|UNITED NATIONS OFFICE|
FOR DRUG CONTROL AND CRIME PREVENTION
Address to the 42nd Commission on Narcotic Drugs
16 March 1999
Good morning. I would like to welcome you to the forty-second Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. I want to begin by extending my congratulations on the election of the new Chairman of the CND, Ambassador Amirkhizi of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is the first meeting of the CND since the U.N. General Assembly Special Session last June. Thanks to the commitments of all countries and the leadership role of Ambassador Mendonça, the CND helped to make 1998 a historic year.
The Special Session was like a gust of new wind into our sails. Governments dedicated themselves to reaching specific goals towards reducing the demand and supply of illegal drugs by 2008. And countries now believe that a significant reduction in drug abuse and production is possible in the next decade.
By all accounts, 1998 was one of the most important years in the history of international drug control. Countries and regions broke crop reduction records. Traditional consumer nations continued to show declines in abuse and drug-related crime. The international community has come a long way. For the first time -- there is a belief that if countries can sustain their drug control commitments, a better 21st century can be achieved.
While there are still skeptics who say it cannot be done, public opinion tells us otherwise. Decriminalization and legalization have been rejected as viable options. Anyone who has experienced drug abuse first-hand, or seen what it can do to a family member or friend, will tell you it is better to reduce the availability of drugs in society than to try to co-exist with the problem.
Using the "tools" to do the job
A year ago, I appealed to you, "to give us the tools and we will do the job." Today, I am pleased that your Governments have helped start this process. Our resources will increase this year, reversing a downward trend. There is good reason for the increase. The Special Session of the General Assembly last June gave us new mandates and responsibilities. The words in the Political Declaration and Action Plans hold great promise for reducing drug abuse and production. Now the time has come for results. And we are keenly aware that your eyes are upon us to help countries deliver on their words. Today, I want to talk about how UNDCP is rising to meet the challenge.
Long-term progress by reducing demand
I do not want to sugar coat the truth. While there are many favorable signs, we still have much work to do. It is estimated that between 3 and 4 per cent of the world population abuses drugs on a regular basis. More than 21 million people misuse heroin and cocaine. In recent years, the consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants, such as ecstasy, has increased to at least 30 million abusers worldwide.
But after years of experience, it is clear that no matter how many pushers we put in jail, shipments we seize, or fields we eradicate, drugs will continue to be produced as long as an appetite for them remains. Long-term progress will only come through a balanced approach.
Drug abuse has spread out in recent years, leaving no society untouched. Demand for plant-based narcotics has largely stagnated in developed countries, but it has skyrocketed in the developing world where drugs prices are well below the average international market value. For instance, a gram of heroin costs an average of 28 dollars in Nigeria, about one-twelfth of the price on the American market.
Every community has a responsibility. This is particularly true, because consumption does not follow the usual rules of supply and demand. Reducing demand signals a more permanent change. Only when people stop asking for narcotics, and our societies have accepted this change as non-negotiable, will the situation dramatically improve.
Assessing the magnitude of the drug problem
Governments at the Special Session -- for the first time -- adopted a Declaration on Demand Reduction which codified the balanced approach.
And I am pleased by your decision to transfer this Declaration into a Plan of Action.
However, only about 10 per cent of the world's nations have sufficient knowledge about the extent of their drug abuse situation. And since UNDCP´s estimates are largely based on information provided by governments, it's hard to design the most effective countermeasures.
In order to support your emphasis on demand reduction, we are expanding our efforts to share epidemiological expertise with governments. We have formulated a Global Programme on Assessing the Magnitude of Drug Abuse to assist countries to gather more accurate data on domestic drug abuse. We have set several realistic goals for participating countries:
It is our goal to obtain more reliable estimates of the magnitude of the drug problem in at least 100 countries. This would also help national drug control priorities and allow for more accurate counter measures.
Supply reduction: a blend of law enforcement and alternative development
When a country has the capacity to have detailed knowledge about its domestic drug situation, and it combines domestic political will, international support and societal pressure, the results can be tremendous. Countries such as -- Thailand, Bolivia, Vietnam, Turkey, Peru, Pakistan and Iran -- have made historic reductions in recent years. And the way each of these countries achieved success was through a complex blend measures; law enforcement, demand reduction, and strong alternative development are the three pillars of this success. This mixture is the key to effective supply reduction.
In recent years, UNDCP has helped eliminate opium poppy cultivation in countries where no one thought it could be done. In 1980, there were more than 800 tons of opium produced in Pakistan. Next month, I will travel there for a celebration in honor of the end of opium growing in the country.
In the region once known as the Golden Triangle, more than 150 tons of opium poppy have been eliminated because it no longer makes economic sense. For example, Thai farmers who used to make about 100 dollars a month growing opium make ten times that amount growing vegetables today. And they are enjoying the benefits of what the international community can provide: a better quality of life through integration into the broader economic and social system. This includes: roads, health care, schools and marketing of legal products.
The progress towards eliminating the coca bush in the Andean region has led to surge in growth and investment. Peru´s economy grew by 7 percent in 1997 and investment was almost a quarter of GDP. Similarly, the development of viable economic alternatives has led to a shrinking -- and less profitable piece of the economic pie for the dealers. In Bolivia, cocaine now accounts for an equivalent of just 3 percent of GDP, down from more than 9 percent just ten years ago. These are major victories that show why our strategy to eliminate illicit crops worldwide in ten years is plausible.
