The Eighth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Sixteenth Session of the Economic and Social Council




Pages: 49 to 52
Creation Date: 1953/01/01


The Eighth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Sixteenth Session of the Economic and Social Council

The task of codifying all existing international instruments for the control of narcotics in a single convention was the major concern of the eighth session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held at UN Headquarters from 30 March to 24 April 1953.

The Commission studied and formulated its recommendations on 19 out of 51 proposed sections of the new convention. At its seventh session, the Commission had considered twelve sections. Thus, nineteen sections of the proposed single convention remain to be examined by the Commission before the final draft can be submitted to the Economic and Social Council. It is expected that several years will elapse before the new instrument can come into force.

Other main narcotics problems on the nineteen-item agenda of the eighth session included study of implementation of the international treaties on narcotics; measures to combat illicit traffic still prevailing in many areas of the world; and the abolition of opium-smoking.

Consideration of the problem of drug addiction, of the increasingly important question of new synthetic drugs, of the cannabis problem (marihuana, hashish, etc.) and the problem of the coca leaf, was placed high on the priority list of the Commission's next annual session.

Observers from Belgium, Bolivia, Burma, Italy, Pakistan and Switzerland were invited by the Commission to participate in the meetings of this session when matters of particular interest to those countries were discussed. Representatives of the Permanent Central Opium Board and the World Health Organization also attended the session.

Officers elected at the seventh session were all reelected. They were: Dr. Oscar Rabasa (Mexico), Chairman; Charles Vaille (France), Vice-Chairman; and Dragan Nikolic (Yugoslavia), Rapporteur.

At its sixteenth session, held in Geneva from 3 June to 5 August 1953, the Council considered the work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during its eighth session.


On 31 March, the Commission began consideration of the proposed single convention on narcotics. The time from 31 March to 8 April, and again on 20 and 21 April, was devoted to the study of the convention. At the suggestion of the Chairman, Dr. Oscar Raba-sa (Mexico), the Commission appointed a drafting sub-committee. Composed of representatives of France, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Yugoslavia and the Permanent Central Opium Board, the sub-committee formulated the principles and matters of substance arrived at during the Commission's deliberations.

Before the Commission was the draft of a single convention prepared by the Secretariat (E/CN.7/AC.3/3) based on discussions at the Commission's fourth session, observations received from governments, and others submitted jointly by the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body, and by the World Health Organization.

The Commission concluded consideration of sec-tions 14 to 29 and 34 to 36 of the draft. These sec-tions deal with the constitution and functions of an International Narcotics Board that would replace the two existing control bodies, the Drug Supervisory Body and the Permanent Central Opium Board. (The Commission on Narcotic Drugs would continue in its present form but will be called Inter-national Narcotics Commission.) Also covered in these sections are the questions of national control organs for narcotics, control of manufacture of narcotics, and the control of international trade in narcotics.

Regarding the constitution of the new Board, the Commission agreed that it should consist of nine members appointed by the Economic and Social Council.

There was some difference of opinion as to the role the World Health Organization and the Commission itself should have in recommending members to the Board. It was finally agreed that the Council should appoint two members of the Board from a list of candidates nominated by WHO and that the Commission should appoint an observer to the Board.

There was general agreement that the members of the Board should be chosen on the basis of as wide a geographical distribution as would be compatible with the requirements of the highest personal standards.

As it was felt impossible to foresee all contingencies in which it would be desirable for the Board to take action, it was agreed to include in the draft a clause authorizing the Board to perform functions other than those expressly enumerated, if these should be deemed necessary or useful for the application of the new convention.

The Commission decided to retain in the new single convention the principle of an embargo (section 26 of the draft) on import and/or export of narcotic drugs to or from a country which seriously fails to live up to provisions of the convention, hereby mpairing effective control in territories of other parties.

At its seventh session, the Commission had decided that two separate secretariats should serve the International Narcotics Board and the Commission. Taking into account this decision, it was resolved that the secretariat of the Commission should be provided for by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and that it should be an integral part of the UN Secretariat. The secretariat of the International Narcotics Board, on the other hand, the Commission agreed, should be appointed by the Secretary-General on the nomination of the Board and subject to approval by the Economic and Social Council. The technical independence of the Board in carrying out its duties under the convention should be assured.

Concerning national narcotics control organs (section 29 of the Single Convention) the Commission decided, in principle, that provisions should be made for a central and co-ordinating organ set up in each State by the individual contracting parties.

The Commission favoured the idea of close co-operation and direct contact between national central narcotics offices to secure information quickly and to facilitate the prevention of illicit traffic and the punishment of those engaged in it.

It was decided by the Commission that the draft convention, besides codifying the provisions in existing instruments for the control of manufacture of drugs, should take into account the changes which have taken place in the pharmaceutical industries, especially in connexion with manufacture of synthetic drugs.

It was agreed that the World Health Organization should recommend standard wrappings for narcotic drugs, with the clear understanding that the external wrappings should not betray the presence of narcotics. Manufacturers' house labels on drugs were, however, to be recognized.

Regarding control exercised by national authorities over international trade, and import certificates and export authorization (sections 35 and 36), the Commission decided to retain provisions contained in the 1925 Convention on Narcotics with slight modifications.

Reference to an international clearing house for narcotics was deleted, as such a body would not exist under the new convention.


