The three international drug control conventions – of 1961, 1971 and 1988 – enshrine the commitment by the international community to make adequate provision to ensure, and to not unduly restrict, the availability of controlled substances that are considered indispensable for medical and scientific purposes. In the 2021 CND Statement on the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the implementation of Member States' joint commitments to address and counter all aspects of the world drug problem, Member States reiterated the concern that the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, including for the relief of pain and palliative care, remains low to non-existent in many parts of the world. This concern, and the strong commitment to enhance efforts at all levels to improve availability of and access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, can be found in all main policy documents of the CND, including the 2016 UNGASS outcome document, and Resolution 63/3 which deals with promoting awareness-raising, education and training as part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring access to and the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.
Notwithstanding the universally recognized medical indispensability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, millions of people across the world continue to suffer due to lack of access to controlled medicines. A unified global effort to combat this crisis is especially critical today, given international developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which have exacerbated interruptions of the controlled medicines supply chain in several parts of the world.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which is governed by the CND, is leading a coordinated global response to improve availability of and access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, with the goal to increase the number of patients globally receiving appropriate treatment. With financial contributions from Member States and support from international partners, UNODC has launched initiatives, including the Joint Global Programme on "Access to Controlled Drugs for Medical Purposes While Preventing Diversion and Abuse” (also known as GLOK67). This coheres with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being and Sustainable Development Goal 10 on Reduced Inequalities.
During its 65th session in 2022 – which also marks the 45th anniversary of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines – the CND is devoting attention to scaling up the implementation of international drug policy commitments on improving availability of and access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes. A series of awareness-raising events and discussions, as well as an information media campaign, will take place throughout the year. To kick-off the initiative, a Joint Call to Action was held by the CND and the treaty-mandated United Nations entities – UNODC, the World Health Organization and the International Narcotics Control Board – on the opening day of the 65th session of the CND. The initiative culminated in the One-Day Special Forum on 10 October 2022, where the e-learning tool on availability and access, developed by the Secretariat to the CND, was launched.