The first two years of the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control


Secretary-General U Thant's Aide-Mémoire
Fund raising
Projects undertaken
Projects planned for the immediate future
Secretary-General Waldheim's guidelines on organizational structure


Author: C. W. A. SCHURMANN
Pages: 1 to 8
Creation Date: 1973/01/01

The first two years of the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control

C. W. A. SCHURMANN Personal Representative of the Secretary-General in charge of the Fund from 1 April 1971 till 31 March 1973

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Carl W. A. Schurmann

The Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. XXIII, No. 2, contained a review of the United Nations activities that had led to the adoption by the General Assembly, in its twenty fifth session, of resolution A/RES/2719 (XXV) of 15 December 1970. In that resolution the General Assembly had strongly endorsed the decisions taken by the Economic and Social Council for the establishment of a programme of action aiming at the implementation of short-term and long-term policy recommendations to deal with drug abuse, as proposed by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; welcomed the establishment, as an initial measure and as a matter of urgency, of a UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control, to be made up of voluntary contributions; requested the Secretary-General to proceed immediately towards implementation of the above decisions; and appealed to Governments, organizations and programmes within the United Nations system, and to foundations as well as to the public in general, to lend their full support to the above-mentioned efforts.

Secretary-General U Thant's Aide-Mémoire

Secretary-General U Thant responded to the General Assembly's request by announcing, in a letter dated 26 March 1971 and addressed to the Governments of all member nations, that he had established the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control to be operated in accordance with trust fund procedures as established by the General Assembly. To this letter was attached an Aide-Mémoire on an Expanded United Nations Programme of Drug Abuse Control. The Aide-Mémoire is a document of some interest, especially because for two years it remained the only institutional basis for the operation and administration of the Fund.

After having referred to the need for concerted and simultaneous international action on the supply of drugs for purpose of abuse, on the demand for such purposes and on the illicit traffic, the Aide-Mémoire goes on to say that the purpose of the Fund will be to develop short-term and long-term plans and programmes for helping developing countries to replace the growing of narcotic crops with other activities, for treatment and rehabilitation of addicts and abusers; for preventive measures such as education, particularly of young people, to avoid the dangers of drug-taking and addiction; and for strengthening of law enforcement action, through common effort, in many countries of the world.

As projects to be included in a short-term programme for which the voluntary contributions to the Fund are to be used, pending the completion and submission of a proposed long-term policy and plan of action, the Aide-Mémoire mentions projects: to expand the research and information facilities of United Nations drug control bodies; to plan and implement programmes of technical assistance in pilot projects for crop substitution purposes; for the establishment and improvement of national drug-control administrations and enforcement machinery; for the training of personnel, and setting up or expanding of research and training centres which could serve national or regional needs; to enlarge the capabilities and extend the operations of United Nations drug control bodies and their secretariats; to promote facilities for the treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug addicts; and to develop educational material and programmes suitable for use on high-risk populations.

About the contributions to the Fund the Secretary-General expresses his expectation that some $5 million annually will be received during the first few years, and some $20 million annually thereafter. These contributions can be made in freely usable currencies, in non-convertible currencies if usable for particular projects, and also for specific use designated by the donor. Contributions in kind, such as the provision of personnel and the supply of equipment, can be accepted.

On management the Aide-Mémoire states that the Secretary-General will appoint a Personal Reprensentative who will have over-all responsibility for the Fund, including its development and maintenance, and three special consultants, of recognized standing in the field of drug abuse control, to advise, under the chairmanship of the Personal Representative, on the planning of short and long-term programmes and projects to be financed from the resources of the Fund and on the preparation of long-term policy and programme recommendations.

Although the Aide-Mémoire, as mentioned above, describes the purpose of the Fund as "to develop short-term and long-term plans and programmes ...", it also states, rather ambiguously, that "the Director of the Division of Narcotics Drugs ... will be responsible for the formulation, planning, and, as appropriate, the execution of programmes and projects which are eligible for assistance from the Fund".


