|European Union and UNDP campaign against drugs|
|June 27, 2008|
June 27, 2008
June 26 is the official day that marks the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
It was observed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 in order to promote international cooperation towards achieving the goal of “an international society free of drug abuse.”
In Georgia, the International Day against Drug Abuse was marked by the European Union and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at a conference discussing national responses to the drug situation in the country.
The conference brought together representatives from the government, non-governmental and business sectors. It was addressed by UNDP Resident representative in Georgia Robert Watkins, the head of European Commission’s delegation, Per Eklund, the Ministry of Labor and Health of Georgia, Sandro Kvitashvili, and the head of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Affairs, Otar Toidze. Speeches were made also by representatives and experts from the South Caucasus Anti-drug (SCAD) Program.
According to Per Eklund, “Fighting against drugs is a shared responsibility of all countries and needs to be mainstreamed into national and international strategies for development. We need an evidence-based policy making process and we need to find the best ways to combat drug abuse in Georgia.” Per Eklund concluded his speech with a rhyming slogan against drug abuse: “There is no hope in dope.”
Robert Watkins commented: “Today’s event was to commemorate the anniversary of International Day against Drug Abuse. The program is funded by the European Commission and implemented by the UNDP, and the purpose of it is to combat drug use in the three South-Caucasus countries and to harmonize the legislation which exists here in line with the best international practices as well as legislation in European Union Countries.”
Mr. Watkins also placed great emphasis on the education of young people and highlighted the other components of the program, including dealing with the epidemiology, helping actual drug users through drug treatments, and providing accurate information to the public in order to raise awareness.
The conference was also organized by the South-Caucasus Anti-Drug (SCAD) Program. The program helps the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to adopt EU practices in the field of drug policies. It also includes the facilitation of the implementation of drug-related components of the European Neighborhood Policy.
SCAD Program expert, Khatuna Todadze said: “I would be happy if I could say that today we celebrate the Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, but unfortunately the current situation in Georgia in this aspect does not give me the possibility to say that. We mark this day and I hope it will beneficial.”
The issues that were referred to at the conference also included improving control of actual movement of drugs, as Georgia is a transit country for drug traffickers. The way out of the situation was seen by having tighter regulations and better coordination of police, as well as implementing measures that would reduce the initial demand.
As Khatuna Todadze explained: “We may decrease the demand on drugs by initial prevention that is focussed on the education of those people who have not tried drugs yet. But still, the problem is so huge in Georgia because it is not set as the top priority of the government.”
Sandro Kvitashvili explained that cooperation is needed to win the fight against drugs: “The Ministry can not afford to decrease demand on drugs, it should be done in conjunction with public.”
It is not surprising that the Ministry does not have exact statistics about how many drug addicts are there in Georgia today. There are only 42,000 identified drug users, but it is estimated that the true figure is five time that.
The First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Roelofs, attended the closing session of the conference as the Country Coordinator on Infectious Diseases.
Sandra Roelofs commented to Georgia Today: “This day is to promote a healthy life style and also to protect young people from the abuse of drugs. We want to help them as much as possible and to make sure that infections connected to drug-use will be as low as possible. But the people who are already addicted need help, and we have to offer them treatment. We have a big problem of drug use since we are a transit country, but we have to defend our citizens, and we are working through these harm-reduction programs.”
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