Barion Pixel TASZ | FOCUSING ON THE HUMAN BEING – Drug Policy in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries

FOCUSING ON THE HUMAN BEING - Drug Policy in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries

The 1st International Conference on Drug Policies in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries (PALOP) – a pioneering event and the first of a set of meetings – was held on the 15th and 16th of January 2014, in Cape Verde. The Drugreporter’s team was invited to film at the event. Read our guest article by Inês Santos of APDES and watch the HCLU’s summary movie, or any of the presentations.


Attended by several distinguished personalities and institutions active in the drug policy domain worldwide, the initiative was promoted by the Portuguese NGO APDES (Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento), in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of the Cape Verdean Government.

Watch the HCLU's short movie:

Over recent decades, the drug phenomenon has become an issue with wide impact on the lives of people and communities, with repercussions in areas such as the economy, law, politics, education, health, and social exclusion. Recent shifts in drug trafficking routes have brought new challenges to the PALOPs, increasingly bringing them into the sphere of global geopolitics and international cooperation. It became vital to look at the special conditions operating in each individual territory, delineating diagnostics and intervention needs, while addressing the new reality of global drug policies – progressively more comprehensive and based on scientific evidence, respecting Human Rights.

By taking these issues into consideration, the initiative’s goal was to promote and expand strategic cooperation between Governments, International Bodies and Civil Society Organisations in the sphere of drug policy, as well as to reflect upon the current state of those policies and the impact they’ve been causing.

The participation of prominent speakers, such as Jorge Sampaio – former President of Portugal and Commissioner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Pedro Pires – former President of Cape Verde and Commissioner of the West African Commission on Drugs, José Maria Neves – Prime Minister of Cape Verde, and representatives of international organizations, like the UN's UNDOC, WHO and EMCDDA – was vital for the establishment of a common dialogue aimed at the promotion of health, prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs.

It is also important to highlight the intervention by David Soares, Albany County District Attorney (NY, USA), and Joanne Csete, Senior Program Officer with the Open Society Foundation's Global Drug Policy Program – the agency which that co-funded the event. Experiences related to the fight against drugs in participating countries were shared through the speeches of several Ministers: José Carlos Correia – Minister of Justice of Cape Verde; Alberto Nkutumula – Vice Minister of Justice of Mozambique; Edite Ten Jua – Minister of Justice, Public Administration and Parliament Affairs of São Tome and Principe; Fernando Leal da Costa – Secretary of State and Assistant to the Minister of Health of Portugal. The communications by those in charge of the entities focused on drugs and drug prevention in the PALOP were also crucial: Fernanda Marques – Executive Secretary of the Coordination Commission for the Fight against Drug of Cape Verde; Ana Graça – Director of the Interministerial Committee for Fighting against Drugs of Angola; Ivete Lima – Director of the Institute of Drug and Drug Addiction of São Tomé and Príncipe; and Alfredo Dimande – Director of the Central Cabinet for the Prevention and Fight against Drugs of Mozambique.

Another point worth mentioning was the great emphasis given to the participation of civil society. In this context, among the highlights were the speeches from José Queiroz – CEO of APDES – that underlined issues such as healthcare, social cohesion, the need for a humanistic approach to the drug problem, and geopolitical and transnational cooperation. In the day following the conference, the position of Civil Society as a central stakeholder was also reinforced through the collaboration between APDES and the NGO Platform of Cape Verde, that resulted in workshops open to the entire community, with particular attention to NGOs, professionals and beneficiaries of these organisations.

Among the several topics discussed, some subjects were emphasised due to their great influence in the drug issue in the PALOP: narcotraffic, the change in international trafficking routes, and the need for a strong political commitment to fight the drug lords; the notion of drug-related issues as questions that should be dealt with according to a healthcare perspective instead of a legal and judicial point of view; and the urgent need to adopt more comprehensive drug policies that embrace a preventive social policy, involving education, employment, family support, healthcare, and humanistic values.

Other fundamental conclusions of this event were the willingness of the PALOP Governments to establish common policies on drugs based on shared responsibility, cooperation and concerted intervention and the need for empowerment of Civil Society Organisations, so they can develop improved outreach and advocacy work. In addition to the actions developed by these two entities, the intervention of the International Bodies is also vital for the creation of an effective platform of conjoint action.

The conference also focused on the legal issues in the ambit of drug policies and a meeting between judges of the PALOP, members of the International Union of the Portuguese Language Judges, was held. This event lead to the formulation of the “Declaração da Praia”, a memorandum on Drug Policies and Human Rights, which main goal is to highlight the healthcare dimension when analyzing the drug phenomenon.

Inês Santos

Here you can watch all the presentations of the conference, organised into a playlist:

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