Greater coherence across local, national, regional and global levels essential to reduce drug supply and drug demand.

Opening Address at the EU CELAC Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs

I am delighted to have the honour to address you today as co-chairperson of this 15th High Level Meeting of the EU CELAC Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs.


It is a particular pleasure to be here in the beautiful city of Quito, one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I look forward to our interactions over the next few days and to learning more about Ecuador, and about Latin America and the Caribbean.


The drugs problem is a truly global phenomenon and international co-operation is essential to address its many aspects.  In this context, bi-regional co-operation between the EU and Latin America & the Caribbean is extremely important as part of our overall combined efforts to reduce drug supply and drug demand.


Addressing the global drug issue involves many challenges. These include:

  • how to prevent drug use and thus reduce demand;


  • how to effectively reduce the supply of drugs - those produced as crops and those developed in laboratories; and


  • how to best develop and expand access to effective treatment, rehabilitation and social integration services for those directly affected by problem drug use.


At EU level, the European Drug Report published in May, and about which we will hear more during this meeting, indicates that there are some positive developments in relation to more established drugs. These include:

  • fewer new users of heroin;
  • less injecting;
  • and declining use of cannabis and cocaine in some countries.

However, there are also emerging challenges, including a relentless supply of new drugs to which our policies must adapt.


Our efforts to address these challenges are helped by:

  • engaging in open dialogue;
  • sharing our experiences - successes and failures; and  
  • endeavouring to work in a co-ordinated way on a global basis.


From a European perspective, we aim to strengthen dialogue and co-operation between the EU and third countries and international organisations on drugs issues in a comprehensive and balanced manner.  I see this High Level meeting as one of the main opportunities in that context and I very much look forward to mutually beneficial interactions over these two days.



While the drug phenomenon is truly global in nature, it is, at the same time, a local issue for individuals, families and communities on the ground. 


I strongly feel that, to tackle the drugs issue in a comprehensive way, we need to have coherence across our approaches at local, national, regional and global levels.


As Minister with responsibility for the Irish National Drugs Strategy, I oversee a range of structures that support its implementation. 


This involves, for example, Drugs Task Forces at local level feeding into national structures, culminating with an Oversight Forum on Drugs which I chair and which meets on a quarterly basis. 


The Drugs Task Forces comprise a local partnership approach between the statutory sector and civil society organisations.  They facilitate the development of effective, targeted, local responses to the drugs phenomenon and improved co-ordination of service provision.


I believe that it is important that drugs policy is informed by the experiences of people and communities affected by drugs and that that local experience needs to feed into national, regional and international policy developments.  


At the same time, it is important that national and international experiences are brought to bear on initiatives being implemented, or planned, at local level. 


We do not need to continually “re-invent the wheel” - the experiences in regard to the outcomes of initiatives in various locations can inform future courses of action.  Overall, this combination of a “bottom up” approach with a “top down” approach is a major factor in the level of success achieved under the Irish Strategy.  This is combined with on-going monitoring and evaluation to identify outcomes in the effort to ensure that scarce resources are used to best effect.


EU Drugs Policy

In December 2012, the Council of the European Union, under the Cypriot Presidency, adopted the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020.  The Strategy aims to contribute to a reduction in drug demand and drug supply within the EU. 


It also aims to reduce the health and social risks and harms caused by drugs through a strategic approach:

  • that supports and complements national policies;
  • that provides a framework for coordinated and joint actions; and
  • that forms the basis for EU external cooperation in relation to drugs.   

In line with the Strategy stipulation that its implementation should be set out in two consecutive four year Action Plans, the Irish Presidency has led the negotiation of the first of these Action Plans, to cover the period 2013-2016. EU Council agreement was reached on the Action Plan on 6th June.  You will hear further details on the Strategy and Action Plan in tomorrow’s session of the High Level Meeting.


International Dialogues and Strategies

On the international stage, Dialogues, Declarations and Action Plans with strategic partners also play a vital role in increasing our mutual understanding and co-operation and, thus, in tackling the drugs issue. 


Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the final stages of the COPOLAD Conference and I was impressed by the exchange of information and experiences. As a key instrument of the EU CELAC Mechanism on Drugs, COPOLAD is an important research, learning, capacity building and co-ordination resource that can lead to real benefits to communities affected by drugs. 


I am very much encouraged that the EU CELAC Santiago Declaration (January 2013) and the EU CELAC Action Plan on Drugs strongly reiterate our mutual commitment to dialogue and action to tackle, in an effective way, the drug problem that affects our regions.  I am also confident that the Political Declaration to issue from this Quito High Level Meeting will represent a further strengthening of the resolve of both parties.


Other notable initiatives include:

  • the launching of a new dialogue on drugs between the EU and Brazil during the Irish Presidency of the EU;
  • the on-going Specialised Dialogue between the EU and the Andean Community;
  • the Central America Security Strategy in relation to drugs;
  • CARICOM’s Regional Strategies on drugs; and
  • the on-going EU financial and technical support to address drugs issues in the region.

The full implementation of such initiatives complement and reinforce the efforts we are all making to ensure that we can have healthier and safer communities in our regions.


Special UN Session on Drugs 2016

All of these initiatives will inform our approaches to the special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the world drug problem in 2016. This will provide the opportunity to identify the most effective strategies to combat the drug phenomenon in all its dimensions and I am know that CELAC and the EU will make valuable contributions to the process.



Turning to the programme for the High Level meeting, I sincerely wish to thank the Ecuadorean Co-presidency of the Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs for ensuring a comprehensive agenda.  I am particularly looking forward to the thematic debates and I am sure that we will have a useful exchange of views and experiences.  I know that I will come away from this meeting with a more informed view on the CELAC perspective and this will be of real benefit to me.


In conclusion, I also want to thank our Ecuadorean Co-presidency for all their constructive co-operation during the Technical Meetings leading up to today’s event.  In particular I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Ambassador Deborah Salgado Campaña, and her colleague Ramiro Hidalgo, in this regard.


I wish you all well in our deliberations today and I encourage full participation in the opportunities for debate and dialogue.