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UNIS/NAR/836
15 March 2004

Entire Societies Need to Get Involved in Countering Drug Abuse

United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs Begins 47th Session in Vienna

VIENNA, 15 March (UN Information Service) -- Better, broader and faster results in international drug control can only be achieved when the entire society is actively involved in countering substance abuse - the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was told at its opening session today. The CND is meeting for its forty-seventh session in Vienna this week.

“If we put together income and social trends, public health factors, detection and treatment approaches, together with perceptions and the need to show results, one message emerges, loud and clear:  the greater and the wider the commitment of society to drug control, the greater the likelihood of success,”  said Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in his opening remarks.

The Commission is considering the world situation in drug production, trafficking and abuse.

Mr. Costa reiterated last year’s assessment that “important progress is being made towards the still distant goals” set at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 1998. The Assembly called for a significant reduction of both supply of, and demand for illicit drugs.

On the positive side, Mr. Costa stressed a sizeable reduction of opium and coca cultivation in Asia and the Andean countries. In Colombia, coca cultivation has been reduced by 30 per cent, while in the Golden Triangle, if current achievements are sustained, illicit cultivation of the opium poppy will be eradicated.

Afghanistan, as the world’s largest producer of opiates, remains a special challenge. The country devastated by more than two decades of war, needs continuing support in implementing its new national drug control strategy aimed at eradication of opium cultivation within the 10-year timeframe.

“Dismantling Afghanistan’s opium economy with the instruments of democracy, rule of law and development will be a long and complex process,” Mr. Costa said, warning that “as long as demand persists at over 4,000 tonnes of opium a year and trading profits therefore remain (one gram of heroin sells in Kabul at US$ 1 at source, but retails in Europe at US$ 100) illicit opium will be produced somewhere – whether in Afghanistan or not.”

“The conclusion is clear: supply control measures must be accompanied by efforts to curb abuse,” the Chief of UNODC said.  

A similar, uneven picture, has been presented on drug abuse trends. On the positive side – the United Nations registered a notable reduction in cocaine and heroine abuse in some major markets in North America and Western Europe; on the negative side – new markets have emerged in Eastern Europe, Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States areas and in China, while cocaine and heroin abuse are growing along the drug trafficking routes in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mr. Costa drew the Commission’s attention to injecting drug abuse as an emerging major public health problem threatening to spread HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases from drug abusers to the general public. The Commission has included the challenge posed by HIV/AIDS in the context of drug abuse as a special item of this week’s agenda. UNODC has pointed to the following major challenges:

  • HIV/AIDS prevention and care services reach only five per cent of injecting drug abusers worldwide;
  • The risk of HIV among drug injecting prison population remains unacceptably high;
  • Prevention efforts among the drug abusing sex workers remain insufficient; and
  • The nexus between trafficking in human beings and HIV/AIDS has not been adequately addressed.

This week’s CND session opens with a thematic debate on synthetic drugs and control of precursor chemicals used in the production of illicit drugs. The 2003 UNODC Global Survey on Ecstasy and Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS) revealed that all countries are affected by ATS, either as consumers or producers or both. Abuse is spreading, affecting an estimated 40 million people regardless of age, gender, nationality or income.

“Since 1998, all indicators – seizures of laboratories, equipment, precursor and finished products as well as reports about abuse – show that the ATS market is changing in depth, breadth and shape. Current production is estimated at 500 tonnes per year, and is growing in size and sophistication,” the UNODC Survey said.

Following the Joint Ministerial Declaration – approved by 146 Governments and 75 ministers attending the last year’s CND session – the Commission is expected to reiterate the importance of multilateral efforts and the member states’ continuing commitment to preserve and strengthen the international drug control regime.

In today’s opening session, Ms. Anika Söder, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden presented the country’s new national drug control strategy, based on full support for the United Nations counter-narcotic efforts. Campaigning against drugs is a priority issue for the Swedish development assistance in 2004.

The CND has elected the following officers for its forty-seventh session:

Chairman – Alfred T. Moleah (South Africa), First Vice-Chairman – T.P. Sreenivasan (India), Second Vice-Chairman – Istvan Horvath (Hungary), Third Vice-Chairman – Aydin Sahinbas (Turkey) and Rapporteur – Silvia Wohlers de Meie (Guatemala).

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