UN Secretary-General warns illicit drugs impede sustainable development, calls for every solution to be weighed

Originally published by the UN News Centre on 10/02/2015

Afghan poppy plant. Photo: UNODC11 February 2016 - Illicit drugs promote violence, impede sustainable development, endanger communities and undermine people's health, United Nations  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today, calling on the global community to weigh every option available to confront the issue.

"This global challenge is interconnected with corruption, terrorism and illicit flows of money," Mr. Ban  told UN officials and delegates at a meeting ahead of a  UN General Assembly special session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem in April.

"Those who traffic in illegal drugs may also be involved in human trafficking, kidnapping, firearms smuggling, murder and numerous other crimes. But the world drug problem is also a health problem, linked to overdoses, the ravages of addiction and the spread of HIV and hepatitis," he added.

The UN chief insisted that implementing the  Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs), which were adopted last year by UN Member States to wipe out poverty and fight inequality over the next 15 years, will require "collective partnership and solid commitment."

"UNGASS 2016 provides an opportunity for the international community to enter into an informed and wide-ranging discussion on drug policy in all its aspects," Mr. Ban explained. "It can help in the development of objectives, based on human rights and concern for the health and welfare of people, that will support the implementation of the  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

He underlined that the Special Session can also reaffirm the central principle that no country can confront these issues alone. "Shared responsibility can ensure the delivery of balanced and comprehensive drug policies with a renewed focus on human rights and public health, including prevention, treatment and care," he added.

But the UN chief said the world can also go further, looking at different options such as alternatives to prison or punishment for appropriate minor offences; greater access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain and suffering; and promoting alternative livelihoods for vulnerable farmers and their families.

"In all our work, which is based on the international drug conventions, the human rights of people, especially the vulnerable and their communities, must come first," Mr. Ban concluded, noting that UNODC is uniquely placed to assist this process through its work on both the supply and demand sides of this issue.

The UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem is scheduled from 19 to 21 April at UN Headquarters in New York. The Assembly previously convened a  special session on the issue in 1998.

Further information:

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov's remarks at the Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation 

UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, 2016

UNODC's work on drug prevention, treatment and care

UNODC's work against drug trafficking