From the beginning and all through his term of office the Personal Representative endeavoured to keep the overhead expenses of the Fund (UNFDAC) as low as possible and, consequently, to operate with a minimum of staff. Three special consultants were engaged on a basis of payment only for the days they worked for the Fund. As permanent staff there were an administrative officer and a general assistant plus two secretaries. When the workload became somewhat heavier, in September 1972, a deputy to the Personal Representative was appointed.


The first task to be undertaken by the newly established Fund was to see to it that a programme of the kind mentioned in the General Assembly resolution and in the Aide-Mémoire was developed. The double attribution of this obligation in the Aide-Mémoire, to UNFDAC and to the Division of Narcotic Drugs, was in practice resolved by having the Director of the Division recommend the projects and programmes that he deemed technically advisable, and the Personal Representative, with the advice of his consultants, decide on those that, from a policy point of view, should be carried out with the Fund's finances.

In keeping with this arrangement a programme was produced under the title "Outline of a plan for concerted action against drug abuse proposed by the Secretary-General" (GE 71-13379, dated 30 June 1971) which was a re-write and amplification of the note by the Secretary-General on "Suggestions for short-term and long-term measures against drug abuse and illicit trafficking" that had been prepared for the

First 2 years of the UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control 3 special session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs a year before (GE 70-16911, dated 28 July 1970).

It was followed by a second document entitled "Descriptive notes and approximate costing of projects" (GE 71-13585, dated 12 July 1971). These two papers were submitted to an ad hoc Inter-Agency Meeting, held in Geneva 14-16 July 1971 and attended by the representatives of seventeen United Nations Divisions, Specialized Agencies and other international organizations.

The participants in the meeting expressed their general approval of the plan and promised their full co-operation. They also added to the 122 projects, proposed by the Division, a total of 39 proposals of their own.

On the basis of their various submissions the Division prepared for the Commission on Narcotics Drugs, which was to hold its 24th session from 27 September to 21 October 1971, a revised version of the plan for concerted action in two parts, of which the first contained the text and the second a list of 147 projects to be carried out over a period of 10 years at a cost of approximately $95 million. The document also reproduced 14 projects proposed by the Specialized Agencies that had not yet been incorporated in the plan.

Since then the Fund and the Division have been regularly at work on developing and constantly adjusting short-term programmes and priority lists of projects for which, in view of the rate at which contributions have been coming in, the necessary financing could be expected to become available. The latest were contained in two papers prepared for the 25th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held from 22 January to 9 February 1973 (MNAR/10/72, GE 72-26265 and MNAR/11/72, GE 72-26269), which showed that 35 projects, at a total cost of $4,515,625 from UNFDAC's inception through the year 1976 had either already been completed or were in operation at that time, whereas 26 priority projects, requiring a funding of $2,737,400 during 1973, had been selected for approval. By the 31st of March 1973 the addition of another six projects to this list had brought the need for 1973 up to $3,052,000. The continuation of these projects through 1976 and the funding of 10 additional projects for the same period would require a further amount of $15,113,225.

The paucity of the contributions to the Fund during its first two years of operation and the uncertainty concerning future financing have rendered it impossible to produce any realistic long-term programme apart from the "Plan for concerted action" mentioned before.

Fund raising

On its establishment the United States Government presented UNFDAC with a birthday gift of $2 million. After one year this amount had, by contributions from other Governments and a few individuals, been raised nearly 50%, to $2,967,604. During the second year the United States again contributed $2 million, whereas the part contributed by others rose to $1,614,531, with another $400,000 announced and only waiting for parliamentary approval. Of the total of approximately $6 million the share of the United States is, therefore, two thirds and that of the 26 other contributing countries one third.

More serious than this seeming disparity is the fact that the total of all contributions during the first two years has failed to reach the $10 million mark predicted for it by U Thant. This has resulted in a permanent shortage of means, which has prevented the Fund from carrying out quite a number of projects that were considered necessary and urgent. Although the clear need for more and larger contributions was emphasized throughout, in interventions in international bodies, in articles and speeches and in visits to a great many governments, the response has so far remained unsatisfactory.

It bears repeating that the Fund stands in need of $3 million during the current year, and of another $15 million during the three ensuing years, in order to be able to carry through its minimum programme of first priorities.

