Commission on Narcotic Drugs considers future of drug control

14 March 2008 - The 51 st session of the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) wrapped up today. Reviewing ten years of progress since the United Nations General Assembly committed itself to "achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction", the Commission noted progress in some key areas but found that much still needs to be done. Weighing up decade-long efforts, CND Chair and Ambassador of Argentina, Eugenio Curia, said States should be "more constructive and proactive in coming to conclusions on the future of drug control."

Refuting the scare-mongers, Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, said there were hard facts to support an upbeat assessment of the world drug problem. "Problem drug users are limited to less than one-tenth of this already low percentage: there may be 25 million of them in the world, namely 0.6% of the planet's adult population. In other words, occasional statements such as 'there are drugs everywhere' or 'everybody takes drugs' are just plain nonsense" said Costa is his report to the CND.

 "We should be proud of these achievements and advertise them loud and clear: few United Nations Conventions have delivered similarly impressive results," Costa said of the international drug control regime. Nevertheless, the multilateral machinery should be "fit for purpose" given the challenges in the next decade, he added.

Two issues were given broader consideration this session. First, participants stressed that drug control policies should be in line with international human rights standards. In that connection, they considered the issue of the death penalty, used by some countries against drug offenders. Second, there was focus on measures to reduce the harm caused by drugs as an integral part of demand reduction strategies.

The Chairman emphasized the need for evidence-based approaches to demand reduction and the importance of removing the social stigma on drug-dependent individuals. 

Turning to drug trafficking, shifts were noted in the market, suggesting a diversification of illicit manufacture and trade of amphetamine-type substances, as well as the increasing involvement of organized crime in the production of these substances. There is a need for increased focus on law enforcement cooperation for the early identification of emerging trends in the trafficking and manufacture of these drugs, as well as better data to facilitate policy-making.

Alternative development programmes have been useful in weaning poor farmers off the cultivation of illicit drug crops but resources for such projects are insufficient. There is growing awareness of the need for environmental protection, such as forestry conservation and land recovery, in such programmes. States have also made progress in implementing anti-money laundering requirements, such as setting up highly effective dedicated financial intelligence units.

Looking ahead, over the next year the United Nations will scrutinize the performance of the multilateral drug control system. In 2009, a high-level session of the CND will also look back over the last century of drug control since it began at Shanghai in 1909. The spotlight will be on issues such as current and emerging trends in the world drug problem; and countering the challenge using the principle of shared responsibility.  

UNODC has also strengthened its collaboration with NGOs, with which it has launched "Beyond 2008", an initiative to give civil society a platform to review its own achievements. A series of regional consultations will culminate in a Forum in Vienna in July 2008.