Statement by the Secretary-General

Abstract

Among the goals set forth for the United Nations in Article 1 of its Charter is "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character"; Article 62 specified that the Economic and Social Council "may call, in accordance with the rules prescribed by the United Nations, international conferences on matters falling within its competence".

Details

Pages: 1 to 2
Creation Date: 1953/01/01

GENERAL AND TECHNICAL

Statement by the Secretary-General

Among the goals set forth for the United Nations in Article 1 of its Charter is "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character"; Article 62 specified that the Economic and Social Council "may call, in accordance with the rules prescribed by the United Nations, international conferences on matters falling within its competence".

It is in conformity with these provisions that you are assembled here today, in an effort to solve a problem which is at once economic, social and humanitarian.

The political side of the United Nations work has, very understandably, held the most interest for the public, and there is a widespread tendency to neglect or underestimate the work which has been patiently built up in technical fields. The task which has been accomplished by the United Nations in controlling narcotic drugs is an excellent example of the sort of result which close international co-operation can lead to, for the benefit of all mankind.

The Leagueof Nations, and later the United Nations assisted by WHO, the Permanent Central Opium Board, and the Drug Supervisory Body, have with great perseverance established a really remarkable system of international control, which although allowing legitimate medical and scientific needs to be filled, puts a firm brake on the abuse of narcotics. This system is based on a series of international treaties, some of which have a quasiuniversal application.

Although, on the whole, the system established by these treaties has worked satisfactorily, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs came to the conclusion that it would be much better to codify, simplify and if possible improve the existing international agreements on narcotic drugs. The Narcotics Commission has devoted a major part of its last sessions to examining in detail the draft of a single convention, prepared by the Secretariat according to instructions which the Commission gave it. It is plain that the elaboration of the single convention is a long-term project and cannot be completed for several years. The Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided that before the provisions of the future single convention regarding the limitations of basic materials used in manufacturing of drugs could enter into force, it would be desirable to reach a provisional agreement, on the international plane, to limit the production of opium which is the origin of most natural drugs.

Although the synthetic drugs are steadily becoming more and more important, both for medical and scientific use and unfortunately also in the illicit traffic, opium remains at this time the most important narcotic in world use. With the derivatives that are manufactured from it, morphine, codeine and heroin, opium is at once one of the biggest blessings and one of the biggest curses of mankind: the most widely used analgesic and the most widely used narcotic. Even after the great reductions in the use of opium for other than scientific and medical purposes made in the last forty years as a result of the efforts of governments parties to the Conventions, the quantities involved are very considerable. Some measure of them may be given by the approximate global figure of 500 tons of opium entering into the licit international trade; and a total world annual production several times larger.

The necessity of limiting opium production had been recognized several years ago. On 21 June 1921, the Council of the League of Nations had adopted a report which said, in part, "A growing conviction appears now to prevail in many countries that the nations of the world will be well advised to agree also upon a programme for the progressive suppression of the production of opium. For it is felt that to deal with the opium problem satisfactorily, it must be dealt with at the very roots, and to this end the cultivation of opium should be reduced progressively and eventually limited to strictly medicinal and scientific purposes.

However, the circumstance did not lend themselves to the success of such a programme and the League of Nations preferred to approach the question from another angle by tackling the problems one by one. It was only on the eve of the second world war that the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and other dangerous drugs began to prepare a convention on the limitation of basic material. These efforts were interrupted when hostilities broke out. The United Nations has taken them up again.

After detailed discussions in the Economic and Social Council as well as in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, both these organs decided that the best way to solve the problem was to follow the plan drawn up in the draft protocol which is before you. The protocol is based on the provisions of the 1925 and 1931 Conventions and includes a system of evaluation of the statistics submitted, a limitation of the production of opium by indirect means, i.e., by establishing a ceiling for opium stocks which each party to the Protocol would be authorized to maintain; the strengthening of national opium monopolies and finally, an international control which would be able to apply embargoes, to make local inspections or to hold local administrative consultations in the countries concerned. You will certainly wish to review this text carefully in the light of the observations which governments have transmitted, and to make such necessary changes and improvements as you deem useful.

This Conference has an unusual composition. The United Nations Members present correspond in an approximate degree to those countries which have a significant stake in the opium problem, whether as producers, manufacturers of drugs or consumers. I am glad to welcome also the non-members of the United Nations who are parties to the Conventions- the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Monaco, Switzerland, Viet-Nam. It is also encouraging to note that a number of States which are not represented by delegations because their direct interest in the question is relatively small have indicated their intention nevertheless to give favourable consideration to signing the protocol.

It is with my best sincere wishes for the successful accomplishment of your task that I declare this Conference open