The thirteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twenty-sixth session of the Economic and Social Council




Pages: 43 to 48
Creation Date: 1958/01/01

The thirteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twenty-sixth session of the Economic and Social Council

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 28 April to 30 May 1958 and the Economic and Social Council met in Geneva from 1 to 31 July 1958. The Commission elected the following officers:

Chairman: Mr. D. Nikolic (Yugoslavia)

First Vice-Chairman: Mr. K. C. Hossick (Canada)

Second Vice-Chairman: Mr. M. Özkol (Turkey)

Rapporteur: Mr. A. G. Ardalan (Iran)

The Commission and the Council discussed, inter alia, the following items:


The Commission examined the progress made during the last twelve months towards universal adherence to the narcotics treaties. Particular interest was expressed in the position as regards the Protocol forlimiting and regulating the cultivation of the poppy plant, the production of, international and wholesale trade in, and use of opium, which had been signed in New York on 23 June 1953 and had not come into force. Article 21 of that treaty provides that it will come into force after at least twenty-five States have adhered to it, including three of nine named drug-manufacturing States and three of seven named opium-producing States. At the end of May 1958, thirty States had ratified or acceded to the Protocol, including more than three of the nine manufacturing States and one of the seven producing States entitled to produce opium for export.[1] In addition, the Government of Iran, another of the seven named producers, had deposited an instrument of ratification which had not yet become effective owing to certain technical difficulties under examination by the Office of the Legal Counsel in consultation with the Delegation of Iran.

Several members of the Commission expressed regret that the other opium-producing States had not yet adhered to the protocol, and urged them to do so as soon as possible. They felt that the illicit traffic in opium and opiates would be curtailed by the measures of national control provided for in the protocol which would, to a considerable extent, reduce the quantities of opium available for illicit purposes. Other representatives were of the opinion that the narcotics problem should be dealt with in all its aspects, and that the proposed Single Convention met this demand in a more complete way than the 1953 protocol. They stressed the advantage of simplification which would result in having one instrument instead of nine and felt that the adoption of the Single Convention, which incorporated the provisions of the protocol and contained other useful provisions on synthetic drugs, drug addiction, etc., was an urgent task.

It was observed, however, that even after completion of the Single Convention, a long time might elapse before the instrument came into force and that universality would be difficult to achieve since parties to some of the existing instruments were not necessarily parties to all. On the other hand, the opinion was expressed that this view was unduly pessimistic.

Changes in the scope of international control

The Commission noted that four new drugs were placed under international control during the year. In addition the Commission decided, under article 2 of the 1948 Protocol, to place levomoramide under provisional control. The Commission also noted that the manufacture and use of a derivative of morphine known as nicophine (Vilan) had begun, and that it fell within the scope of the 1931 Convention.

The Council adopted a resolution 689 D (XXVI), in which it urged all countries which had not yet done so, and in particular those countries that were manufacturing and exporting normethadone, to place that drug under national control.

Statement of estimated world requirements of narcotics drugs in 1958 published by the Drug Supervisory Body *

On the recommendation of the Commission, the Council adopted a resolution (689 E (XVI)) in which, after noting that the Drug Supervisory Body was still lacking the full co-operation of some countries, and was thereby hampered in carrying out its work, it again urged all Governments to indicate the method used in calculating their estimates; it reminded all Parties to the 1931 Convention that they had undertaken to furnish the explanations that the Drug Supervisory Body might require; and it drew attention to the frequently encountered defects in the estimates relating to consumption and stocks.


The annual review of the illicit traffic situation is one of the most important functions of the Commission, which is aided in its task by the Committee on Illicit Traffic. The Commission confirmed that the traffic in drugs was almost entirely supplied from clandestine sources in respect of both manufactured and natural drugs. Although it was difficult to estimate on the basis of seizures the actual quantities of drugs which were entering the illicit traffic, the large quantities in a number of seizures seemed to indicate that the flow of the traffic in opium and the opiates, and cannabis, was continuing at a high level.

See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. X, No. 1.