Actions since last June
Since last June, UNDCP has been developing business plans with the governments of the Andean region which outline a strategy for the elimination of illicit coca crops and the resources needed to accomplish it. The Bolivians are on a pace to reach "elimination" ahead of the Special Session mandate -- in five years not ten. But we must continue to help countries that have shown the political will to address their drug situation. After all, this was the ultimate objective of the Special Session. And it is why we recognize the need to be more resourceful.
Having specific knowledge about the extent of a domestic drug problem will motivate countries to take targeted actions. One of the other ways we are moving forward is by helping nations to take control of their own monitoring process. UNDCP is developing a plan which will empower producing countries to develop their own crop monitoring systems. The agreement we signed with the European Space Agency will enable them to take advantage of satellite remote-sensing technology. Our aim is two fold:
We have also been working with international financial institutions to make sure long-term resources will be available. Under an agreement UNDCP signed with the IDB earlier this year, the bank will give higher lending priority to programmes which address the illegal drug problem. And, in return, we will provide the bank with evaluations concerning money laundering and regional drug abuse trends to help the bank target its lending.
We hope to duplicate what we are doing with the IDB and the World Bank with other regional institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank and ASEAN.
Concepts that have worked well for us in the past, such as the promotion of regional cooperation, remain essential for future action. For example, following the ratification of the Southern Africa Development Community´s Protocol Against Drug Trafficking, we are in the final stages of reaching an agreement on joint cooperation and programming. We have also been supportive of the common drug control programme for the countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization, based in Iran. And we have launched a joint law enforcement programme with the EU for Southeastern Europe.
Finally, we take our responsibility to work with our sister U.N. organizations seriously. We are fully engaged in the U.N. strategic framework for Afghanistan, which targets drug control along with human and women´s rights as priority issues. Since drug abuse and AIDS are linked issues, we will soon become a sponsor of UNAIDS. We also continue to integrate our efforts into system-wide activities via such mechanisms as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework. And, of course, we enjoy an excellent working relationship with INCB.
The need for better public awareness
The Special Session gave international drug control a much needed boost in terms of positive publicity. As I have noted earlier, there are many ongoing success stories. Unfortunately, you do not hear much about them in the media, which tends to ignore the quiet, day-to-day triumphs. We have started a major effort to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and production. We are also trying to dispel the myth that drug control efforts are not effective.
But If I were to single out the most important under-reported development of the last fifteen years, I would say it was the breaking of the myth of invincibility of criminal cartels. Powerful Italian-American mafia groups are declining; the Cali and Medellin cartels have been destroyed when nobody believed it could be done; and the Sicilian Cosa Nostra is in pieces. But other small and middle-sized criminal groups have filled the gap. And they represent the next major challenge for us.
The Convention on Organized Crime: making life more difficult for traffickers
The work Governments are doing to adopt next year a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime will make life more difficult for the drug trafficker and those who profit from the selling of narcotics.
In a good year, law enforcement will recover about 500 million dollars -- or less than 1 percent of laundered drug money. Organized crime continues to use this dirty money to accumulate wealth, corrupt public officials and undermine the stability of whole countries.
It is time to extend to all countries the benefits of measures like confiscation of criminal assets, witness protection programmes and enhanced judicial cooperation. We have to reach the goal of abolishing bank secrecy in criminal investigations world-wide. And it is time to consider strong actions against criminals who abuse off-shore financial centres to launder their dirty money. There should not be safe havens for the profits of drug sales. A strong Convention will give all countries the means to address money laundering, asset forfeiture and judicial cooperation.
No time to get complacent: maintain the political and financial commitment
The international community has turned the corner and started down a path to a brighter future in drug control. Today, no one doubts that reducing drugs in society are an integral part of promoting economic development and good governance. And the results of the Special Session demand that the United Nations take a more vigorous role in bringing about positive results.
But now is not the time to become complacent. And while the political and financial commitments to international drug control seem brighter right now, there is no guarantee that resources will be available to meet future tests.
The Expert Group
The issue of our future resources was addressed by the work of the High Level Expert Group last year. Under the leadership of Chairman N.K. Singh, they reviewed a range of important issues, but let me comment on the issue of resources and governance.
Our level of general purpose funds has not kept pace with the earmarked increase of resources. UNDCP is one of the most earmarked programmes in the U.N. system. Approximately eighty percent of the Fund is donated by countries for specific programmes. While I favour a strengthened mechanism of governance in line with the Expert Group proposals, we should be clear on what it would achieve.
We should take care not to create additional administrative burdens on UNDCP, given the small amount of resources that can actually be "governed". If you establish a new governing body, what matters will it address? If the CND wants to create this mechanism, and have it work effectively, it should, in my opinion, be accompanied by a very large de-earmarking of contributions. On this point, the Expert Group recommended a significant increase of General Purpose contributions. Now you should examine this key proposal, and if you agree with it, determine how it can be achieved.
Conclusion: A new dialogue of common interests
A little more than ten years ago, the international community was defined by its differences. Today we are engaged in a new dialogue that speaks the language of common interests. Reducing drug abuse through education and prevention, providing alternative development to farmers, and fighting traffickers, are everyone´s concerns.
There is so much important work that needs to be done in international drug control that our resources cannot keep up. We want to expand our work in precursors control, judicial cooperation and research into the abuse and production of amphetamine-type stimulants. How much we will be able to accomplish in the future depends on your Governments' political and financial commitment.
In concluding, I would like to thank my staff, particularly those in the front line - in our field offices - for their day-to-day commitment to our common goals. Together - with your support - we can make a world of difference in the health of nations and the lives of people.