International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)

Statement of the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Mr. Werner Sipp, Reconvened fifty-eighth session of the CND Special segment: Preparation for the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem in 2016 Vienna, 9 December 2015

Views and priorities of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in the lead-up to UNGASS 2016
Briefing to Permanent Missions to the United Nations (Vienna) by Werner Sipp, President of the Board
Vienna, 11 November 2015

Implementation of a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach to addressing the world drug problem
Different dimensions of the world drug problem affect countries in diverse ways, to the extent that not only is the problem perceived differently but it can also have a different impact in each country. Since the 1990s, all political declarations, action plans and resolutions adopted under the auspices of the United Nations to address the world drug problem in general have identified the following prerequisites for successful action in tackling the drug phenomenon: full compliance with, and universal application of, the provisions of the three international drug control conventions; and the implementation of two fundamental principles, namely common and shared responsibility and a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach to addressing it. None of these elements represents an incitement to an undefined "war on drugs", nor do any of them impose a purely prohibitionist regime or in any way condone violations of human rights. The ultimate goal of the international drug control conventions is the health and welfare of humankind. However, the Board has identified, and continues to identify various gaps and challenges in implementing the international drug conventions. In response, the Board has made recommendation in order to assist Member States with the implementation of balanced and comprehensive approach, which encompasses the following elements: the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, the adoption of demand reduction, treatment and rehabilitation measures, supply reduction initiatives, the integration of socioeconomic and sociocultural aspects in the design of drug control measures and the maintenance of security and stability.

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The "globalization" of the drug abuse problem
Some decades ago, the abuse problem was the concern of only a limited number of countries, but today countries that are not suffering from the harmful consequences of drug abuse are the exception rather than the rule. While drug abuse has been "globalized", internationalization and cooperation among drug cartels have also increased. Drug trafficking syndicates are increasingly becoming involved in other forms of organized and violent crime, making use of sophisticated technology and modern communication systems. The distinction once made between "producer", "transit" and "consumer" countries has become obsolete. Consequently, without reducing availability and access to drugs of abuse in general, it is not realistic to expect demand reduction efforts to have a lasting impact. The Board invites Governments to consider demand reduction as one of their first priorities in the fight against drug abuse and provides specific recommendations regarding the essential elements for successful implementation. It also acknowledges that the expansion of transnational and organized crime has compounded the problem of corruption and money-laundering and refers to relevant United Nation's activities/efforts of the international community as reference point. In light of these developments, strengthening cooperation within the United Nations system, in other international and intergovernmental organizations on drug control matters is of vital importance.

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Primary prevention of drug abuse
Policy makers are increasingly looking to demand reduction to tackle the world drug problem. However, Governments need to bring primary prevention to the forefront as it has considerable potential to reduce drug demand. Primary prevention is directed at populations not currently using or not seriously involved with drugs. Such populations are much larger than those targeted by secondary and tertiary prevention; hence their potential for reducing rates of drug use is significant. Relevant information for primary prevention includes information on the prevalence of drug use, the age of first drug use, gender differences, factors linked to the use and non-use of drugs and the socio-cultural context of drug use. The interplay of "risk factor" and "protective factor" serves to increase or decrease the likelihood of drug use, which include: personal factors, family factors, social factors, gender factors, school factors, community and societal factors. Primary prevention strategies need to ensure that attention is given to both whole populations as well as targeted populations. The greatest challenge of primary prevention may be to clearly organize and account for the range of linkages that need to be a part of an effective primary prevention plan. Therefore, the Board has elaborated a number of recommendations to ensure the implementation of effective primary prevention measures.

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Integration of supply and demand reduction strategies: moving beyond a balanced approach
The ultimate goal of both supply and demand reduction strategies is the same: to minimize or eliminate the use and abuse of illicit drugs. If that goal is attained, the development of substance use disorders and the health and social problems associated with them will also be reduced. The Board has examined factors within the illicit and licit drug market that affect the complex interaction between the supply of and demand for illicit drugs. The effectiveness of demand reduction programmes and their interaction with supply reduction programmes can be enhanced through the use of evidence-based strategies embodied in national and international guidelines. The need for a balanced and integrated approaches at all levels, combining components of supply and demand reduction in multidisciplinary programmes, which have a synergistic effect and can be cost-effective needs to be reemphasized. However, in order to achieve that objective, a number of obstacles must be overcome.

