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Drug Commission Continues Ministerial-Level Meeting to Review Efforts to Tackle Global Drug Problem
VIENNA, 16 April (UN Information Service) -- Ministers assessed progress achieved and difficulties encountered in meeting the goals and targets set out in the Political Declaration adopted at the 1998 GA special session, particularly with regard to cannabis.
As the Commission on Narcotic Drugs continued its high-level segment this afternoon, several speakers expressed concern at the growing trend towards the legalization of cannabis.
At the current session, Member States are meeting to review the progress achieved in meeting the drug supply and demand reduction targets for the year 2008 set out in the Political Declaration, adopted in 1998 by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, devoted to countering the world drug problem.
Noting Japan's long and successful battle against the scourge of drugs, that country's representative opposed the trend to relax drug control legislation, saying it would impair global efforts for demand reduction. Legalizing drugs, moreover, was inconsistent with the goals adopted by the United Nations Drug Summit in 1998. The rapid growth in the production of synthetic drugs, such as amphetamine-type stimulants, was also a concern. As a result of its long struggle, virtually no illicit drugs were now produced in Japan.
Highlighting his country's efforts to reduce drug supply, Nigeria's representative said tremendous progress had been made in the eradication of cannabis. In 1994, the country had launched "Operation Burn the Weeds", a programme which focused on the identification and destruction of cannabis plantations. While current trends indicated that cannabis cultivation was on the decline, the lack of alternative development assistance for cannabis, and the growing campaign for liberalization of cannabis abuse, had made it difficult to sustain earlier gains.
Offering a different view, the representative of the Netherlands said it was the responsibility of governments to limit the health risks of people addicted to drugs. To protect the welfare of its citizens, evidence-based "harm reduction" interventions, including needle exchange programmes, were necessary. While the term "harm reduction" was, in some countries, directly related to legalization, in the Netherlands, harm reduction had nothing to do with the legalisation of drugs.
Noting three fundamental principles of her country's drug policy, she said that prevention was better than cure, curing was better than harm reduction and harm reduction was better than doing nothing. The Netherlands occupied a middle position among the European Union countries regarding cannabis use and had the lowest rate of problematic drug users.
Among the other issues discussed this afternoon were drug trafficking along already-established and new transit routes, the connection between organized crime and drugs and the need for coordinated, international approaches to combat the drug problem. Many speakers described changes in their domestic legal structures to strengthen law enforcement policies against drug abuse.
Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of Jordan, Poland, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, New Zealand, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Ukraine, Netherlands, Romania, Ireland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Malaysia, Slovenia, Yemen, Germany, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Philippines, Spain, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cambodia, the Gambia, Norway, Nigeria, Japan, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Benin.
Representatives of the Holy See and the Arab Council also spoke.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs will continue its high-level debate tomorrow morning, 17 April at 9:30.
The forty-sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs met this afternoon to continue its ministerial segment. The two-day high-level meeting provided Member States an opportunity for a mid-term review of the review of the progress achieved in meeting the goals and targets for the year 2008 set out in the Political Declaration, adopted in 1998 by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, devoted to countering the world drug problem together. For further background, see press release UNIS/NAR/787.
MUHYIEDDEEN TOUQ (Jordan) said that his country had adopted a global approach to the battle against drugs and had introduced prevention measures at the local level. It had always been a bastion against national and international trafficking. In fact, Jordan had received an award from the UN Drug Control Programme for its efforts to reduce drug demand. The Government had organized awareness campaigns, especially for children and adolescents, among other efforts. It was trying to coordinate all its efforts to combating the problem, including the monitoring of chemical precursors, the introduction of necessary legislation, and offering assistance to neighbouring countries. Jordan's legislation was based on the belief that drug use was an illness that should be treated. Since the 1990s, it had a treatment centre. Last year, it had opened a national rehabilitation centre.
There was a close linkage between drugs and organized crime, as well as a linkage between drug use and the spread of AIDS, he said. In view of the excessive resources needed for treatment, it was crucial to institute prevention measures. It was also necessary to draw attention to the roles of producers and consumers. In addition, international cooperation must be strengthened and the necessary financial and technical resources given to those needing them. Drug trafficking and consumption posed a great threat to human security. The international community must accord particular importance to studying the relationship between those two aspects. Jordan had a policy for combating drugs, applied the principles contained in the 1998 Declaration, and supported the ministerial statement to be adopted.
