INCB Annual Report for 2010 identifies global, regional and local trends in narcotics production, trafficking and use

Pretoria - 4 March 2011

The era of globalization has brought about profound changes in almost all spheres of life, positive, like technological innovations, but also negative. This dark side of globalization, according to Prof. Makhanya, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of South Africa (UNISA), can be observed everywhere locally, for example in Sunnyside in Pretoria where drugs are readily available, regionally and globally. Developments like this and others are reported upon by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its Annual Report 2010.
The INCB was established as an independent and quasi-judicial expert and monitoring body with the so-called Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. Its mandate is "to endeavour to limit the cultivation, production, manufacture and use of drugs to an adequate amount required for medical and scientific purposes, to ensure their availability for such purposes and to prevent illicit cultivation, production and manufacture of, and illicit trafficking in and use of, drugs." As part of these efforts the INCB publishes its Annual Reports, in which a comprehensive account of the global drug situation, analysis of trends in drug abuse and drug trafficking, and suggestions of necessary remedial action are given.

Annual Report Launch 2011 in Pretoria

The latest report was released on 2 March 2011 and its official launch in South Africa was held at UNISA on 4 March, organized by UNODC Southern Africa. The guests, members of the diplomatic corps, the South African Police Service, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks), Community Policing Forums and civil society, were greeted by a welcome note by Prof. Makhanya and Dr. Elisabeth Bayer, Acting Regional Representative of UNODC Southern Africa. The Report itself was presented by Dr. Naidoo, South African member of the INCB, while Dr. Bayever of the South African Central Drug Authority (CDA) spoke about the South African situation (see programme here).

Anwar Dramat (DPCI), Dr. Naidoo (INCB), Dr. Bayer (UNODC), Dr. Bayever (CDA), Chris van De Burgh (UNODC)

Cocaine smuggling through Africa to Europe on the rise again

On the regional situation in Africa the Report states that cannabis remains the most widely produced, trafficked and abused drug. Cannabis use in Africa is as high as double the global average and in a worrying trend the abuse of almost all types of drugs has increased over recent years. However, Africa's role in the global drug trade is more that of a trans-shipment region. East Africa is a major transit route for trafficking heroin from Asia to Africa. For the past several years, particularly West Africa has been used by drug traffickers as trans-shipment area for large quantities of cocaine from South America to Europe. After a decline in 2008-2009 the volume of smuggling is now on the increase again.

South Africa is becoming an important hub for cocaine shipments destined for illicit markets in Southern Africa and Europe. During the event the South African situation was further addressed by Dr. Bayever, who first pointed to the recent State of the Nation Address by President Jacob Zuma, in which he recognized drug abuse and trafficking as a serious challenge and promised to put more effort into fighting abuse and trafficking. He further emphasised that substance abuse is one of the primary underlying causes of crime, violence, HIV/Aids and poverty - and not its result. Therefore, the CDA wants to make sure that fighting substance abuse becomes a national strategic priority and includes supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction.

Special Focus

Aside from general global and regional trends, the Report focuses on several other issues. The first issue addressed is the damaging effects of drug-related corruption.

"Nothing has the same damaging effect on the efforts to combat drug trafficking as the successful attempts of criminal organizations to intimidate and corrupt public officials." (Hamid Ghodse, the President of the INCB)

Corruption is used by drug traffickers strategically and systematically to ensure an unimpeded flow of illicit drugs. While its prevalence is not easy to measure, its detrimental effect on the credibility and efficiency of the criminal justice system, as well as the rule of law, are easy to spot. Especially developing countries and societies in post-conflict situations are vulnerable to corruption. The INCB suggests strategies and preventive measures to tackle drug-related corruption, including, inter alia, the establishment of efficient, transparent and objective recruitment systems for public officials, particularly those working in drug control.

A second issue, highlighted in the Report and further elaborated upon during Dr. Naidoo's presentation is the escalation of so-called designer drugs. These drugs are manufactured by slightly altering the molecular structure of one controlled substance, to the effect that the new substance, with similar effects, can circumvent national and international control measures. The problem of detecting and adjusting to these new substances fast enough was also echoed by members of the South African law-enforcement community present at the event in Pretoria. Dr. Naidoo emphasized that every new drug that enters the market needs to be understood and studied individually in order to develop proper and effective control and treatment measures, which in South Africa however is hindered by a lack of independent research and funding.

"INCB not the International Narcotics Prohibition Board" (Dr. Naidoo)

The issue of the availability of internationally controlled substances, for example pain-relief drugs, is dealt with in a separate special report and was highlighted by Dr. Naidoo during his presentation. These substances are indispensable for medical practice and the INCB is working towards increasing their availability for medical and scientific use on the one hand, and preventing their diversion and abuse on the other. The availability of these substances is particularly low in Africa, which only accounts for 0.2% of the global consumption of morphine based pain relief medication (South Africa still has one of the highest consumption rates in Africa).

Lastly, as Dr. Naidoo emphasized, there are not only bad news in the fight against drugs. The increasing cooperation of states, among each other and with organisations such as the INCB, their increased efforts to fulfil their international obligations, as well as the proactive indispensable work of NGOs and civil society, are examples of the good news in the global efforts.

To read and download the full INCB Annual Report 2010, as well as the Special Report and Technical Reports click here.