UN drugs chief calls for stronger cooperation frameworks and attention to health as way forward for international drugs policy

Vienna - 12 March 2012 ­- (UNODC) - Stronger regional networks are vital for confronting the threat of illicit drugs, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), at the opening of the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which is meeting in Vienna from 12 to 16 March. "We face a transnational threat of extraordinary proportions that amounts to US$320 billion or some 0.5 per cent of global GDP, "he stressed.

Ministers and anti-drug officials from the 53 CND Member States will consider issues of concern, including the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes and preventing the diversion of chemicals for the manufacture of illicit drugs. The CND is the central policy-making body within the United Nations system dealing with illicit drugs.

President Evo Morales of the Plurinational State of Bolivia explained that his Government was vigorously combating cocaine trafficking and had destroyed tons of the drug. He said his country needed more international assistance to combat the scourge, particularly with equipment and technology.  However, Bolivia had decided to withdraw from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to "correct a historical error" concerning the indigenous uses of the coca leaf. Bolivia would re-accede to the Convention if it included a "reservation" allowing the traditional consumption of coca leaf to continue, he said.

The Executive Director urged States to intensify health strategies as part of a comprehensive response to drug demand, supply and trafficking.  "At present, the balance between our work on the supply and demand sides stays firmly in favour of the supply side.  We must restore the balance. Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy," he said.  "Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system".

In this, the centenary of the signing of the International Opium Convention in 1912, the first legal instrument on drug control, the Executive Director said it was important to recognize the gains made over that time but more needed to be done.   He stressed the importance of human rights: "Our commitment is founded on the drug conventions. They form part of a continuum based on human rights and the rule of law that flows directly from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international standards and norms to our delivery of practical actions."

Mr. Fedotov highlighted the regional initiatives being spearheaded by UNODC in the context of shared responsibility among drug-consuming and drug-producer nations to combat the security threats posed by drug flows. UNODC recently launched a Regional Programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to help create a broad international coalition to combat opiate trafficking, opium poppy cultivation and production.  Networks such as the Triangular Initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre are being strengthened.  The Office will soon launch a new Regional Programme for South Eastern Europe, which will focus on the "Balkan Route" of heroin.

Mr Fedotov also emphasized the importance of enhanced support for Central America, saying, "Countries in Central America especially in the Northern Triangle face dramatic challenges. States have called for a strong UNODC presence in the region. This is why we have created a Regional hub for Central America and the Caribbean in Panama to link with a re-profiled office in Mexico and other countries in the region."

Important as these initiatives are, tackling supply only was not the solution, according to the Executive Director. "Let me be clear: there can be no reduction in drug supply, without a reduction in drug demand", he said.

Related information:

Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND)

Programme of side events

Full speech by UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov at the opening of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

For more information please contact: Preeta Bannerjee, Public Information Officer:T: (+43-699) 1459-5764 | M: (+43-699) 1459-5764 | E: preeta.bannerjee {at} unodc.org

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