitment, ECAD will continue to respond to the needs of people – the most important ingredient in the life of every city – and service to people is the most noble service that we can provide.
Have a safe journey home.
Thank you sincerely.