PIOTR JABLONSKI, Director of the National Bureau for Drug Prevention of Poland, said that his country had ratified all the international agreements concerning the drug problem. Consequently, under Polish law, any possession of drugs, even for private use, must be prosecuted. It was worth noting that from the mid-1980s until the introduction of the first Drug Act, the problem of addiction was mainly perceived in the public health context. The 1990s ushered in a dramatic increase in the use of psychoactive substances both in Poland and other countries of the region. At that time, Poland introduced a prevention and treatment strategy for drug users.
The whole spectrum of programmes, including needle exchange, the steady development of methadone programmes, street work, outreach and early intervention programmes, accompanied by increasing education on the issue, helped to effectively stop drug-related deaths and HIV infections. The current indicators in Poland on the above areas belonged to the lowest and most stable ones in that part of Europe. Regarding prevention and treatment, the country was developing abstinence-oriented programmes, as well as harm-reduction programmes. It was also introducing some elements of the controversial risk reduction approach.
D. L. MENDIS (Sri Lanka) said his country was not seriously affected by the drugs scourge, despite its geographical vulnerability as a trans-shipment point in the Indian Ocean. In the last five years, Sri Lanka had taken measures to achieve the goals of the 1998 Special Session, including its executive, legislative and legal measures. Executive measures included the adoption of a national drug policy and strategic plan to deal with socio-economic issues relating to drug abuse and trafficking. Legislative measures included the implementation of the penal code and customs ordinance. Legal and judicial measures had been taken to prevent drug abuse, trafficking and money-laundering.
It was necessary to see the connection between drug trafficking and internal armed conflict, he said. Internal armed conflicts could be considered as non-international armed conflicts under the 1949 Geneva Convention. Evidence showed that in such conflicts dissident groups had used drug trafficking to procure sophisticated arms. The settlement of conflicts by the international community was an important step in reducing drug trafficking and money-laundering. There was also a great need to enhance the effectiveness of national laws relating to drugs in all its aspects.
LEONARDO COSTA, Attorney-General and President of the National Office for Drugs of Uruguay, highlighted several of the measures his Government had taken in combating the drug scourge. Among them was the creation of a centre for the prevention of money-laundering. The Government had also established mechanisms to strengthen legal cooperation at the international level. It was also developing intensive participation at various international forums and in the Inter-American Commission on Drug Control, as well as the Financial Action Task Force of South America.
He believed it was of fundamental importance to create areas of coordination in the financing of terrorism in order to exchange information and give support to those needing it. The role of international bodies was essential when it came to generating the necessary stimuli for changes. It was necessary to highlight the crucial role of the United Nations and its organizations. Strengthening the international legal system would be an effective tool to achieve the international community's goals, including addressing money-laundering.
JIM ANDERTON, Minister of Economic Development and Associate Minister of Health of New Zealand said that one of the goals of New Zealand's National Drug Policy was to support international efforts to control the supply of, and reduce demand for, legal and illegal drugs. The policy included the need for effective law enforcement to control the supply of drugs, effective measures to reduce the demand for drugs, and effective health, treatment and support services to limit the problems associated with drug use. The relatively low rate of HIV/AIDS amongst injecting drug users in New Zealand was partly due to its needle and syringe exchange programme.
New Zealand's coalition Government had responded to the problem of illicit drugs and alcohol by convening a Ministerial Group on Drugs and Alcohol, he said. One of the Group's initiatives was the reclassification of methamphetamine to the highest risk class for an illicit drug. Other activities included an effective drug education programme, the development of a national electronic monitoring system to provide early warning on inappropriate prescribing levels of controlled drugs, and support for workplace drug testing, along with education and rehabilitation programmes.
In the rural Tairawhiti region, he said New Zealand was implementing policies to enhance economic development. Much of the development related to Tairawhiti's rapidly expanding plantation forestry industry. Central Government action was facilitating the development of more effective drug and alcohol policies by the region's forestry workplaces to improve the safety and image of the industry among prospective workers. New Zealand prided itself on its democratic freedoms and liberal values. The harm to individuals from illicit drugs and the misuse of drugs and alcohol was one of the most serious threats to freedom.
ABDULKADIR AKSU, Minister of the Interior of Turkey, said that illicit drug trafficking was becoming increasingly linked with organized crime and terrorism. The close nexus between drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime posed a serious threat. Therefore, it was necessary to undertake a multidisciplinary approach in fighting illicit drugs.