More heartening to record is the fact that some Governments have responded to the request to give assurances that their contributions will be repeated annually. Obviously, planning ahead will only be possible when some certainty about future revenue is obtained. This is particularly evident because of what is called the "full funding requirement".

To explain this rule, let it be assumed that UNFDAC wishes to finance a project which requires five years to complete and will cost $50,000 each year. It can only do so if the full amount of $250,000 is available at the time of signature of the agreement. Moreover, this sum must be immediately set aside and cannot be used for any other purpose. The result is that any money committed for a period of years remains inaccessible for other activities for the full length of time, even though the commitment only calls for payment in instalments. In order to minimize the immobilizing effect of this safe and careful rule of management it was decided that UNFDAC would try, so far as possible, to split up long-term projects into yearly sections and to make definite commitments only for each year ahead. In some cases, however, it is not possible to reduce liability to such a short span of time; just to name one example: good experts can seldom be had unless they are offered a contract for at least two years.

In the Aide-Mémoire the Secretary-General introduced the possibility of contributions in kind. Only one such contribution has been received: the Netherlands offered, in the beginning of 1972, to provide for the carrying out of project number 1026 in the Plan for concerted action, Part II, "Organization of an international data collection system on drug abuse", and did so by granting to the Excerpta Medica Foundation in Amsterdam D.FI. 370,000 (= $115,625) over the years 1972 and 1973 for the publication of a monthly journal containing abstracts of articles on drug abuse, in scientific publications, in the fields of biomedical sciences (pharmacology, epidemiology, psychiatry, genetics, bio-chemistry), the social sciences (sociology, criminology, statistics, law) and chemistry. The first issue of this journal called "Drug Dependence" appeared in September 1972.

The offering of contributions for which a specific use is designated by the donor, which was also welcomed in the Aide-Mémoire, has not yet occurred. Efforts are being made, however, to obtain such contributions for a programme to assist UNFDAC projects in Afghanistan (see under: Projects planned for the immediate future).


On the basis of consensus reached in the ad hoc Inter-Agency meetings, held in July 1971 and July 1972, the following procedure for approval and execution of projects has in practice been followed. First of all, there were the items included in the lists of priority projects selected by the Personal Representative, with the advice of his consultants, from the general proposals made by the Director of the Division. The approval of these projects was preceded by discussions with the Division and the Specialized Agencies concerned. Secondly, there were projects incidentally proposed by the Division, and these were dealt with in the same way. Thirdly, project proposals were received from the Specialized Agencies. These were discussed in meetings between the Fund, the Division and the Agencies concerned and often modified before obtaining

First 2 years of the UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control 5 approval. Finally, a number of projects resulted from visits paid by the Personal Representative to Governments of countries in need of assistance in the field of drug abuse control. If these Governments accepted the assistance offered, a team of experts was dispatched and the projects to be undertaken in the country were then worked out from the recommendations made in their report.

In all cases an executing agency had to be appointed for each project, and this was done by the Personal Representative in accordance with the character of the operation. If it was a crop replacement project, FAO would be appointed executing agency; a medical project would be executed by WHO; a rehabilitation project by ILO; an educational project by UNESCO, and so on. Some projects required interdisciplinary action, and executive authority was then attributed to the agency in whose field of responsibility the major content of the project lay, while the other agencies concerned lent their co-operation. The Division of Narcotic Drugs was executing agency for projects in fields where it had specific competence (for instance, law enforcement training of police and customs officers). Moreover, the Division kept a watchful eye over the execution of all projects and saw to it that the efforts of the participating agencies were well co-ordinated and the available data properly distributed.

Because only a few of the approved projects have been in operation for any length of time the evaluation of the usefulness and efficiency of such projects has been carried out, rather unsystematically, through reports from the executing agencies and incidental check-up by the Division. The hoped for expansion of the programme will bring with it the need for a more regular evaluation activity (see under: Secretary-General Waldheim's guidelines on organizational structure).

