BALTIMORA CONFERENCE ON DRUG - November 16-17 1993
Speech delivered by Emma Bonino, Transnational Radical Party Secretary
Harbor Court Hotel, November 16-17 1993
Honorable Mayors and representatives of the cities endorsing the Frankfurt resolution,
First of all I would like to thank the Mayor of Baltimore, Mr Schmoke, who, by organizing this meeting, opens wider prospects of linking the cities of the world that intend to apply a "harm-reduction" policy. These days' debate is underscoring the extent and gravity of the urgent concerns that have brought you here in your capacity as town administrators. These include public health issues, or the ever-serious effects of uncontrolled, unrestricted and illegal drug consumption on the array of treacherous, violent, but above all desperate, crimes that are making it increasingly dangerous for citizens.
I am here to contribute my experience as Secretary of a party that professes to be the heir of a European classical liberal tradition. We promote a policy of a clear and intelligible legislation in a world where the rule of law seems to have weakened or disappeared altogether, and where the return of barbarity seems to be prevailing. This party, and I personally, are concerned first and foremost with promoting a state-citizen relationship based on clear and applicable laws, as required by theory and by the historical aspirations of States run by the rule of law. In this respect, the Transnational Radical Party has long believed that the most rigorous and coherent choice which may be offered to the urban community and to drug users themselves is promoting and enforcing in the various countries the key principle that there is no crime without a victim, and that this is where the line limiting state intervention must be drawn. This principle, almost universally acknowledged to be the foundation of any legislation, must be upheld also in the struggle against drug abuse. In fighting drugs and in confronting drug users, the state cannot and should not have the faculty of interfering in individuals' private lives in cases where their behaviour does not offend others but affects only their personal destiny. On the other hand the state unquestionably has the right and the duty to inform, since the public sphere is the most appropriate to guarantee accurate and unbiased information.
While exchanging experiences, problems and preoccupations, which is the purpose at this conference, is important, it may not be sufficient to achieving the objectives you are quite rightly concerned about. That is why I would like to illustrate an initiative that could unite us, with our differences but also with our common striving for effective action. We believe the only way to come closer to, and ultimately attain our common goal, that is "decriminalizing" or "medicalizing" drug abuse, is to immediately and decisively challenge the juridical and institutional instruments underlying the prohibitionist choice: the Vienna Convention of 1961/1972, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention on Drug Trade. Herein lies the essence of the problem. This is the easiest way today to also effectively confront the question of drug traffic, by starting a harm-reduction policy which today's prohibitionist policy has mostly paid lip service to. We believe there are two possible approaches: the first is to organize a campaign to "refute" the current conventions, under articles 46 and 30 respectively; the second is a proposal to amend the conventions. With a new proposal governments could start a process to revise the conventions, leading to a new UN negotiation and a major UN conference to discuss other possible policies. The two strategies are complementary, not alternative.
The Transnational Radical Party is in a position to advocate the soundness of this initiative, based on the strength of the results obtained so far in Italy where we are most deeply rooted: first and foremost, the victory last April in the popular referendum we had called to decide on the depenalization of personal consumption. The purpose of the referendum was also to reduce the overcrowding of Italian prisons, where a huge number of inmates are simple consumers, at times even of soft drugs only. Italian voters responded with astonishing results: 55 percent of the population endorsed our proposal, which has thus become a state law, with a numerical margin of about 3,5 million votes compared to the conservative choice. This proves that people are perfectly capable of understanding and adopting a liberal line as well as a "repressive" one. Our success affected the conduct of the government, which in June officially adopted the harm-reduction strategy. Moreover, a federate organ of the radical party, CORA, is gathering signatures for a petition to introduce two draft bills into Parliament: one to reform the current drug law by introducing the principles of "harm-reduction policy"; the other to legalize soft drugs with a clear distinction between these and hard drugs. If these bills were passed, it would finally be possible in Italy to issue a regulation laying down the questions relative to the production, sale and consumption of these substances. The Transnational Radical Party's helps and promotes LIA, which is the International Antiprohibitionist League, as well as in the last years promoted and supported in several elections, electoral lists directly called "ANTIPROHIBITIONIST LISTS" whose members have been elected to the European Parliament, to the Italian parliament and many local governments on the antiprohibitionist ticket.
We of the Transnational Radical Party, thus act as a mobilizing and cementing force for parliamentarians of all parties and parliaments on issues such as the UN tribunal for war crimes in ex-Yugoslavia or the abolition of the death penalty by 2000. We need you to achieve our objective regarding drug policy, which we consider a priority. We are bound to fail without your support and commitment, without your resources and material possibilities. With the same frankness allow me to say that you too are in need: not of us, but of a policy that allows you, with specific and coordinated actions, to overcome daily the inadequate conditions you are in now. By supporting our initiative you could overcome your difficulties and concentrate the actual possibilities of mobilization and awareness-raising on an objective which is tremendously important for everyone. I believe, insofar as it was possible, that I have usefully contributed to your work. And that is why I will set aside any inferiority complex or misplaced reticence to ask you to join the transnational radical party now. The party will not force you to leave or betray your political affiliation but rather enhance and enrich it. It will never compete in any elections you will participate in. We are anti-ideological Libertarians, held together not by a discipline handed down by bureaucrats or apparatus, but by the free adhesion of single members. Our existence is ensured solely by the financial contribution of members. Nonetheless, it is - and intends to remain - a party, not a random assembly of anarchists without any formal framework and coordination. That is why joining the party is the condition which anyone must fulfil in order to contribute to the success of its campaigns. Needless to say, the contribution in terms of commitment and attention by people like you, who are charged with delicate and unique responsibilities, could prove of incalculable importance.
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