Yury Fedotov

Director-General/Executive Director

A New Strategy and New Partnerships for Drug Control

Commission on Narcotic Drugs 54th Session

Vienna , 21 March 2011

Madam Chair,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you to Vienna for the Commission's 54 th session. I hope that your deliberations and decisions will contribute to a more consolidated response by the international community to the global drug threat.

I would like to thank Her Excellency Ambassador Veronika Kuchynová Smigolová of the Czech Republic , Chair of the Commission, and the Bureau for all their work preparing for this session.

I also extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the people of Japan in this time of hardship and mourning. The United Nations stands ready to help as Japan addresses the challenges of recovery.

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This year is the 50 th anniversary of the keystone of the international drug control system: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Some critics say this Convention is out of date, but I disagree. The provisions of the Convention remain valid, as does its central focus on the protection of health. I urge the international community to rejuvenate the Convention, and I encourage Member States to rededicate yourselves to implementing its provisions.

Two years ago, this Commission issued a Political Declaration reaffirming your commitment to a multilateral effort to reduce the supply and demand for illicit drugs. You called for a balanced and comprehensive approach and you established 2019 as the target date for eliminating or substantially reducing:

These were and are ambitious objectives. But I believe it is important to aim high. For the sake of public health, for the sake of security, and for the sake of sustainable development, we must continue working together towards these objectives. We must redouble our efforts. I believe that ultimately we can achieve these goals.

Although illicit cultivation of coca and opium is now limited to a few countries, production levels remain high. Indeed, between 1998 and 2009, global production of opium rose almost 80 percent. The market for cocaine has not been eliminated or significantly reduced, it has simply experienced geographical shifts in supply and demand.

So, if we are to make real progress against heroin and cocaine, and I trust we really can do it, we must continue to address illicit cultivation in a more meaningful and coordinated way.

We have many tools at our disposal, including alternative livelihoods. Governments and aid agencies must invest more in development, productive employment and increased security.

Crop eradication can also play a role, as a national responsibility with international support and assistance and in combination with programmes that help farmers shift to the cultivation of licit crops.

We must also develop new strategies for preventing the diversion of chemicals that are used to turn coca bush and poppies into cocaine and heroin. This is an area where we need to do more.

But we must also focus more on the demand side. Every year, about 200 million people use illicit drugs, and a quarter-million people die from drugs. Users destroy their own lives, and their families and friends suffer greatly. Children whose parents use drugs are themselves at greater risk of drug use and other risky behaviours. Drugs generate crime, street violence and other social problems that harm communities. They create dangerous challenges to public health, contributing, in particular, to the rapid spread of HIV and hepatitis. Abuse of prescription drugs is growing, new synthetic narcotics are being developed, and their use and abuse is spreading rapidly.

Demand reduction now receives more attention. There is growing recognition that we must draw a line between criminals, drug traffickers, and their victims, drug users; that drug dependence is a disease not a crime; and that treatment offers a far more effective cure than punishment. We are seeing progress in drug use prevention through family skills training. And more attention is being paid to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment and care.

As an essential part of demand reduction efforts, we need to more vigorously raise public awareness against narcotics, and facilitate healthy and fulfilling alternatives to the illicit consumption of drugs, which must not be accepted as a way of life.

At the same time we should not ignore that a key objective of the international drug control system is to guarantee the availability of controlled substances for medical purposes to people with cancer and other serious painful diseases. In this respect, the International Narcotics Control Board has proposed a wide range of practical recommendations which need our consideration.

Drug trafficking , as the critical link between supply and demand, poses a growing challenge to stability and security. The process of globalization is unfortunately contributing to the emergence of a global criminal enterprise of staggering proportions driven by illicit trade in drugs. Each year, drug lords earn an estimated $320 billion dollars.

Let me put that figure into perspective. According to the IMF, 152 out of 181 countries have a GDP that is less than $320 billion dollars - and in most cases, far less. In other words, it means that drug traffickers control the 30 th largest economy in the world. And every dollar they earn is a dollar stolen from people and diverted from the goals of development.

Today, the illicit drugs market spans the planet. Drugs are sourced from one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed in a third. Drug traffickers and organized criminals are forming transnational networks, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions. And as a result, we are witnessing more and more acts of violence, conflicts and terrorist activities fuelled by drug trafficking and organized crime.

In some countries and regions, the financial value of the illicit drug market exceeds by far the size of their legitimate economies. Given the enormous amounts of money that drug traffickers control, they have the capacity to corrupt officials and even buy off judges. In recent years we have seen several such cases in which ministers and heads of national law enforcement agencies have been implicated.

In the face of such diverse and complex challenges, it is time to seriously rethink our global strategy on drug control.

First . We must build on widespread recognition among Member States and UN entities that drugs, together with organized crime, jeopardize the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Drug control must become an essential element of our joint efforts to achieve health, security and development.

Second . We must ensure that supply and demand reduction efforts work together rather than in parallel.