Illicit traffickers were known to operate several lines of drug traffic and often engaged in different forms of criminal activities. A disquieting feature was the armed resistance in a number of instances. The Commission was informed of a number of significant cases of international illicit traffic which showed that the traffic was highly organized and often had considerable financial backing; it also pointed to the ease and flexibility with which traffickers moved from country to country. The Commission placed on record that there was ample evidence of vigorous and unremitting action by national authorities and of close co-operation between national authorities of several countries in their common struggle against the illicit traffic. The Commission observed that severe penalties for narcotics offences were being imposed in some countries and agreed that the imposition of such penalties was one of the most effective measures against traffickers. The Commission expressed the hope that governments would make more direct use of technical assistance to enable them to play a useful role in the international struggle against the illicit traffic.

The most significant feature remained the traffic in opium and the opiates, which had widespread international ramifications. As in previous years, the heaviest seizures of raw and prepared opium had been reported from the Far East and the Near and Middle East. There was also a considerable traffic in crude morphine and/or diacetylmorphine (heroin), and several clandestine laboratories or factories had been discovered. The Commission noted an increased demand from addicts to diacetylmorphine within those regions; at the same time, it was clear that much of the traffic in diacetylmorphine continued to be directed towards North America, the target of much of the more highly organized international illicit traffic.

The Commission reiterated the view that despite insufficient reporting, traffic in cannabis existed in every region of the world. Much of the traffic consisted of indigenous production and consumption largely of the less concentrated forms. The international illicit traffic in cannabis was found for the most part between countries having common frontiers; it was not highly organized. The Commission also gave its attention to the traditional land traffic in hashish in the Middle East, an overland traffic in marihuana to the United States, and the traffic in charas and ganja in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.

Seizures of cocaine were small and reflected the relative decline of this drug in the illicit traffic.

Seizures of synthetic drugs constituted a very small proportion of the total seizures declared. Nevertheless, it was felt by some members of the Commission that the information on seizures of synthetic drugs was not sufficient or clear enough to enable any conclusions to be drawn from it. A study of seizures alone, they felt, would not suffice, and account should also be taken of statistics relating to drugs used by addicts.

In the majority of cases addiction to synthetic drugs was of therapeutic origin.

The Commission considered that the narcotics situation in the Middle East was susceptible of improvement, and, on its recommendation, the Council adopted a resolution (689 I (XXVI) providing for a Middle East survey mission to explore the problems involved. This mission would be of the nature of a technical assistance "task force", to assist a number of governments in that region with differing but interconnected problems. It would make a general report on its work to the Commission. The Secretary-General was requested to appoint the experts to the mission in such a way that the necessary professional capacity and experience would be brought together in a well-balanced group. The Council decided that the Secretary-General should arrange the timing of the mission, taking into account the many factors involved.

In view of the volume of the illicit traffic in the Far East, the Commission likewise considered that co-operation at the international level between the enforcement services should be developed there.


In continuing its study of drug addiction, the Commission gave attention to a number of aspects of the problem: the incidence of addiction, and the situation with regard both to quantitative and qualitative data on the problem; facilities for treatment of addicts and methods of treatment; addiction of therapeutic origin and in the medical profession; developments in medical research on addiction; and the prevention of drug addiction.

It was noted that information received during the past year gave no indication of change in the basic pattern of drug addiction in the various regions of the world. Data were more ample than had been the case a few yers ago, but figures giving numbers of addicts in each country and territory, as contained in annual reports, were not necessarily comparable with one another, and gave only some indication in quantitative terms as to how widespread addiction to the various narcotics was. Where qualitative data were concerned, relating, for example, to the personal and environmental conditions of addicts, drugs used, sources of supply and the age structure and occupational pattern of addict populations, the difficulties were greater.

The Council adopted a resolution (689 G (XXVI)), expressing the hope that the World Health Organization would take steps leading to the submission, as soon as possible, of a report on the prevention of drug addiction. It also adopted a resolution (689 C (XXVI)) urging governments to keep a close watch over publicity given to new narcotics, with a view, particularly, to ensuring that claims that strong analgesics were not addiction-producing were based only on careful and comprehensive clinical tests.


In compliance with Council resolution 667E(XXIV), the Commission gave priority to its work on the proposed Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and completed this task; it had pursued it continuously since its fourth session under the terms of Council resolutions 159 II D (VII) and 246 D (IX).

The draft prepared by the Commission was designed to: (i) codify the existing law contained at present in nine multilateral treaty instruments on the control of narcotic drugs; (ii) simplify the international control machinery by replacing the present Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body by a single organ (named the International Narcotics Control Board); and (iii) close important gaps in the existing narcotics regime, inter alia, by extending international control to the production of opium, coca leaves and cannabis.