Projects undertaken

To give an idea of some of the 35 projects undertaken during UNFDAC's first two years, in the fields of strengthening of control measures, reduction of demand, reduction of supply, research and programme administration, the following brief indications may suffice.

Of the measures taken to combat the illicit traffic in drugs by strengthening control the most important was the establishment of a Central Training Unit in Geneva. This Unit conducted four courses in law enforcement of 4 weeks each (3 weeks in Geneva and one week at Interpol in Paris) during 1972, for 65 senior police and customs officials from 33 countries. For 1973 ten courses are planned. The participants are granted fellowships for the cost of travel and subsistence.

One local training course was held in Teheran by staff members of the Central Training Unit, for sixty Iranian Customs officers. It is intended to start a number of courses in various regions of the world and to enlist the assistance of the officers having followed a course in Geneva for that purpose.

Other measures in the field of strengthening control were: the publication of a manual to assist Governments to establish procedures for carrying out the provisions of International Drug Control Treaties, and of Law Enforcement guides in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Persian and Thai, for use in police and customs schools, as well as the production and distribution of instructional slides and commentaries, as visual aids for training courses by national law enforcement agencies. Eighty-three countries received sets of these in English, French or Spanish.

The Fund also financed two projects of which the costs would normally have been included in the regular budget of the United Nations.

6 Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. XXV, No. 4, October-December 1973One was the highly important and useful mission to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey of an ad hoc Committee, established by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the purpose of laying a basis for regional co-ordination in controlling illicit traffic. The other was the strengthening of the secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board with three additional staff members to permit it to carry out its new mandates under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the preparatory work for the implementation of the Protocol of 1972 amending the 1961 Single Convention.

As there was, at the time, no provision in the regular UN budget for the payment of these items, it was decided, as an emergency measure, to let the Fund assume the burden of financing them in the hope that the costs of these two projects ( the ad hoc Committee has meanwhile been transformed into a Sub-Committee of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and will continue its activities) would in future be met by the United Nations regular budget.

The efforts to reduce demand have consisted of projects for prevention of drug abuse, for disseminating information and for treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent persons. A seminar held by UNESCO in Paris, on education to prevent the abuse of drugs, elicited from the forty participants the somewhat surprising opinion that most of what had so far been done in the world in this field had been ineffective if not counterproductive. New methods to be followed are now being studied.

The information projects consisted of the Drug Dependence journal, mentioned before, various brochures, films and the Information Letter, published monthly by the Division.

The only thing done about treatment and rehabilitation was the sending of a joint mission of WHO and ILO experts to Thailand to prepare a programme for that country.

In the field of reduction of supply the Fund has undertaken its biggest venture: a project aimed at introducing new crops and other activities, with training, in five "key" and twenty-five "satellite" tribal villages in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, with a view to the progressive replacement of the cultivation of opium poppies. This project forms part of a comprehensive programme for Thailand, which will also include treatment, rehabilitation and prevention, and be carried out jointly by the Royal Thai Government and the United Nations (Division, FAO, WHO, ILO and UNESCO).

Research is an activity that was not mentioned in the Secretary-General's Aide-Mémoire, except in the context of setting up or expanding research and training centres. It soon became clear, however, that research, in some fields, opens up the possibility of tremendous advances in drug abuse control whereas, in other fields, it is an essential preliminary to further planning and action. Two projects in the first kind of research concern a survey of natural enemies of opium poppies and cannabis, which is being carried out by the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, and research on the botanic species Papaver bracteatum, being done by several scientists in various countries. If insects or pathogens can be found that will attack only opium poppies and/or cannabis bushes, a simple way for their extermination would be available. General usability of Papaver bracteatum, which contains thebaine convertible into codeine, but no morphine, would do away with the medical need for the opium poppy ( Papaver somniferum) altogether.

The sociological studies are of the second kind and involve research on community attitudes to drug abuse among young people and on methodologies for evaluating mass media programmes for drug abuse prevention, as well as the preparation of an inter-agency programme of social research on drug abuse and related problems.