Third . We must make more effective use of the powerful international legal instruments at our disposal: not only the Drug Conventions, but also the Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption. The power of the Conventions and existing law enforcement and judicial networks can be mobilized to step up international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting drug traffickers, combating money laundering, and identifying, freezing and confiscating criminal assets.

In this respect, several Member States contribute a portion of criminal assets they seize to UNODC to support our work. I welcome this and I invite more Member States to do it.

Fourth .  A comprehensive and integrated approach can also help us to confront the threat from drugs more effectively. UNODC's integrated field programmes continue to serve as regional and national hubs of action and expertise.

Afghanistan provides  a good example of UNODC's integrated strategy in action. To confront the problem of Afghan opium, UNODC helped to launch a number of mechanisms, including the Paris Pact, the Triangular Initiative and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre. UNODC is now establishing solid country programmes under the umbrella of the new Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries. We hope to launch this action-oriented regional strategy later this year. In implementing it, in partnership with all regional and subregional organizations and structures, we have to realize that drug control is a shared responsibility. The resources of the countries on the frontlines are stretched to the limit and they need the international community's help.

We are already seeing the first fruits of this enhanced regional counter-narcotic cooperation. Earlier this month, the Triangular Initiative's partners coordinated joint operations that resulted in seizures of hundreds of kilograms of heroin, opium, morphine and hashish. A number of traffickers were arrested. These joint operations demonstrate the Triangular Initiative's success in building mutual trust and confidence among its partners.

I am very pleased with last week's decision by the Paris Pact's policy consultative group to convene a 3 rd Ministerial Conference later this year. I urge all partners to ensure that the Conference's outcome document will vigorously address all aspects of the impact of the drug threat originating from Afghanistan.

I welcome the French Government initiative to tackle the global cocaine market that will be launched at a ministerial meeting in Paris in May. It will be built on the lessons of the Paris Pact with the aim of developing a unified response to the entire cocaine market.

West Africa is rapidly turning into a major transit point for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine destined for Europe. This region, which includes some of the poorest countries in the world and many emerging from devastating conflicts, demands the international community's urgent attention. UNODC recently launched a Regional Programme for West Africa that provides a strong and flexible framework for cooperation with the ECOWAS countries, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the Peacebuilding Commission, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the International Organization for Migration and other partners.

These examples underscore another important point: in order to be more effective, we need to build new partnerships in confronting the global drug problem. Governments and civil society must work together. States have to join forces in promoting regional cooperation.

Fifth . The UN needs a system-wide approach to tackling both drugs and crime. Such a step reflects the spirit of One UN, but it is also a practical necessity if we are to make real headway against this global, hydra-headed threat. Just two weeks ago, this was discussed for the first time in the Policy Committee of the Secretary-General, which decided to develop a UN system-wide response to illicit drugs and organized crime.

UNODC has already begun to integrate our work with other UN partners, including the WHO, UNDP and UNAIDS, to name just a few. We just launched a Joint Plan of Action with DPKO to strengthen the excellent partnership we have developed in recent years to integrate drug and crime control into UN peacekeeping and peace-building missions. But we also need to work more closely with the World Bank and other key partners such as Interpol and regional organizations.

Sixth . We need to strengthen research and analysis so that we can better understand the drug phenomenon and pinpoint areas where interventions are most likely to achieve positive results. The international community relies on UNODC for trend analysis (such as the annual World Drug Report), regional threat assessments and illicit crop surveys. UNODC research informs national and international drug and crime priorities and policies. It also provides a solid foundation of evidence for our own capacity-building initiatives.

Finally, the dilemma of UNODC's governance must be addressed . The effectiveness of the international drug control system depends on the guidance you give us and how well we deliver on our mandates. UNODC has two main governing bodies (the two Commissions), but we also receive mandates through the Conferences of Parties to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention against Corruption. Streamlining our governance structure would help Member States give us clearer operational and policy guidance.

On the financial side, UNODC faces a dangerous structural problem: the more demand for our services grows, the more precarious our core operations become. We are striving to do more with less, while ensuring that our work achieves positive results and is efficient and cost-effective. In this context, I am giving independent evaluation a key role in assuring quality and accountability for our projects. But in the long run, our funding structure is not viable. Without a proper and timely solution to our governance and financial challenges, UNODC will no longer be able to carry out our mandates effectively.

I will return to this issue in the Operational Segment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the months ahead, I intend to focus on the human dimension of our mandates: the victims of drug abuse, human trafficking, crime and corruption. To do this, we must continue our work strengthening the capacity of public institutions, but we must also rely on local administrations, local communities and grassroots social organizations to reach out to victims.

We must reinforce our commitment to the basic principles of health and human rights, shared responsibility, and a balanced approach to reducing demand and supply.

And we must strive for a better world - a world in which people have opportunities and hopes for the future; in which communities are free of drug-related crime and violence; in which Governments can provide for the health and safety of their citizens and govern effectively. Let us work together to build this world.

I thank you very much.