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The principle of proportionality and drug-related offences
There exists a wide variety of approaches between countries and regions in towards drug-related offences and offenders which have an impact on the way the drug control conventions are implemented. Penalties for similar offences may vary greatly in severity. Also the nature and extent of the drug problem appears to vary from one country or region to another. States therefore attempt to address the drug problem based on their perception of the reality and extent of the problem, as well as on the resources available for addressing it. The conventions allow for a multitude of different approaches by states to address drug-related offences but also require these measures to be proportionate. The international drug control conventions encourage and facilitate proportionate responses by States to drug-related offences and offenders. Disproportionate responses undermine the aims of the conventions and undermine the rule of law. The Board therefore calls on Governments to comprehensively review the responses by their legislative, judicial and executive branches of government to drug-related offences, in order to ensure that they are proportionate, and to take appropriate corrective action as required.

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The international drug control conventions: history, achievements and challenges
In the course of the twentieth century international drug control has evolved and adapted to new challenges. Some of the challenges are addressed within the conventions; other challenges were not envisaged at the time the conventions were being drawn up, yet they affect the capacity of Governments to implement the conventions. The Board has analysed those challenges, how Governments are responding to them and what further action they might wish to take. The challenges include: health-related challenges, legal challenges, the challenge of drug abuse prevention and the challenge of globalization. The primary health challenge is to ensure the availability of controlled drugs for medical and scientific purposes and to prevent the non-medical use of those drugs. Meeting those obligations constitutes a major challenge for all Governments, but it is particularly difficult for less developed countries. The reasons are varied and complex and may relate to longstanding cultural traditions. In regards to legal challenges the Board's position on "harm reduction", the coca leaf, human rights and cannabis is elaborated upon. Concerning prevention one of the greatest challenge is for all Governments to understand what prevention policies work and why, therefore the Board notes factors that make such programmes most effective. Challenges posed by an increasingly globalized world are the deregulation and liberalization of commercial practices, illegal Internet pharmacies, counterfeit drugs and cybercrime. Despite these emerging challenges, the conventions continue to be highly relevant.

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Drugs, crime and violence: the microlevel impact
The impact of illicit drugs, crime and violence is highly damaging to local communities at the microsocial level, as members of those communities live in the midst of illicit drug markets, where crime and violence, and the threat they pose are omnipresent. The Board has, in the past, examined possible causal explanations for a drugs/crime nexus, which can be divided in explanations focusing on the individual and on the social and cultural factors. Young people often play a key role either as perpetrators or as victims of drug-related crime at the community level. Therefore, there is a need to target young people in an effort to combat serious social problems. The response of local law enforcement, in partnership with community organizations, to the problems of microlevel violent crime and drug abuse is critical to the development of cultural of violence. The Board stresses a variety of features that interventions aiming at deterring and combatting violent drug-related crime should generally include. Only with the introduction of a comprehensive set of measures, which accurately reflect an understanding of the particulars of different markets as context-specific as well as the framework of the international drug control treaties, will real progress be made.

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Drugs and corruption
Intimidation and corruption are the most effective tools used by organized criminal groups to counter the drug control efforts of Governments and of law enforcement agencies. Corruption is a pernicious phenomenon that has a deep and detrimental effect on people, societies and social institutions. It contributes to the weakening of law enforcement and criminal justice institutions as well as constituting a threat to national and international security and stability. Corruption and the illicit drug trade are inter-related in mutually reinforcing cycles. "Narco-corruption" allows some criminal organizations to perpetrate their illicit activities, to operate with relative impunity and to derive maximum profit from illicit drug markets. A major challenge is posed by the ability of criminal organizations to quickly adjust to new drug control and law enforcement tactics and approaches. For international drug control efforts to be more effective, they must be better coordinated and aligned with broader strategies to control organized crime and to limit the damaging effects of drug-related corruption to ensure more effective implementation of the international drug control conventions. With this in mind, the Board has identified practical measures and strategies for Governments, particular agencies involved in drug control activities.

