Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the opening of the VNGOC Civil Society Hearing during the 69th meeting of the 3rd Committee

New York, 10 October 2014

Deputy Secretary-General

Ambassador Shamaa,

Mr. Hörnberg,

Distinguished participants,

My thanks to the Vienna NGO Committee for this initiative and for the proactive leadership in bringing together a broad range of NGOs to discuss health-based approaches to drug use.

I am very glad that we have the opportunity here in UN Headquarters to continue the discussions we began in Vienna at the high-level review in March.

I have had the privilege of taking part in both informal civil society hearings with NGOs working on drug-related issues, and have met with the Vienna NGO Committee on many occasions.

I greatly value our interaction, and look forward to continuing this dialogue as we head towards the 2016 UNGASS.

As I emphasized in my presentation to the Third Committee yesterday, UNODC advocates for a re-balancing of international policy on drugs, to increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as economic, social and cultural measures, within the framework of the three international drug conventions, in full compliance with human rights standards.

What this means in practice is best illustrated with examples of the work that UNODC does on the ground to promote a health-based approach, rooted in the conventions, to address drug use and its consequences.

In Cambodia, for example, UNODC is helping to transition away from compulsory treatment of drug dependence towards evidence-based treatment. 

Along with WHO, we are supporting NGOs in three Cambodian provinces to deliver community-based services.

Much more still needs to be done, but even at this initial stage we can be proud of substantial improvements in the quality of life for the people reached. This experience has also been received very positively by government counterparts.

In 2013, almost 1,000 people affected by drug use and dependence received health care and treatment services.

170 NGO staff received training on evidence-based drug dependence treatment and care.

2,760 at-risk youth participated in discussions facilitated by the NGOs, and 2,200 people attended community awareness meetings.

These numbers seem small when you think that problem drug use afflicts some 27 million people globally. But these small steps can make a real difference in the lives of individuals and their families, and such successes can help to generate wider support for evidence-based approaches.

In Indonesia, we have engaged with parliamentarians in a consultative process focused on generating support for redirecting people who use drugs from the criminal justice system to other community-based treatment services.

Alongside this, we are working with Indonesia's national network of drug users to conduct training for community-based organizations, to better equip them to deliver evidence-based HIV services and advocate for alternatives to imprisonment.

In 2013 and 2014 UNODC organized workshops on evidence-based HIV prevention, treatment and care among people who inject drugs in 20 countries. We brought together key civil society and community-based organization representatives with law enforcement officials to work collaboratively to ensure harm reduction services reach the people who need them.

To date, this initiative has reached more than 450 law enforcement officials and nearly 300 civil society representatives. Eight more such workshops will be held by the end of this year.

In 2013, we also established the UNODC-Civil Society Organization Group on HIV and People who Use Drugs. This group of 17 members has been meaningfully engaged in identifying 24 high priority countries for intensified support by UNODC to implement harm reduction strategies.

This partnership has been cited as an example of best practice by numerous Member States and civil society organizations at the recent meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board in Geneva.

To support all this work, UNODC has developed the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention with the assistance of more than 80 experts from more than 30 countries, and we promote the standards through training for policymakers.

Providing support to parents and families can be one of the most effective means of preventing substance abuse and other risky behaviours.

Since 2010, we have reached more than 8,000 parents and children in 15 countries in West and Central Asia, Central America and Southeastern Europe through family skills training programmes.

The UNODC guide to implementing such programmes is available in several languages.

In Ghana, we have a pilot initiative with WHO and the Union for International Cancer Control to improve patients' access to controlled drugs.

The pilot is part of a global programme to promote access to controlled medicines to relieve pain and suffering, while preventing abuse and diversion. 

In 2013, UNODC partnered with some 382 civil society organizations and community-based organizations working with people who use drugs, in countries around the world.

We provided some five million dollars in direct and indirect support for HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs and in prison settings, and for drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

Although not exhaustive, these are examples of what UNODC means by balanced, integrated, comprehensive and coordinated action to address the world drug problem.

Of course, the initiatives to address demand are complemented by comprehensive, integrated efforts to contain supply, from supporting law enforcement to disrupt criminal trafficking networks to promoting alternative livelihoods.

Ladies and gentlemen,

NGOs remain crucial partners in responding to the many challenges posed by drugs, and I commend you for your dedication and commitment.

The UN System Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking co-chaired by UNODC and DPA has developed a Roadmap to provide inputs into UNGASS 2016 through participation in events and discussions leading to the Special Session.

One objective of the Roadmap is to encourage the adoption of best practices with respect to including civil society.

This inclusiveness has been a hallmark of the process led by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and its Chair Ambassador Shamaa to advance CND preparations for the 2016 UNGASS.

A dedicated website for the UNGASS preparations, ungass2016.org, has also been created for all stakeholders to contribute their views.

Finally, the project proposal by UNODC and the Vienna NGO Committee on the role of civil society in fostering social innovation may offer a promising basis for enabling NGO engagement in the UNGASS and leveraging the expertise of NGOs providing community-based services.

Thank you and I look forward to our discussions.