The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established by Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 9(I) in 1946, to assist the ECOSOC in supervising the application of the international drug control treaties. In 1991, the General Assembly (GA) expanded the mandate of the CND to enable it to function as the governing body of the UNODC. ECOSOC resolution 1999/30 requested the CND to structure its agenda with two distinct segments: a normative segment for discharging treaty-based and normative functions; and an operational segment for exercising the role as the governing body of UNODC.

The Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation Towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem of 2009 is the main policy document of the United Nations guiding action by the international community in this field. It reaffirms the principle role played by the CND as one of the United Nations organs with prime responsibility for drug control matters. In line with its mandates, the CND monitors the world drug situation, develops strategies on international drug control and recommends measures to address the world drug problem.

The Commission adopted at the High Level Review in March 2014 the Joint Ministerial Statement, which identifies achievements, challenges and priorities for further action.

In the Political Declaration and Plan of Action of 2009, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs recommended that the General Assembly hold a Special Session on the World Drug Problem. The CND led the preparations for the General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2016 and negotiated the outcome document. The Commission worked on the follow-up to the UNGASS, implementing the recommendations made in the outcome document, on the way to the target date of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action in 2019.

At the ministerial segment of its 62nd session in 2019, the Commission adopted the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on strengthening actions at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of joint commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem. In the Declaration, Member States resolved to review in the Commission in 2029 the progress made in implementing the policy commitments, with a mid-term review in 2024. The Commission works on the follow-up to the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, with a view to accelerating the implementation of all international drug policy commitments.

The CND meets annually when it considers and adopts a range of decisions and resolutions. Intersessional meetings of the CND are regularly convened to provide policy guidance to UNODC. Towards the end of each year, the CND meets at a reconvened session to consider budgetary and administrative matters as the governing body of the United Nations drug programme.

Subsidiary bodies of the CND are the Subcommission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Near and Middle East and the meetings of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEAs) for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe respectively. The purpose of these meetings is to coordinate activities and to monitor new trends within the respective regions. The recommendations of the subsidiary bodies are submitted to the sessions of the CND for its consideration and follow-up action.