Turkey and its neighbouring countries were in a region of the world that is one of the most affected by the illicit trafficking of opiates and by its repercussions. Turkey exerted every effort to combat illicit drug trafficking by enhancing its law enforcement capabilities and promoted regional, bilateral and multilateral cooperation among law enforcement authorities to effectively deal with criminal groups involved in drug-related offences.
In 2002, despite the efforts of Afghan authorities, widespread cultivation of illicit opium remained a matter of concern, he said. To solve that serious problem, the full support and cooperation of the international community was crucial for Afghanistan. That support and cooperation should be provided in the framework of a comprehensive international strategy aimed at providing alternative livelihood and the fight against the illicit trafficking of drugs and precursors. Crucial in the fight against drugs and precursors was the provision of technical and financial assistance to Afghanistan, its neighbours and countries along trafficking routes, as well as strengthening the anti-narcotics security belt in the region around Afghanistan.
MILAN FILIPOVIC, Minister of the Interior of Montenegro, speaking on behalf of the delegation of Serbia and Montenegro, said members of the Criminal Police of both Serbia and Montenegro had achieved significant results in the confiscation of all kinds of drugs. Confiscated quantities of heroin showed that through the "Balkans route" of drugs, smugglers had re-established trafficking routes and connections between Eastern and Western Europe. Drugs were trafficked through Serbia and Montenegro through Bulgaria and through Serbia towards Hungary and further west. In the Republic of Serbia, drug addiction was resulting in social and security risks.
Montenegro was a transit area for the smuggling of narcotic drugs by already recognized international routes, he said. Most of the drugs were smuggled from the Middle East through Montenegro into the European Union States. Smuggled drugs included marijuana, heroin, cocaine and hashish. The Ministry undertook intensive actions to fight the smuggling, trafficking and abuse of narcotic drugs. Such actions included advanced training of Ministry employees and establishing cooperation with neighbouring and European Union States. During 2002, the Ministry had uncovered some 305 criminal acts regarding narcotic drugs. Criminal charges had been brought against some 312 persons.
Serbia and Montenegro was ready to fully contribute to the strengthening of the international cooperation in combating the drug problem based on principles of shared responsibilities. In that regard, regional cooperation in South-Eastern Europe was particularly important. The documents adopted during the session would serve as a guideline in the fight against the problem of narcotic drugs.
JURIJ VANDIN, Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, said that over the past year, his country had taken steps to improve its legal basis for addressing the drug problem. It had adopted a law on preventing and countering the proceeds of drug trafficking. Presently, it was pursuing activities to implement that law and had set up a national system to tackle money laundering. In 2002, a presidential decree on additional measures to promote moral values and healthy lifestyles was issued.
Also, he continued, law enforcement bodies were taking measures to counter international drug trafficking. In 2002-2003, more than 200 kilos of heroin had been seized and five laboratories had been closed. He was concerned that much of the knowledge for producing synthetic drugs could be gained from the Internet. Ukraine was involved in the international operation, dubbed "containment", launched by South Eastern European States to tackle drug smuggling. It was also interested in further strengthening cooperation with other countries and United Nations organizations. Taking into account Ukraine's location in the transit route for drugs entering Europe, other countries should be interested in providing assistance to his country and pooling efforts to tackle the drug scourge.
CLÉMENCE ROSS-VAN DORP, State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Support of the Netherlands said that Netherlands's drug policy goal was to prevent drug use and limit its risks. The policy included maintaining public order and reducing the supply of drugs by combating drug trafficking. Her country's policy consisted of three fundamental principles: prevention was better than cure; curing was better than harm reduction; and harm reduction was better than doing nothing. Strong family and other social networks provided the best prevention against future drug use. Preventing drug use by pursuing an active policy of discouragement was the key. Combating the supply of drugs was also part of preventing drug use. Despite the Government's efforts, a small minority of the population experimented with illegal drugs. The Netherlands had a professional system for addict treatment, care and rehabilitation.
