Legal Framework for Drug Trafficking

The three major international drug control treaties, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (as amended in 1972), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, are mutually supportive and complementary.

An important purpose of the first two treaties is to codify internationally applicable control measures in order to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, and to prevent their diversion into illicit channels. They also include general provisions on illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse.

The 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances extends the control regime to precursors, and focuses on establishing measures to combat illicit drug trafficking and related money-laundering, as well as strengthening the framework of international cooperation in criminal matters, including extradition and mutual legal assistance.

The three conventions attribute important functions to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and to the International Narcotics Control Board:

  • The Commission on Narcotic Drugs, composed of 53 Member States elected by the Economic and Social Council for a four-year term, is the central policy-making body with regard to drug-related matters, including the monitoring of the global trends of illicit drug trafficking and abuse. This functional commission of the Economic and Social Council adopts and recommends for adoption by the Council or to the General Assembly through the Council, resolutions on new concerted measures or agreed policies to better address the drug phenomenon. It decides whether new substances should be included in one of the schedules of the conventions and if changes or deletions in the schedules are required.
  • The International Narcotics Control Board is a permanent and independent body, consisting of 13 members, who are elected for a five-year term by the Economic and Social Council on the basis of their competence and serve in their personal capacity. The Board monitors the implementation of the conventions and, where appropriate, makes recommendations to States. It also administers the statistical control of drugs on the basis of data supplied by Governments and assesses world requirements of licit drugs with a view to the adaptation of production to those requirements. It gathers information on illicit trafficking, and submits an annual report on developments in the world situation to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and to the Economic and Social Council.

UNODC has an important role in assisting these bodies in performing their treaty-based functions, and in assisting States Parties in the implementation of their obligations under the international drug control treaties.