UNODC chief says world drug problem is being contained

VIENNA, 12 March 2007 (UNODC) - The world drug problem is being contained but more vigorous action is needed by both producing and consuming nations if the goal of reducing drug abuse is to be achieved, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said on Monday.

"Global controls have stabilised the supply of illicit drugs as well as demand. The world drug problem is being contained," he said at the opening of the 50 th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN's central policy-making body for drug control.

However, some serious, specific problems persist.

"Over the past five years, the strong decline in coca cultivation has generally been sustained, but cocaine production has increased again after a dip in 2003 because of higher yields and improved processing," Mr Costa said.

"Globally, demand for coke has also been contained, but not reduced. A decline in North America has been offset by an alarming rise in some European countries, where addiction levels are among the highest in the world."

The UNODC Executive Director invited UN Member States to provide increased and more targeted assistance to the Andean countries to encourage farmers to stop growing coca and also to protect the environment.

"Europe's growing commitment against global warming is not consistent with its growing appetite for cocaine, production of which is a major cause of environmental destruction," he added.

Mr Costa urged the media to be more critical in reporting on the "shooting, snorting and sniffing habits" of certain pop stars and models. "Less focus on coke-snorting celebrities would help governments shift public attitudes and help develop greater social awareness of the dangers of drugs," he added.

As far as opium is concerned, Mr Costa noted the diverging trends in Afghanistan - virtual monopoly supplier to the world - where cultivation is likely to fall in the centre and north of the country this year but increase in the south.

"UNODC is monitoring the trends and will be responsible for certifying which provinces are opium-free. It would be very encouraging if we could certify as many as a third of the 34 provinces this year," he said.

"A balanced system of retribution (crop eradication) and rewards (development assistance), now underway, offers the best chance of creating an opium-free belt across Afghanistan, from the border with Pakistan in the south-east to Turkmenistan in the north-west."

Mr Costa said the output of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy seemed stable at the global level. Demand was declining in Europe but rising in some developing countries.

"In Europe, the ecstasy market is maturing, as demonstrated by rising demand for treatment and growing awareness of the risks, especially among young addicts."

Mr Costa said cannabis remained a serious global problem.

There was some good news, such as a drop of nearly 50 per cent in cannabis resin cultivation in Morocco - the world's largest producer - between 2003 and 2006. But a significant increase in the potency of cannabis, thanks to modern cultivation techniques, was aggravating the impact on public health. 

Cannabis was readily available and all too often suffered from "benign neglect" from the authorities. "Cannabis remains a drug crying out for a coherent policy worldwide," Mr Costa said.

He welcomed the fact that UN Member States had abandoned the "woefully wrong notion that the drug problem could be solved by disciplining a few thugs in drug producing countries while ignoring the responsibility of rich, consuming nations." Fighting drugs was a shared responsibility.

Mr Costa said it was tragic that, in many countries, it had taken either a crime epidemic or an HIV/AIDS epidemic to trigger stronger drug prevention.

"Governments can and must ensure both health and security, just as they can and must protect citizens from both drugs and HIV/AIDS," he added.

Full text of speech available here.

Audio on the role and importance of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) available here.

Historical background to and main achievements of the CND available here.

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