Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs opens in Vienna

Photo: UNODC21 March 2011 ­- Calling for a vigorous, comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing drug demand, supply and trafficking, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today opened the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which is meeting in Vienna from 21 to 25 March.

Mr. Fedotov said that more attention should be paid to safeguarding health, human rights and justice in the areas of drugs and crime policy and advocated for the need to relieve suffering and to decrease the negative effects of drugs on individuals, families and communities.

Although illicit cultivation of coca bush and opium poppy is now limited to a few countries, production levels remain high, he said. Between 1998 and 2009, global production of opium rose by almost 80 percent. The market for cocaine has been neither eliminated nor significantly reduced; supply and demand have merely shifted elsewhere.

Each year, drug barons earn a staggering $320 billion. "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", he told the annual meeting of the United Nations policymaking body for drug-related matters.

UNODC has helped to put in place a number of regional and transnational mechanisms, including the Paris Pact, the Triangular Initiative and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, to confront the problem of Afghan opium. UNODC is also establishing a new regional programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

Increasingly, UNODC is spearheading regional initiatives to help to prevent the destabilization of post-conflict countries by integrating drug and crime control into United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. Mr. Fedotov highlighted that UNODC and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations had launched a joint plan of action for West Africa, a region that has become a hub for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe.

The Executive Director urged States to treat drug dependence as a health disorder.  "Member States increasingly recognize that drug dependence is a disease, not a crime, and that treatment offers a far more effective cure than punishment - a conclusion backed up by scientific evidence", he added.

Appealing for shared responsibility among drug-consuming and drug-producing nations, he said: "We must also focus more on the demand side. An estimated 150 to 250 million adults use illicit drugs every year. Users destroy their own lives, and their families and communities suffer greatly."

Alarmed by certain emerging trends, Mr. Fedotov pointed to the growing abuse of drugs by young children, especially in developing countries.  Meanwhile, in developed countries, abuse of prescription drugs was increasing and drug traffickers were responding to those demands, he said. He therefore underscored the importance of family skills training to enable parents to protect their children from drug abuse. "Children whose parents use drugs are themselves at greater risk of drug abuse and other risky behaviours. Drugs contribute to social problems that harm communities and are creating dangerous new challenges to public health."

The Executive Director said that the international drug control regime was not a punitive instrument against the misuse of drugs; it could help to explore ways in which to ensure universal access for the treatment of pain and illness. "It is intended to guarantee the availability of controlled substances for medical purposes, which is essential to public health. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, tens of millions of people with cancer, AIDS and other diseases needlessly suffer from pain or even die because they do not have access to controlled medications. Redressing this imbalance in access also needs our urgent attention."

"In the face of such diverse and complex challenges to public health, security and development, it is time to seriously rethink our global strategy on drug control". Mr. Fedotov therefore exhorted Member States to increase their funding commensurate with the rising number of mandates being entrusted to the Office.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the central policymaking body within the United Nations system that is responsible for drug-related matters and is also the governing body for the drug-related work of UNODC. The Commission monitors the world drug situation, develops international drug control strategies and recommends measures to combat the world drug problem, including through drug demand reduction, the promotion of alternative development initiatives and the adoption of supply reduction measures.

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Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Full speech by UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov at the opening of the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs