Remarks of UNODC Executive Director on "Prevention Strategy and Policy Makers"
9 October 2012
Minister for International Cooperation Riccardi,
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, De Mistura,
Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I wish to thank the Italian Government for permitting us to organize the meeting "Prevention Strategy and Policy Makers. A Solidarity Consortium," and for supporting the initiative we are launching today.
This meeting is the start of a process on how we can translate the provisions of the international drug conventions into more firm and targeted actions to protect the health of people.
Together, UNODC, other UN entities and Member States are striving to provide a balanced approach to illicit drugs.
An approach that focuses on demand reduction and seeks to deliver treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration for those suffering from drug addiction.
And, we are motivated by a strong sense of urgency.
Drug use is a youth problem in most countries.
Prevalence rates increase through the teenage years and peak among persons aged 18 to 25.
With age, these rates decline, but for some the experience with drugs has become a crushing weight on their lives.
Although, in past years, we have seen some progress, the situation is serious. Cannabis use among young people in North America, Africa and Asia may be on the increase.
Ecstasy remains popular, particularly in affluent societies.
Amphetamine-type stimulants continue to be a major problem in Asia, including among young people. And the non-medical use of prescription drugs is increasing in many parts of the world.
But there are also some positive signs.
We know that where there are decreases in the number of young people starting to use drugs or abuse substances, common factors exist.
And these common factors are:
• A strong political leadership with clear policy lines and resources allocated for drug prevention;
• Consistent and sustained measures throughout all levels of society to prevent drug use;
• Prevention policies and interventions that restrict availability, as well as offering effective care and treatment.
• Prevention policies and interventions that address the individual and environmental factors which place people at risk of starting to use drugs.
In short, an integrated national prevention system.
I am often asked: what can we do to stop young people from starting to take drugs?
Today, UNODC is launching, together with the Department for Anti-Drug Policies of Italy, a new Initiative to prevent drug use.
The initiative will disseminate UNODC's International Standards on Drug Use Prevention.
I hope that it will go some way to answering the question that I have just posed.
We will use these standards to improve the national prevention systems of their countries.
Perhaps we are too ambitious in developing these standards, but we are compelled to act, and to act now.
Indeed, the factors that place people at risk of using drugs are diverse throughout the world, as are the structures and resources available to prevent it.
In many cases, the resources for drug prevention are extremely scarce.
However, there is a source of hope for all of us working in this field - and that is the science-based evidence that drug prevention works.
We know that there are policies and interventions effective in preventing people from starting to use drugs and ruining their lives.
As a result, we know that we have a means of returning to people a future many believed they would never have.
Drug prevention is also incredibly cost effective. For every dollar spent, we save at least 10 dollars in terms of future health and the costs of crime.
Drug prevention interventions at an early stage can help reduce the number of people in prison, improve security and safety, and reduce the mental health burden, among others.
Finally, drug prevention leads to demand reduction and may have an impact on the supply side, thus reducing illicit drug trafficking and organized crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both our duty and our obligation to continue the daily battle to convince others that investment in prevention is worthwhile.
We must continue to be "wise investors" and to work collectively to generate the political will to invest more in prevention.
If we fail, the biggest losers will not be us, they will be the children, youth and vulnerable people who so badly need our assistance.
Therefore, let our solidarity today be the stepping stone towards a better future for those suffering from drug addiction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish you the very best with your meeting and I look forward to reviewing the results in the near future.