The Work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its Fifth Session

Abstract

At its fifth session, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs dealt primarily with three main long-range problems: the interim agreement for the limitation of the production of opium, a simplified and improved convention to replace the existing instruments on narcotics, and the question of the chewing of the coca leaf in some countries of Latin America. In view of the importance of that programme, the introduction to the report of the Commission to the Economic and Social Council1 is reproduced below.

Details

Pages: 38 to 39
Creation Date: 1951/01/01

The Work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its Fifth Session

At its fifth session, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs dealt primarily with three main long-range problems: the interim agreement for the limitation of the production of opium, a simplified and improved convention to replace the existing instruments on narcotics, and the question of the chewing of the coca leaf in some countries of Latin America. In view of the importance of that programme, the introduction to the report of the Commission to the Economic and Social Council1 is reproduced below.

  1. While the primary task of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is and must continue to be, to bring under review the working of the international control of narcotic drugs in all its aspects, the Commission is at the present time increasingly concerned with the study of new developments in the direction of increasing the range and simplifying and improving the efficiency of that control.

  2. At its fifth session, which was held at Lake Success, New York, the Commission had under consideration three major proposals, each of which is concerned with an important advance in the field of the international control of narcotic drugs.

  3. The first of these was the proposal for an interim agreement to limit the production of opium to that required to meet the world's medical and scientific needs and to establish for this purpose an international monopoly through which the trade in opium would be conducted.

  4. The Commission had before it the report of its Ad Hoc Committee of the Principal Opium-producing Countries, which met at Ankara in 1949, the reports of the Meeting of Representatives of the Principal Drug-manufacturing Countries, and of the Joint Committee of the Principal Opium-producing Countries and of the Principal Drug-manufacturing Countries, which met at Geneva in August 1950, and the Joint Committee's report on the second part of its session held at New York from 14 to 30 November 1950.

  5. The Commission noted with satisfaction that substantial progress had already been made since the consideration of this proposal was initiated by the appointment of the Ad Hoc Committee which met at Ankara. The principle of limitation of production of opium had been accepted; the shares of production to be assigned to each producing country had been determined; there was agreement as to the means to be envisaged to secure the limitation of production, namely, the creation of an International Opium Monopoly; the paramount importance of inspection for the proper functioning and successful operation of the scheme had been affirmed; and the main provisions of a draft interim agreement prepared by the Secretary-General had been studied, and in certain respects amended. The Joint Committee had nevertheless been unable to find solutions to four questions, including the major question of the basic price at which the International Monopoly should conduct its operations, which would have to be resolved before any interim agreement could be brought into force. With a view to making further progress as rapidly as possible the Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council that its sixth session should be held during April and May 1951, and should be devoted in the main to a further consideration of these questions. Account would be taken, in this further consideration, of a proposal made by the Joint Committee, as to possible further procedure, namely that should a satisfactory solution to all these questions except that of price be found, the interim agreement might be elaborated, opened for signature, and even ratified, in a form which would permit of the International Monopoly undertaking trade in opium only after unanimous agreement on price had been reached.

  6. The second of the major proposals considered by the Commission was that for a simplified and improved convention to replace the eight existing instruments on narcotic drugs, and to contain provisions for the limitation of the production of raw materials. The Commission had before it a draft of such an instrument, prepared by the Secretary-General in accordance with the request of the Commission at its fourth session and accompanied by a detailed commentary on the provisions of the draft. The Commission recorded its appreciation of the care and skill with which both the draft and the commentary had been prepared and it devoted some time to a discussion of the main principles of the new instrument. The discussion was in the nature of an exchange of views, since there was not time to reach conclusions on the many and complex issues which the new proposals involve and which require detailed study. The Commission felt therefore that it would be premature at the present stage to communicate the draft to Governments for their observations, as it was authorized to do, if it thought that course desirable, by Resolution 315 (XI) of the Economic and Social Council. It considered, however, that it would be of advantage that the views of the Governments represented on the Commission should be formulated, in the light of the discussion which had already taken place in the Commission, and made available to the Commission for further consideration, if time permits, at its sixth session, in order that the conclusions then reached by the Commission might be embodied in a revised draft, which would then be considered by the Commission at its seventh session early in 1952.

  7. The third of the major questions which was studied by the Commission was the problem of coca leaf chewing in Bolivia and Peru. The Commission had before it the Report to the Economic and Social Council of the Commission of Enquiry which visited Bolivia and Peru towards the end of 1949. The main conclusion of the report is that coca-leaf chewing has harmful effects, and that since the habit is the consequence of a number of unfavourable social and economic factors, the solution of the problem involves two fundamental and parallel aspects: the need for improving the living conditions of the population amongst which chewing is a general habit, and the need for initiating simultaneously a governmental policy to limit the production of coca leaf, to control its distribution, and eradicate the practice of chewing it. The Commission of Enquiry made detailed recommendations in regard to these two aspects in its report. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs recorded its appreciation of this report and of the co-operation given to the Commission of Enquiry by the Governments of Bolivia and Peru.

  8. At the invitation of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs a representative of the Government of Bolivia attended at the discussion of the report, and statements were made by the representatives of Bolivia and Peru, which expressed dissatisfaction with the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry on the ground that this Commission had not itself undertaken an expert scientific investigation of the medical and physiological factors involved, and that the findings upon which these conclusions and recommendations are based are not accepted by certain medical and scientific authorities in these countries who have given the question special study. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs considered that it would be desirable that the Economic and Social Council, when studying the report, should have before it the observations of the Commission of Enquiry upon the opinions expressed by the representatives of Bolivia and Peru, and it therefore decided to request the Commission of Enquiry to forward these observations to the Secretary-General by 1 March 1951 so that the Secretary-General might transmit them to the Council. It further decided to recommend to the Council that the report and the observations of the Commission of Enquiry should be forwarded to the Governments of Bolivia and Peru with a request that they should communicate their respective observations thereon to the Secretary-General before 15 September 1951; and that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs should examine the question further, taking all available information into consideration, at its seventh session, with a view to submitting recommendations to the Council as soon as possible thereafter.

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1 See document E/CN.7/216.