Opening of the seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Abstract

I am happy to greet the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the first time since I succeeded Mr. Henri Laugier. The Commission is engaged in a task the importance of which was recognized by governments some forty years ago when the first international convention on narcotic drugs was concluded at The Hague. Other agreements on narcotic drugs were concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations, thus setting up national and International control machinery, the need for which is demonstrated by the well-nigh universal participation of States in these instruments. I have followed the development of this machinery with interest, and since I entered upon the duties of Assistant Secretary-General in charge of the Department of Social Affairs, I have had occasion to study in greater detail the work done in this field since the United Nations replaced the League of Nations.

Details

Author: Guillaume Georges-Picot
Pages: 1 to 2
Creation Date: 1952/01/01

GENERAL

Opening of the seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Guillaume Georges-Picot Assistant Secretary-General in charge of the Department of Social Affairs

I am happy to greet the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the first time since I succeeded Mr. Henri Laugier. The Commission is engaged in a task the importance of which was recognized by governments some forty years ago when the first international convention on narcotic drugs was concluded at The Hague. Other agreements on narcotic drugs were concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations, thus setting up national and International control machinery, the need for which is demonstrated by the well-nigh universal participation of States in these instruments. I have followed the development of this machinery with interest, and since I entered upon the duties of Assistant Secretary-General in charge of the Department of Social Affairs, I have had occasion to study in greater detail the work done in this field since the United Nations replaced the League of Nations.

Few problems have so many different aspects-medical, scientific, social, economic, legal, diplomatic and political, to mention only some of them. The search for a solution of the problems arising out of the international control of narcotic drugs therefore calls upon the United Nations and particularly the Economic and Social Council, your Commission and the Secretariat for efforts in many directions but all tending towards the same purpose the elimination of the abuse of narcotic drugs The United Nations has already achieved some results in this direction. Thanks to the 1946 Protocol, the Secretary-General has been able to take over the functions of his predecessor at the League of Nations, while the Protocol signed at Paris in 1948, recognizing the developments in the manufacture of drugs which have taken place since 1931, set up machinery making it possible to bring under international control new narcotic drugs to which previous conventions did not apply These two instruments were concluded and put into force with remarkable speed and a large number of States have already acceded to these two Protocols within a very short space of time National and international controls of narcotic drugs which were seriously disrupted by the world conflict have been restored to their pre-war level and adapted to new re-quirements. Only if governments transmit their annual reports regularly and endeavour to make them accurate and complete will the Commission be able to form a true picture of the situation and to take any action that may be necessary Needless to say, this comment applies equally to the reports of seizures in the illicit traffic.

Mention should be made, in this connexion, of the interesting laboratory work which has been undertaken with a view to perfecting methods for ascertaining the origin of the opium seized in the illicit traffic. Parallel programmes of research organized in a dozen countries under the auspices of the United Nations have already produced promising results.

In obedience to decisions taken by your Commission and by the Economic and Social Council and sanctioned by the General Assembly, the Secretariat publishes a quarterly Bulletin on Narcotics containing the latest information on results obtained by governments, the United Nations and organs set up under the international conventions for the control of narcotic drugs and the fight against drug addiction, in addition it publishes technical and scientific papers on narcotic drugs, and articles on legislative and administrative practice in various countries, while a large section is devoted to bibliography.

But these varied activities could not produce really satisfactory results if no thought were given to attacking the very heart of the problem, that is, the limitation of raw materials. No system of regulation, however perfect, can offer a final solution to the problem of narcotic drugs so long as the very source of these substances escapes control As regards opium, which despite the introduction of synthetic products continues to be the most important raw material, the Economic and Social Council has taken up the question of limiting its production. I shall therefore merely raise two other problems in that connexion which remain to be solved, namely, the question of the coca leaf and that of Indian hemp

A commission of experts has been sent to Peru and Bolivia to study the effects of the chewing of the coca1 leaf and the possibility of limiting its production and controlling its distribution During the present session you will have an opportunity to examine anew the report submitted by that Commission and thus to throw some light on certain still controversial aspects of the matter As regards hashish, if it develops habits which may be less harmful than those resulting from the abuse of other drugs, the fact remains that the problem is extremely serious particularly in view of the vast area devoted to its cultivation and of the number of persons using the drug

This question of raw materials takes on particular importance at this juncture when you are preparing the single convention on narcotic drugs, on which I should now like to make a few comments.

This new treaty, the drafting of which was entrusted by the Economic and Social Council to the Commission at the latter's own request, will constitute, once it has been signed and has entered into force, the ninth in the series of treaties for controlling narcotic drugs concluded by governments in the last forty years. In a general way the eight existing treaties may be said to form the foundation of a new body of law, the purpose of which is to control the production of and international trade in the vitally necessary but dangerous substances we call narcotic drugs. The importance, the extreme usefulness of precedents is a lesson I learned during my diplomatic career, and I find this truth confirmed once more when I see.that all the precedents so painstakingly created since 1912 are so to speak codified in the new treaty.

It is particularly gratifying for me to note that as a whole this draft treaty, which has been prepared by thedepartment of the Secretariat recently placed under my charge, follows the tradition of earlier instruments, and although it codifies existing provisions, it leaves any future conference free to create new precedents in this field I am happy to see from the observations of governments on the draft that this point has not escaped their attention, one of them having written that "in particular the technical and legal conception of the draft convention was noted with appreciation".

As a matter of fact, while it is sometimes difficult to utilize precedents, it is a much more delicate matter to create them It is possible that present circumstances are not favourable to unduly radical innovations in the control of narcotic drugs and the adoption of the draft single convention would not represent any radical change in the methods of control but would constitute an important step forward in the development of the international administration of treaties on narcotic drugs, and might have certain repercussions in other fields where international co-operation comes into play.

The Commission thus has before it a draft convention to which special importance may be attached and to which I am sure it will devote its most careful attention. I am aware that the consideration of this question will give rise to the expression of divergent opinions and that it will be difficult to reach unanimous agreement on all points; but I am confident that, with the help of all concerned, the work of the Commission will open the way towards further progress.

I shall close on this note of confidence, and extend to you the best wishes of the Secretary-General for the success of your work.