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Freedom from pain and suffering
Adequate availability and remaining obstacles were considered by the States parties to the 1961 Convention and the 1971 Convention as complementary, reflecting humanitarian considerations owing to the need to provide relief for pain and suffering and the need to protect the individual and society form drug dependence and its detrimental consequences. The Board has repeatedly stated that the emphasis should be put on facilitating the supply of licit drugs to underdeveloped areas. The treaty system has proven its efficacy and adaptability to the changing global environment which has often posed challenges to its effective implementation at the national level. In spite of the progress made towards meeting treaty objectives, relatively few countries in the world have an adequate drug supply management system and working mechanisms that ensure reliable, need-based assessment, equitable availability and cost-effectiveness. The availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes depends on many factors external and internal to the drug distribution systems and adjustments, the latter being the focus of the Board's considerations and recommendations for improvement.

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Overconsumption of internationally controlled drugs
Disparities in the availability and consumption of licit narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances continue to persist globally. Although  the inadequate availability of drugs may deprive patients of their fundamental rights and the opportunity for relief from pain, the excessive  and insufficiently regulated availability of drugs may result in the diversion of such drugs to illicit trafficking and in drug abuse, leading to drug dependence and unnecessary suffering. The abuse potential and risk of diversion makes a close balance between national supply of drug and medical (and scientific) needs particularly relevant for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Developing and developed countries are often impacted by very different factors and variables when determining medical needs and adjusting drug supply. In order to avoid to overconsumption of internationally controlled drugs the Board suggested a number of ways in which the national drug requirements may be assessed. Due to renewed popularity of certain substances, persistent national efforts tailored to national/local realities and new developments, complemented by international control remain essential.

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Alternative development and legitimate livelihoods
Alternative development is, in the conventional sense, a drug control strategy to reduce or eliminate the illicit supply of drugs derived from illicitly cultivated plants. However, there is increasing recognition that these boundaries need to be broadened in terms of "alternative livelihood" to integrate both drug supply and demand. Concerned parties need to ensure that all communities affected by the illicit drug economy both in rural and urban areas-are provided with legitimate livelihoods that are both viable and sustainable in the long term. A truly comprehensive concept of alternative development would include a variety of measure from the cultivation of alternative crops over the development of infrastructure, education and health care to provide adequate security. Alternative livelihood strategies are implemented under the most difficult conditions and the Board recommends more comprehensive analyses of regional and country-based dynamics of the illicit drug economy. Governments, the United Nations and other organizations should integrate alternative development into their broader development programmes. A transition from the current "project-by-project" approach to long-term strategies for the provision of legitimate alternative livelihood is necessary to enhance its relevance as an international drug control strategy.

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Control of Precursors  
(a) Making precursor control fit for 2019 and beyond - a contribution to the special session of the General Assembly in 2016 (INCB Report on Precursors 2014)  Arabic  | Chinese  | English , French  | Russian  | Spanish

(b) Action to enhance international precursor control (INCB Report on Precursors 2013)  Arabic  | Chinese  | English  | French  | Russian  | Spanish

(c) Challenges in international precursor control (INCB Report on Precursors 2012)  Arabic  | Chinese  | English  | French  | Russian  | Spanish

(d) Twenty years of international precursor control: progress and challenges (INCB Report on Precursors 2011)  Arabic  | Chinese  | English  | French  | Russian  | Spanish

(e) Use of non-scheduled substances in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (2010 Annual Report)  Arabic  | Chinese  | English  | French  | Russian  | Spanish

(f) Proposed measures against the misuse of scheduled and non-scheduled precursors and new psychoactive substances (NPS) (Outcome of the International Conference on precursor chemicals and new psychoactive substances,  Bangkok, 21-24 April 2015)  English  

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