9 March 1998

Commission on Narcotic Drugs to Hold Forty-first Session in Vienna, 11 - 20 March 1998
To Finalize Preparations for June 1998 Special Session of UN General Assembly on International Drug Control

Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Forty-first Session
Background Release

VIENNA, 9 March (UN Information Service) -- finalizing the preparatory work for the three-day Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to international drug control in June 1998 will be the key focus of attention as the United Nations' principal policy-making body on drug control, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, meets here from 11 to 20 March.

In order to devote full attention to the upcoming Special Session, the Commission will meet in a dual capacity under separate agendas in two formal sessions. First, the body will meet from 11 to 13 March as a regular Commission session to review the international drug control scene and the work of the Vienna-based United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP). Delegates will reconvene again for a full week of deliberations devoted only to the preparations of the Special Session from 16 to 20 March in the form of the second session of the Commission acting as the Preparatory Body for the Special Session.

Breaking with past traditions of convening lengthy world conferences to discuss global problems, Member States, in-line with the reform process of the Organization, have opted for a more condensed format of a special session of the General Assembly. The Special Session -- to be held from 8 to 10 June 1998 -- will not only provide a global overview of all aspects of the drug problem, but will in fact focus on some key issues that would make an impact in the immediate future. It is intended as an opportunity for the international community to assess the worldwide drug situation, review the existing control regime and forge an effective drug control strategy for the next century.

In this regard, of utmost significance will be the Political Declaration which Member States are expected to adopt at the Special Session and which is to reassert their strong commitment to drug control as a priority at both the national and international levels. At the current preparatory session, delegates are expected to finalize the draft text of the declaration. Other key topics of discussion include: agreement on guiding principles in the field of drug demand reduction; alternative development and the elimination of illicit narcotic crops; money laundering; halting synthetic drug production; strengthening controls for chemicals used in illegal drug production; and enhancing international cooperation in law enforcement and in the judicial field in general. Reports on those topics are also expected to be approved by the current session of the Commission.

The three-day, shortened session of the Commission itself will provide the first major opportunity for the new Executive Director of UNDCP, Under-Secretary-General Pino Arlacchi -- who assumed his functions on 1 September 1997 -- to report on the achievements of his first seven months on the job and to outline his programme of work for the future.

The new Executive Director is expected to press for a vigorous strategy as he believes that the international community has an unprecedented opportunity to achieve the ultimate goal of a drug free world. At the turn of the millennium, it is clear to all Governments that no country is immune to the problem of drugs. The ideological divide between East and West as well as between North and South have diminished to provide a more cooperative climate for dealing with global issues. At the same time, years of drug control activities have identified the know-how and the technologies that promise success. The world's governments should solidify their unified will to use the expertise and the technologies to rid society of the scourge of drugs. According to Mr. Arlacchi, the General Assembly Special Session provides the international community with the unique chance to develop a truly global drug control strategy.

Concrete elements of that strategy will build on the existing record of accomplishments by UNDCP. The Programme was created by the General Assembly in 1990 to coordinate all United Nations drug control activities and provide effective leadership in international drug control. Since then, UNDCP has grown into a center of competence and an international reference point for drug control. It has played a catalytical role in stimulating action at the national, regional and international levels through a portfolio of technical cooperation programmes undertaken by a network of field offices. It has promoted subregional cooperation and acted as an honest broker in furthering bilateral cooperation between Governments. The work of the Programme aims at attacking all elements of the drug chain from the grower to the abuser. The goal is to deter drug use, halt production, cut the drug supply lines and hit traffickers where it hurts the most: confiscate drug money and their assets.

New and forceful elements of UNDCP's work place a heavy stress on the need for effective demand reduction policies and on a clear and concrete push by the Programme to eradicate illicit drug crops and find alternative development initiatives for those involved in illegal drug crop production. Other key policy issues of the current session, that are integral part of UNDCP's ongoing work and are to be vital elements of its future strategy include: the further strengthening of the existing international legal framework by achieving a more effective adherence to the international drug control treaties; continuing to promote subregional cooperation programmes; and mobilizing civil society.

Demand reduction is an indispensable pillar in the Programme's global strategy to counter illicit drugs. Currently, UNDCP has eighty country-level projects in demand reduction. The aim is to promote innovative drug treatment and prevention programmes and policies that dissuade people from taking drugs and rehabilitate those who do. Demand reduction efforts are expected to receive not only a full and highlevel endorsement but a further boost by a Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction to be adopted by Member States at the Special Session of the General Assembly.

The Programme's new, vigorous stress on illicit drug crop elimination is manifest in the new global plan to eradicate the illegal cultivation of opium poppy and coca bush. One key example of the global plan -- that looks at both alternative development and law enforcement strategies -- is UNDCP's resumed activities to eradicate opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, an initiative endorsed and commended by the General Assembly at the end of last year. The global plan incorporates ground surveys as well as sophisticated new satellite technologies to monitor cultivation which will ensure that new illicit crops do not replace those being eradicated. The Special Session of the Assembly is expected to give an in depth consideration of the plan.

The Programme -- in fulfilling its mandate of coordinating and taking a lead role in all United Nations drug control activities -- has been playing a key role in involving specialized agencies and other entities of the United Nations system, including the international financial institutions, in mounting a global response to the drug threat. Over the past two years, UNDCP has focused its inter-agency cooperation activities on effective coordination work especially at field level.

The participants will also review the worldwide drug situation and the state of the international drug control system by discussing the 1997 Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The key message of the latest annual report of the Vienna-based INCB, is that a prevailing culture of tolerating recreational drug use undermines prevention efforts. A culture of drug-friendliness, according to the Report, appears to be gaining prominence as a result of increased influence though pop culture, open media advocacy of cannabis legalization and the power of Internet, spreading unchecked information on all aspects of drug use and abuse.

The 53-member Commission is also expected to a review how the overall and ongoing reform process of the United Nations, initiated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan translates into the work of the various United Nations bodies dealing with issues related to drug control. One such key element of the reform process is the newly established stronger ties between UNDCP and the Vienna-based Center for International Crime Prevention.

Other matters on the agenda of the shortened, three-day Commission session include discussion on administrative and budgetary matters and drawing up the provisional agenda for the Commission's next session in 1999.

Membership of Commission

The 53 members of the Commission are: Algeria, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

For further information, contact:
Sandro Tucci, Spokesperson for the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention
Ph: (43-1) 21345 5629 Fax: (43-1) 21345 5931
Mobile: (43-664) 210 50 28