In considering this question the Commission examined the Summary of Annual Reports of Governments for 1951 and those annual reports for 1951 received by the Secretariat after 15 November 1952, the deadline for inclusion in the Summary.

It was during the discussion of these annual reports that the question of the use of preparations containing heroin arose.

No final conclusion was expressed by the Commission on this.


The Commission examined and noted summaries of illicit transactions and seizures communicated to the Secretariat in 1952.

Some members of the Commission outlined new legislation in their countries aimed at suppressing illicit traffic and use of narcotic drugs. In this connexion, it was reported that in Turkey and Egypt the penalties for illicit traffic had been made far more severe than before. The campaign against smugglers and clandestine cultivation of narcotic plants had been combated vigorously with good results in both countries.

The representative of Turkey drew the attention of the Commission to the fact that his government had reduced imports of acetic anhydride which plays an important part in the clandestine manufacture of heroin. The Commission decided to take up the whole question of acetic anhydride at its next session.

Statements on measures taken by the Anti-Narcotic Bureau of the Arab League and by the Government of Mexico to combat illicit traffic and cultivation and use of narcotic drugs were made to the Commission.

Smuggling by seamen constituted a very large source of illicit drugs during 1952, the Commission noted. It asked that the Secretary-General's memorandum for the next session on illicit traffic should contain a special chapter on the illicit traffic by crews of merchant ships.


The representative of the United States submitted information covering various aspects of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs in the Far East. The repre-sentative of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics referred to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China regarding the measures taken in the field of narcotics by the Government of the People's Republic of China; he also made a statement on various aspects of the situation in that country.


This matter has been before the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for a number of years. At this session, it adopted a resolution in the form of a request to the Economic and Social Council calling for the abolition of opium-smoking which still exists in some parts of the world.

In the resolution it finally adopted at its sixteenth session, the Council "repeats its invitation to all countries in which opium-smoking is still practised to suppress this evil as speedily as possible".


For the first time in several years, the Commission discussed the problem of cannabis from which marihuana, hashish and other narcotic substances are produced for smoking or eating. The Commission had before it a Secretariat report indicating a steadily rising total in the use of marihuana and hashish produced from the Cannabisplant. Various members expressed their concern regarding this problem, and the Commission decided to instruct the Secretariat, in co-operation with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, to study the problem of cannabis in great detail and report its findings to the Commission.


The Commission postponed until its next session the substantive discussion of a paper entitled "The Problem of Synthetic Drugs" (E/CN.7/259/Rev. 1) as it was not able to examine the complicated and varied aspects of the question raised in this document in the short time available.

However, upon the recommendation of the Commission, the Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution in which it invited the World Health Organization, in consultation with the Secretariat, to gather information on various medical and scientific aspects of synthetic drugs. In the same resolution the Council requested the Secretariat to collect certain information on the extent to which synthetic analgesics and synthetic opium alkaloids in particular are likely to replace in the future natural narcotics made from opium and from poppy straw, and to obtain the views of the governments principally concerned on the advisability of certain measures which have been specifically proposed in respect of such drugs.


The attention of the Commission was drawn to the increased exports of coca leaves from Bolivia and Peru to manufacturing countries in recent times. For its part the Council decided to postpone until its seventeenth session the study of the possibility of undertaking experiments on the effects of chewing the coca leaf.

Other actions of the Commission at its eighth session were: examination of the future work of the Division; to re-appoint Col. C. H. L. Sharman (Canada) for a second five-year term as member of the Drugs Supervisory Board; to urge close co-operation between the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union in international control of narcotics.

The Commission also heard a report from the Criminal International Police Commission on activities of the CIPC concerning international control of narcotics during 1952.


At its sixteenth session, the Economic and Social Council reviewed the annual report for 1952 [1] submitted to it by the Permanent Central Opium Board in accordance with article 27, as amended, of the International Opium Convention of 19 February 1925.

The Council adopted resolution 505 F (XVI) in which it took note with appreciation of the report of the Permanent Board. The Council also invited the Secretary-General to continue to consult wit the Board from time to time regarding the arrangments necessary for the Board's organization an working; and it recommended to the General Assembly that the matter of adequate remuneration of the members of the Board and Supervisory Body be given favourable consideration.


The Economic and Social Council during its sixteenth session received a report from the Secre-tary-General on the United Nations Opium Conference.

Three resolutions included in the Final Act of the Conference (I, XIV and XVII) were addressed to the Council requesting Council action.

The Council accordingly adopted resolution 505 G (XVI) in which it recommended that all the Members of the United Nations and all the non-member States, referred to in articles 16 and 18 of the Protocol, sign and ratify or accede to the Protocol as soon as possible; it also recommended that all States implement as far as may be possible the provisions of the Protocol pending its coming into force or their adherence.

In resolution 505 H (XVI), the Council requested the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to draw up, for the guidance of governments, a model code and commentary for the application of the Protocol.

1. See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. V, No. 2.

In resolution 505 I (XVI) the Council recommended to the General Assembly to approve the assumption of the functions and responsibilities assigned to organs of the United Nations by the Protocol and to include this Protocol among the multilateral treaties relating to the control of narcotic drugs for the purpose of assessing, in accordance with resolution 455 (V) of the General Assembly, non-member States which are Parties to such treaties, for their fair share of the expenses borne by the United Nations in connexion with the international control of narcotic drugs. It also proposed that the General Assembly include this recommendation in the provisional agenda of its eighth regular session.