The Commission reported that some of the provisions of the draft treaty constituted compromises, which would not be equally acceptable to all Governments, and that others had remained controversial even in the Commission.

In considering the Commission's recommendations for further action on the proposed Convention, the Council agreed that, in view of the comprehensive character of the treaty involving all aspects of narcotics control (economic, social, health, legal and administrative), ample time - i.e. approximately one year - should be given governments to make their comments.

In agreement with the recommendations of the Commission, the Council adopted a resolution (689 J (XXVl)), in which. it decided to convene a plenipotentiary conference for the adoption of the draft treaty; to invite all States members of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency to furnish comments and to attend the conference. The World Health Organization, other interested specialized agencies, the Permanent Central Opium Board, the Drug Supervisory Body and the International Criminal Police Organization were also asked to furnish comments and to participate in the deliberations of the conference. The Secretary-General was requested to prepare a compilation of comments and to take certain other measures to implement the resolution.


Policy of Afghanistan on opium production

The Commission resumed consideration, postponed from its twelfth session, of the request of Afghanistan to be recognized, under the relevant treaty provisions, as a State producing opium for export, and it heard a statement by the observer from Afghanistan explaining his Government's policy of prohibiting opium production. A law to that effect had been promulgated on 24 November 1957. In those circumstances, the Afghan Government did not deem it necessary to press at the present time its request for recognition as a producer of opium for export, but reserved its right to reconsider the question at the plenipotentiary conference for the adoption of the Single Convention. Solution of the serious economic problems attendant on the prohibition of opium production was of cardinal importance, however, since failure in that respect had been a material factor in Afgha- nistan's abrogation of a policy of prohibition on a previous occasion. In that connexion, he emphasized his country's need for technical assistance from the United Nations, and for financial assistance under the programmes of individual governments and private organizations.

On the recommendation of the Commission, the Council adopted a resolution (689 H (XXVI)) which expressed the Council's sense of the significance of the policy adopted by Afghanistan and its hope that Afghanistan would succeed in the tasks it had undertaken, and drew the attention of the General Assembly, of the specialized agencies concerned, and especially of the relevant technical assistance organs, to the importance of the successful and speedy achievement of those aims for the economic and social development of Afghanistan.

Scientific research

The Commission reviewed the recommendations on opium research made by the Committee of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General under Council resolution 626 H (XXII). The Committee had met in Geneva from 21-31 January 1958. The Commission noted that the Committee's recommendations and other decisions contained in its report (E/CN.7/ 338)* had been unanimous, and that it had confirmed that the methods for determining the origin of opium were, in certain cases, ready for practical use in the campaign against the illicit traffic in opium and opiates.

On the basis of the Committee's recommendations, the Commission adopted a resolution setting out in some detail, for the benefit of governments and laboratories participating in the programme, its policy both as regards the continuation of the research and the ways in which practical application might be carried out. The Commission considered that further research was needed and urged the governments concerned to co-operate in it, both by continuing to furnish many more opium samples - whether authenticated or not - and by carrying out a collaborative scheme by which the various methods of determining origin could be evaluated and their accuracy and reproducibility assessed. It asked the Secretariat to co-ordinate the scheme, in which as many of the national laboratories as possible would participate. In regard to practical application, for which the Committee of Experts had constituted a procedure, it would continue under the terms of the Commission's resolution I (X) of 1955; however, the Secretary-General was asked to include, in his reports on origin, any reservations concerning the methods that had been used which he might consider necessary.

The Commission also decided that it might be possible, within existing resources, for the work of the Narcotics Laboratory to be broadened to include narcotics other than opium. For example, it felt that the Laboratory might eventually handle long-standing practical problems related to the identification of cannabis and of its active principle or principles. It therefore requested the Secretary-General to undertake a study of the means whereby the cannabis research taking place in several countries could be co-ordinated, and - without prejudice to the priority already given to opium research - to proceed with a preliminary study and evaluation of the techniques of cannabis identification.

* See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. X, No. 3.


The Council, in resolution 548 B II (XVIII), expressed the view that it was highly desirable to simplify and speed up the procedure for the selection of international non-proprietary names for narcotic drugs. Under the procedure developed by the World Health Organization for the selection of those names, it is necessary to undertake a world-wide inquiry before each name can be recommended; this, of course, leads to some delay. At its twelfth session, the Commission considered whether it might be possible to establish a system whereby names would be given international treaty protection in advance, under some faster procedure for selection which would not give rise to linguistic or legal difficulties.

