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15 April 2003

Summary of the Preview-Press Briefing of the Ministerial Segment of the 46th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

A preview-press briefing of the Ministerial Segment of the 46th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took place at the Vienna International Centre on 15 April 2003 at which the CND Chairperson and Under-Secretary for Global Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, H.E. Patricia Olamendi, and Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), spoke. The event was chaired by Ingrid Lehmann, Director, UNIS-Vienna.

The Ministerial Segment, which follows the CND session, on 16 and 17 April, will assess the progress made towards meeting the goals of the Ten-Year Action Plan Against Illicit Drugs, established by a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) in 1998. Over 70 Ministers and representatives from 124 countries will participate in this Ministerial Segment, which will include four Roundtable discussions of Ministers.

Mr. Costa, Executive Director, UNODC, who opened the press briefing, said UNGASS had stressed three important issues: 1, the need for balanced drug policies, emphasizing demand reduction in addition to law enforcement; 2, the need to emphasize longer-term trends, especially relating to the United Nations' Millennium Declaration; and 3, the need for reliable drug statistics.

Ms. Olamendi, CND Chairperson, noted several positive trends over the last five years. Today over 84% of countries already have programmes to tackle the drug problem in a comprehensive manner. About 80% of countries have passed legislation against money-laundering, a move unthinkable five years ago. Today a Convention against transnational crime already exists. Fifteen draft resolutions had already been adopted by the CND, with 6 more pending, she said.

This session was putting a new emphasis on seeking ways to resolve the situation whereby some countries possessed lenient laws regarding drug consumption, while others continued their efforts against drug production and drug trafficking. The issue was not one of punishing addicts, but of ensuring drugs were not available in countries. Both distribution and access had to be controlled. All countries had to strengthen the fight against drugs, Ms. Olamendi said.

On the question of the relation between drugs, crime and terrorism, Mr. Costa said it was not easy to demonstrate such links, although he said connections between terrorists and narco-traffickers had been well established in Peru several years ago, as they were in Colombia today. Similarly, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had supported opium cultivation before it had banned such production in 2001. Elsewhere the evidence was "spotty," but the CND was examining the matter, he said.

Dismantling the routes of trafficking, including established routes for opium and heroin was also a challenge, Mr. Costa said. Such routes arose because of circumstances, such as corruption in certain countries. Corrupt officials, police and border guards meant easy entry and exit points. UNODC undertook constant monitoring of the degree of interdiction, he said, and figures varied from 5-20% of interceptions out of total drug flows through countries.

Regarding alternative development, Ms. Olamendi said this policy is significantly benefiting small farmers, but developed countries had to open their markets to their products. If they failed to do so, small farmers would find it very difficult to adhere to traditional crops. This was because many developing countries had insufficient monies to keep providing economic aid to induce farmers to move away from opium or coca cultivation. "We ask for the opening of markets, more than for money," Ms. Olamendi said.



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