The sixteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the thirty-second session of the Economic and Social Council


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 24 April to 10 May 1961, and the Economic and Social Council met in Geneva from 4 July to 4 August 1961.


Pages: 39 to 41
Creation Date: 1961/01/01

The sixteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the thirty-second session of the Economic and Social Council

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 24 April to 10 May 1961, and the Economic and Social Council met in Geneva from 4 July to 4 August 1961.

The Commission elected as officers:

Chairman: Mr. K. C. Hossick (Canada)

First Vice-Chairman: Mr. M. Ozkol (Turkey)

Second Vice-Chairman: Mr. A. Ismail (United Arab Republic)

Rapporteur: Dr. J. Mabileau (France)

Mr. T. C. Green (United Kingdom) was elected Chairman of the Committee on Illicit Traffic.

The Commission and the Council discussed, inter alia, the following items.

Plenipotentiary Conference for the Adoption of a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

In accordance with Council resolution 689 J (XXVI), the Secretary-General convened a plenipotentiary conference for the adoption of a single convention to replace the existing multilateral treaties on narcotic drugs. Seventy-three States participated in the conference, which was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, 24 January to 25 March 1961, and one further State was represented by an observer. Six intergovernmental organizations and three nongovernmental organizations were also represented. In addition, General Safwat, the Director of the Permanent Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States, attended in a personal capacity at the invitation of the conference. The conference elected Ambassador Carl Schurmann, the representative of the Netherlands, chairman, and the representatives of the following countries vice-presidents: Afghanistan, Brazil, Dahomey, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America. The conference adopted a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 (document E/CONF.34/22), and a Final Act (document E/CONF.34/23), to which are annexed five resolutions dealing with technical assistance, treatment of drug addicts, illicit trafficking, membership of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs and international control machinery, the latter two being directed to the Council. The convention will, in accordance with its article 41, come into force on the thirtieth day following the date on which the fortieth instrument of ratification or accession is deposited, in accordance with article 40.

While there were the inevitable differences inherent in such a large conference between what was hoped for and what was practicable, these were largely resolved by mutual compromises and the conference was able substantially to achieve the three main tasks which Council resolutions 159 II D (VII) and 246 D (IX) had prescribed for it. First, the codification of the existing multilateral treaty law in this field was almost completely achieved, with the exception that the convention of 1936 for the suppression of the illicit traffic in dangerous drugs would generally be continued as between the parties to it who wish to do so. However, as the 1936 convention had not been widely ratified, this relatively small exception from a complete codification into a single document was justified on the grounds that some States, among whom are those important for purposes of narcotics control, will, under the new convention, be able to accept some obligations which under the 1936 convention they had not been able to assume on account of the incompatibility of this convention with some basic principles of their legal systems; at the same time, those States which are willing to apply the stricter provisions of the earlier treaty will still be free to do so. The second main aim - the simplification of the international control machinery - was achieved by the joining together of the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body into a single body with some supporting administrative simplifications. As regards the third task, the extension of the control system to the cultivation of plants grown for the raw materials of natural drugs (opium, cannabis and coca leaves), a new and definite provision to limit harvesting of opium, cannabis and cannabis resin and generally also of coca leaves exclusively to medical and scientific purposes was adopted. The convention also specifically requires that national agencies amounting in effect to monopolies shall be established or maintained for such cultivation wherever it is permitted.

Some of the principal provisions of the 1961 convention against the present treaty system were reviewed in the Commission and noted by the Council. The recommendatory embargo provisions of the International Opium Convention of 1925 were taken over in the new convention, with the extension that the new board may apply them against drug exporting countries as well as against drug importing countries. Also, the obligation to limit to medical or scientific purposes was extended to all narcotic drugs (including even such weak drugs as codeine and the so-called "exempted preparations "), whereas hitherto the use of some narcotic drugs, such as opium (other than medicinal opium), coca leaves and cannabis, had not been so restricted. The convention thus provides the culmination of the effort of over half a century in the agreement which was reached that after a definite transitional period all non-medical uses of narcotic drugs (opium eating, opium smoking and the consumption of cannabis and coca leaves) would be outlawed everywhere, with a few temporary exceptions. The new convention would also require that all drugs and preparations be sold only by licensed vendors, whereas this requirement generally does not at present apply to raw opium, medicinal opium, cannabis, cannabis resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis, exempted preparations, and to the retail trade in drugs in group II, and their preparations. The Council noted that two major propositions - mandatory prohibition of particularly dangerous drugs, and a closed list of opium producing countries - had not been adopted by the conference. Nevertheless, the new treaty provides that the prohibition of such drugs would be under a special type of recommendation. This has been the practice by the control organs hitherto, but has no express treaty basis.

The Council considered the two resolutions addressed to it by the conference, as annexed to its final act. The first invited the Council to examine at its thirty-second session the question of an increase in the membership of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The Council unanimously decided in resolution 845 (XXXII) to increase the membership to 21. The second invited the Council to study the possibility of taking measures which would ensure the rapid and smooth carrying out of the simplifications of the international control machinery. The Council was unanimous in its support of the principle of personal union between membership of the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body, as envisaged in its earlier resolution 667 H (XXIV), and requested the Secretary-General to negotiate arrangements to that end with the organizations concerned. Finally the Council adopted, on the Commission's recommendation, a resolution [833 (XXXII)] recommending that the 1961 convention be studied as expeditiously as possible with a view to its early signature, ratification or accession, as the case may be.

