Director General/Executive Director
Opinion Piece ( AsianCorrespondent.com)
Drug conventions the best tools to fight the spread of illicit drugs
Yes genuine challenges exist, but the international drug conventions are containing the spread of illicit drugs. They are the best tools we have, but they must be used properly.
Recently, in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, away from the glare of the hot Brazilian sun, I listened intently to the stories of individuals who had experienced drug trafficking and violence as a way of life. I found their stories powerfully compelling. One of them informed me that the hardest task was to find his path back to society, family, and friends.
The release of UNODC's flagship World Drug Report 2013 on 26 th June, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, allows us to reflect on the path we are following to protect those same societies and families from illicit drugs. Based on the report, around 240 million people across the world used an illicit drug at least once in 2012. Of those, 27 million are problem drug users.
In Europe, heroin use appears to be declining and this is reflected globally with around 16 million people, or 0.4 per cent of the global population aged 15-64 using this drug last year. However, the cocaine market seems to be expanding in South America and spreading towards the emerging economies in Asia. Africa is a target for the trafficking as well as the production of illicit substances, although firm data remains scarce.
In terms of production, Afghanistan retained its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally. In 2012, it produced 75 per cent of the world's global illicit opium. Estimates of cocaine production range from 776 to 1,051 tons in 2011, and are largely unchanged from a year earlier.
Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance. Amphetamine-type stimulant use is widespread with Methamphetamine pills the most predominant form of ATS in East and South-East Asia. But the growth of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is the most alarming development. The number of NPS reported to UNODC has risen by 50 per cent and for the first time, their number exceeds the 234 substances under international control.
There can be no doubt that the international drug control conventions are helping to contain and stabilize the level of drug consumption. At the same time, concerns are being raised regarding their interpretation.
These concerns include violence generated by illicit drug trafficking, in particular, in Central America, which is so damaging to some nations; the unique problems posed by new, but deadly psychoactive substances; and the fact that some national laws and practices are vulnerable to human rights' violations.
Every one of these problems is generating discussion about the best way forward when confronting the world's drug problem. But, the real issue is not to amend the Conventions, but to implement them according to their original spirit and intention.
A move in the right direction is to recognize that the Conventions were created to protect the health and welfare of us all. UNODC is promoting a balanced approach founded on fundamental human rights and science-based prevention and treatment for problem drug users. We also need to convince countries to treat problem drug users as victims and patients who need our support.
No one can afford to ignore the many challenges we have, and UNODC is doing everything possible to work with Member States to confront these issues. Still, the international drug conventions are the best tools in the toolbox. We just need to make sure they are properly implemented for the health and welfare of all.
This opinion piece first appeared on the news website: AsianCorrespondent.com