First 2 years of the UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control 7

The heading "Programme administration" refers mainly to the financing by UNFDAC of new staff members and consultants engaged by the Division. The Division, which saw its field of competence widely enlarged by the adoption of the Plan for concerted action, could not discharge its new responsibility for operational action without the help of a number of new experts, and the strengthening of UN drugcontrol bodies for this purpose had been explicitly mentioned in the Aide-Mémoire among the projects to be included in the short-term programme. Lest it should be thought that this brings the amount spent by the Fund on administration up to an unduly high percentage of the total, mention is made of the fact that programme administration costs have absorbed 4 1/2 % of total expenditure and overhead costs of UNFDAC 5 1/2 %, thus making a total of 10 %, which is an unusually low figure compared to the administrative costs of other UN bodies.

Projects planned for the immediate future

Outstanding among the larger undertakings that have already been prepared and are only waiting for additional funds to be started are a number of comprehensive country programmes.

The Golden Triangle (the region where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet) being the largest producer of opium in the world, it is essential that the programme under way in Thailand should be followed and reinforced by similar operations in Burma and Laos. The political situation in the latter country has not permitted any planning, but for Burma a joint mission of the UN and FAO has drafted a report with specific recommendations.

In Afghanistan, the second largest producer of illicit opium, things have advanced even further. The recommendations of a report by a joint UN/FAO mission have been accepted by the Government, some pre-programme activities have been started, and efforts are being made to persuade a number of Governments and international organizations to participate in, or contribute to, the performance of a series of economic and social services designed to support the drug control programme that will be the joint responsibility of the Afghan Government and the United Nations.

A similar situation prevails in Lebanon, where the Government has accepted the recommendations of a joint UN/FAO mission for a comprehensive programme aimed at reducing the illegal output of cannabis.

Planned law enforcement measures include seminars and training courses for advising Governments on control and reporting, and fellowships for training in laboratory techniques.

The seminars on drug abuse prevention are to be followed by a series of others in various parts of the world.

Research is urgently needed on cannabis and khat, on the epidemiology of drug dependence (strongly recommended by WHO) on the effects and desirability of maintenance treatment for drug dependent persons, and on various aspects of the sociological causes and consequences of drug taking.

These are a few examples taken from the list of thirty-two high priority projects.

Secretary-General Waldheim's guidelines on organizational structure

Towards the end of the twenty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Mr. Vittorio Winspeare-Guicciardi, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, communicated to the Commission the guidelines on organizational structure and arrangements affecting the Division of Narcotic Drugs and UNFDAC which the Secretary-General, Mr. Kurt Waldheim, had decided to establish.

With regard to the Fund, the guidelines confirmed most of the existing practice. New features were: the change of title of the head of the Fund (no longer "Personal Representative of the Secretary-General in charge of ..." but "Executive Director of ... ", a highly commendable shortening); the assignment to the Executive Director of a "small, highly competent secretariat" comprising a special unit responsible for following up and reporting on the progress of projects and for evaluating performance; the replacement of the ad hoc inter-agency meetings by an "Inter-Agency Advisory Committee" with the same composition and the same functions; the establishment of regional representatives (already among the approved projects); the replacement of the panel of permanent consultants by ad hoc consultants for advice on particular problems when needed.

The instructions with regard to the Division contained mainly a recapitulation of established practice.

On 1 April 1973, Dr. Sten Martens, Director of the Division of Narcotic Drugs, was, in addition to that function, appointed "Acting Executive Director" of UNFDAC.


Has UNFDAC succeeded, during the first two years of its existence, to reduce the supply of drug abuse, the demand for such drugs or the illicit traffic in them? It obviously has not, nor could any such fantastic achievement have been expected of it.

What it has brought about is an increased awareness, among many Governments in the world, of the dangers of drug abuse and of the necessity to work together, on an international scale, to combat it. It has also equipped the international community with the machinery to sustain this fight, set up the procedure for smooth co-operation to this end among all organizations in the United Nations system, started a number of specific projects, and laid the groundwork for a future programme of worldwide operations.

Whether this programme can be carried out, depends entirely on the willingness of Governments to finance it. If contributions of adequate size come in, UNFDAC will be able to make a worthwhile impact on the evil of drug abuse in the world.