At its thirteenth session, the Commission again considered the question, with particular reference to the further consultations in the matter which the Secretary-General had held with the World Health Organization. It discussed, on the one hand, whether an attempt to establish mandatory rules would not encounter serious opposition and thus jeopardize the present system without useful results; it was pointed out that the system was based on the voluntary acceptance of the international non-proprietary names selected by a uniform method for all drugs, whether they were narcotic drugs or not. On the other hand, the Commission considered whether, in spite of difficulties which might be encountered in any attempt to establish a revised system, the situation did not require improvement for the purpose of ensuring effective narcotics control.

The Commission decidednot to recommend the adoption of a new procedure; considering that limited application of a mandatory system was feasible, it decided that the new Single Convention should provide for mandatory use of international non-proprietary names for narcotic drugs on labels and in commercial literature, and resolved that under the new Convention the Commission should adopt the names if the World Health Organization did not.


As a result of legal difficulties arising from the carriage of narcotic drugs in first-aid kits aboard aircraft, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization decided to invite the United Nations and the World Health Organization to study legal and medical aspects of the problem. In December 1957 the Economic and Social Council referred the matter to the Commission.

The Commission advised the Council that there were medical questions on which it would be useful to have the guidance of the World Health Organization. It also decided to include, tentatively, in the proposed text of the Single Convention, draft provisions governing the international carriage of narcotic drugs in first-aid kits of aircraft, railway trains and ships, and recommended that appropriate interim action be taken to cover the period before the Convention came into effect.

The Council adopted a resolution (689 F (XXVI)) in which it recommended governments to take measures necessary to prevent the misuse and diversion of narcotic drugs carried in first-aid kits in international flight and requested the Secretary-General to invite the views of the International Criminal Police Organization on safeguards which might be taken for that purpose and to prepare, in consultation with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization, a study of the legal problems involved. The Commission was invited to consider the matter again and to advise the Council on the further measures to be recommended in that connexion.


In regard to the position of technical assistance for narcotics control, the Commission was of the opinion that the existing arrangements were not sufficient to assure the satisfactory utilization of technical assistance in this field. It pointed out that projects for improving narcotics control often stood to benefit the international community as a whole as much as, or more than, the country which would have to apply for technical assistance. Since new projects could often be added to country programmes only at the expense of others already in operation and representing an important investment, a number of countries which had expressed interest in technical assistance for narcotics control had not been able to follow this up by formal requests for inclusion of items in their category I programmes. The Commission asked the Council to examine possible solutions. Hitherto, the greater part of the expenditure applied to technical assistance for narcotics control had been made from contingency allocations in the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance.

At its twenty-sixth session the Council again reviewed this question. The representative of the Secretary-General suggested that interim arrangements might be adopted for 1959, looking forwards to a more permanent solution for 1960. Special flexibility could be sought in the interim year, by the use of Expanded Programme contingency allocations in appropriate cases, and by the inclusion of appropriate items within the public administration and international advisory services. As regards a solution, the existing separate services were already heavily committed, and there were administrative complications in ear-marking a specific amount within one of them. The Secretariat preferred the alternative suggestion put forward by the Commission of a separate advisory service for narcotics control within the regular United Nations budget. In view, however, of the additional calls on the 1959 budget, the Secretariat proposed that this should be included in the budget for 1960.

Members of the Council recognized that a number of countries lacked the resources to undertake desirable projects in narcotics control and that technical assistance was much needed for those purposes. They recognized the difficulties involved in making special financial arrangements for this field of work, and agreed with the Secretariat's interim proposals for 1959. It was considered, however, that a permanent solution required further study. The Council, therefore, adopted a resolution (688 (XXVI)) asking the Secretary-General to review, in consultation with the interested specialized agencies, the nature and scope of theassistance requested by governments in that field; to explore the extent to which such requests could be met under existing programmes; to formulate, as might be necessary, proposals regarding the assistance that might be made available, with an estimate of their cost; and to report on those matters to the Commission at its fourteenth session and subsequently to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.


Vol. X, No. 2:

In the article "Abyssinian Tea" (Catha edulis Forssk, Celastraceae) - A study of some samples of varying geographical origin:


The total had reached 32, as of 28 Feb. 1959.