Technical Assistance for Narcotics Control

Satisfaction was expressed both in the Commission and in the Council with the progress achieved in the field of technical assistance in 1960, this being the first year in the continuing programme of technical assistance in the field of narcotics control established by General Assembly resolution 1395 (XIV) since it came into effect. As regards country projects, ten fellowships were awarded to nine governments under General Assembly resolution 1395 (XIV), and three fellowships and the services of one expert were provided under the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance. Some of these fellowships were in the laboratory of the United Nations Narcotic Drugs Division in the identification by physical and chemical means of the geographical origin of opium seized in illicit traffic; others were for members of the administrations and technical services controlling production, manufacture and distribution of drugs; others for police, gendarmerie, customs and excise and other enforcement officials; one was for an official from welfare services for after-care and rehabilitation and employment of addicts. Programmes of training were to be provided in twelve dif- ferent countries or territories, and other governments have also expressed willingness to arrange programmes for training fellows.

As regards regional projects, under General Assembly resolution 1395 (XIV), a meeting of a consultative group on narcotics control for South-East Asia was organized in Bangkok in December 1960; * also a small amount of assistance was given at the request of several members of the Permanent Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States in respect of a conference which it organized on enforcement problems. The members of the Commission considered that the meeting of the South-East Asia group had been a most instructive experience, and expressed the hope that governments concerned would study carefully the suggestions made by the group.

Implementation of Treaties and International Control

In general, governments complied with their obligations under the various narcotics treaties to supply information and reports. During 1960, legislative texts on narcotic drugs for 61 countries and territories were communicated to the Secretary-General, and annual reports covering the year 1959 were received in respect of 134 countries and territories. The Secretary-General was requested to invite countries and territories that had not transmitted annual reports for two consecutive years to do so.

There was further progress during the last year towards adherence to the narcotics treaties. One more State had adhered to the 1948 protocol and one to the 1936 convention, the total ratifications or accessions in respect of the former being 58, and in respect of the latter 28.

Seven new drugs, six of them synthetic, were placed under international control during the last year. This brings the total number of basic narcotic drugs under control to 79, among them 51 synthetic drugs.

Illicit Traffic

In its annual review of the illicit traffic situation, the Commission was aided in its task by the Committee on Illicit Traffic and was also, as usual, assisted by observers from a number of governments and organizations. It gave attention to particular points regarding the illicit traffic, as follows: broad aspects of trafficking as a criminal pursuit and underlying principles of control; penal sanctions; prices of drugs on the illicit market; the use of air transport in the illicit traffic; international co-operation and intelligence work; salient features of the traffic in 1960. It was observed that a result of continually growing technological development and increased facility of communication was the increasing use of aircraft in the illicit traffic throughout the world. Co-operation among governments, strong national legislation, effective enforcement and adequate penalties were key-points for a programme against the illicit traffic.

A summary of the work of this group may be found on pp. 37-38.

Abuse of Drugs (Drug Addiction)

The Council noted that the Commission had reviewed the problem of drug addiction in its manifold aspects at its sixteenth session - its etiology, the economic and medical conditions under which it is likely to spread, the treatment of addiction both as a social problem and as a matter of dealing with individual addicts. It was recognized that the collection of accurate date of the number of addicts is extremely difficult - even approximate estimates are not easy to establish. An exact evaluation of the size of the problem would, however, be important for a comprehensive and effective approach to the question. The Commission considered that it would therefore be useful if some governments would supplement their normal methods of collecting data on drug addiction by special surveys.

Not only addiction to manufactured drugs continued on a large scale, but there was also a constant picture of heavy use of cannabis in almost all regions of the world, and in particular on the African continent, in large parts of the Middle East, and on the Indian-Pakistani sub-continent, as well as a continuing serious problem of coca-leaf chewing in some countries of South America. With respect to cannabis, the Council heard with interest that arrangements had been initiated to work more closely with African countries in respect of narcotic questions.

Opium and Opiates

Scientific Research

The United Nations Narcotics Laboratory concentrated its attention on the development of reproducible methods and on the analyses of authenticated samples, which were the basis for the investigation of seizures. The collection of authenticated opium samples in the United Nations laboratory increased, but there were still insufficient samples from certain regions, especially from South-East Asia and from Mexico, and also from some countries in the Middle East. Opinion was expressed in the Commission that the laboratory should also be provided with samples of opium produced illicitly. Technical assistance in the form of training had been given at the United Nations laboratory, and the Commission hoped that this work would be continued and possibly extended. The Commission agreed that in order to take advantage of recent advances in analytical chemistry, it seemed desirable that the laboratory should complete its present equipment and should have certain instruments, in particular an infra-red spectrophotometer and a fluorimeter, and expressed the hope that necessary budgetary arrangements could be made.