Drug Trafficking: a $32 billion business affecting communities globally

Drug trafficking - the global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws is estimated to be a $32 billion industry. The recently launched UNODC campaign on transnational organized crime highlights that drug trafficking continues to be the most lucrative form of business for criminals worldwide. Drug trafficking flows have global dimensions linking regions and continents, sometimes with dramatic consequences for the countries they affect.

Emphasizing the key financial and social costs of transnational organized crime, the campaign has been developed to raise awareness on issues like drug trafficking, counterfeiting of goods, human trafficking and environmental crimes.

According to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Report, there has been an increase in the abuse and trafficking of prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs in South Asia. Many of these drugs are obtained in local pharmacies.

The report also points out that abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants in the region is increasing. International drug trafficking organizations continue to use South Asia as a base for the illicit manufacture and trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants, largely because of the wide availability of precursor chemicals in the region.

The abuse of drugs by injection is also on the rise in South Asia and has reached significant proportions in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

The global drug trafficking market is constantly evolving, undermining economic and social development and contributing to crime, instability, insecurity and the spread of HIV.

A key message of the campaign is driving action against transnational organized crime. It calls not just on Government authorities to act, but also highlights the role of communities and individuals.

Some of the steps that the campaign suggests in tackling transnational organized crime, like drug trafficking include:

Coordination: integrated action at the international level is crucial in identifying, investigating and prosecuting the people and groups behind these crimes.

Education and awareness-raising: citizens should learn more about organized crime and how it affects everyday lives. Express your concerns to policy and decision makers so that this global threat is considered by politicians to be a top priority among the public's major concerns.

Intelligence and technology: criminal justice systems and conventional law enforcement methods are often no match for powerful criminal networks. Better intelligence methods need to be developed through the training of more specialized law enforcement units, which should be equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Assistance: developing countries need assistance in building their capacity to counter these threats.

As the guardian of the three international drug control treaties namely,

  1. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol
  2. Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971
  3. United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988

UNODC continues to build international cooperation to help Member States respond to this global threat.

Resources like the annually published World Drug Report present comprehensive information on the illicit drug situation. It provides detailed estimates and trend analysis on production, trafficking and consumption in the opium/heroin, coca/cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants markets.

In South Asia, UNODC assists countries to frame legislation, rules and regulations to strengthen drug law enforcement capacities. Emphasis is laid on building capacities of law enforcement agencies from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka to enable them to detect and prevent diversions of precursors from licit trade, as well as through smuggling. They are also trained to conduct follow up investigations to identify sources and apprehend traffickers.

The UNODC - led campaign can be viewed at: www.unodc.org/toc

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Click here for more information on UNODC and Drug Trafficking



World Drug Report, UNODC 2011

World Drug Report, UNODC 2012

Annual Report, INCB 2011