Addiction was an almost chronic ailment with a very high rate of reversion, she said. In that regard, it was the Government's responsibility to support people whose addiction had developed into a chronic ailment, and to limit the health risks of their addiction. Harm reduction had given rise to a great deal of debate. To protect the welfare of its citizens, evidence-based harm reduction interventions, including needle exchange programmes, were necessary. The words "harm reduction" in some countries were directly connected to the discussions on the legalisation of drugs. To the Netherlands, harm reduction referred to programmes that focused directly on reducing the harm resulting from drug use and had nothing to do with the discussion on the legalisation of drugs.
Regarding cannabis use, the Netherlands occupied a middle position in the European Union, she said. The country had the lowest rate per thousand inhabitants of problematic drug users. Despite the fact that its recent cocaine and Ecstasy use had been above average for Europe, the Netherlands had just 2.6 problematic drug users per thousand inhabitants. While much had been accomplished since 1998, much remained to be done. Achieving a drug-free world by 2008 must be viewed as an aspirational target and long-term goal. If the Commission's efforts had lead to a reduction in the number of HIV infections, a fall in the number of drug deaths and a decrease in drug-related crime, it could be concluded that many lives had been saved. Without international cooperation, it would be impossible to combat drug production and trafficking. A balanced approach to demand and supply reduction was important.
PAVEL ABRAHAM, Secretary of State and President of the National Anti-Drug Agency of Romania, said that, unfortunately, it could now be said that Romania was not only a transit country, but also a destination in drug trafficking and a producer. Therefore, Romanian authorities, both at the domestic and local levels, in cooperation with civil society, had taken measures to address all those areas. With respect to the legal framework, he noted the adoption of a series of important laws that related to drug supply reduction.
In order to ensure a coordinated approach in tackling the complex problem of drugs, the Government had adopted a National Anti-Drug Strategy and had set up the National Anti-Drug Agency in December 2002, he said. The authorities and civil society had granted particular attention to the prevention of drug addiction as well as to the treatment of drug addicts. There were 13 centres across the country for drug treatment. In addition, the Government had allocated 1.5 million Euros to cover the costs of such treatment in the last two years. Heroin was the most used drug in Romania, followed by cannabis and ecstasy.
To succeed in the fight against drugs, actions of the international community must be comprehensive and addressed in a multilateral setting. Also, action must include national development priorities and address all aspects of the drug problem - production, demand, trafficking and distribution. Romania would focus on the fight against trafficking and consumption by, among other things, improving its national legal framework.
NOEL AHERN, Minister for the National Drugs Strategy of Ireland, said drug misuse was one of the fundamental problems facing Irish society today. Tackling the drug problem required a coordinated and integrated approach. Recognizing the issue's complexity, Ireland's strategy contained over one hundred separate actions under four policy pillars, including supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. A significant feature of Ireland's legislation was that the offence of money-laundering extended to the proceeds of both drug trafficking and other criminal activities.
Because the drug problem was a global one, it was best tackled through cooperation and sharing, he said. Partnership and consultation were the best way forward in dealing not only with the drug issue but also with the wider problem of social inclusion. Ireland strongly supported the international approach to combating drugs. Targeted, culturally responsive demand reduction measures were a major focus of the Pompidou Group, the Council of Europe's cooperation group on all illicit drug issues. As a forum for discussion, the Pompidou Group - chaired by Ireland - would continue to promote evidence-based policies in support of effective worldwide drug control.
Cooperation was needed to meet the global drug challenge, he said. With a balanced, pragmatic approach at the local, national and global levels, the international community would succeed in making further progress towards achieving the objectives of the 1998 Political Declaration.
PETR MARES, Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, said that the strongest tool in combating the multifaceted drug scourge had always been and still remained the system of international legal instruments, particularly the United Nations conventions. The fall of Communism and the process of globalization had made the drug problem part of day-to-day reality. Thus, international cooperation had become an imperative of the day. Nowadays, his country was no longer just a transit country, and drug trafficking and use no longer only affected isolated strata of society.
Whereas both the domestic and international drug scene evolved rapidly, his country had to adjust its drug supply reduction and law enforcement strategies accordingly, he noted. That was why the Government had proposed to Parliament a further tightening of the law against money laundering. Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code that fostered judicial cooperation were also adopted. Simultaneously, better technical and financial support had been provided to specialized branches of the Czech Police and the General Directorate of Customs.
He stressed that combating the world drug problem must be based on a balanced, interdisciplinary approach, comprising all its elements, including research, treatment and rehabilitation. National drug policies should, therefore, incorporate the most recent international experience and proven practices. Finally, he emphasized the positive impact of the activities of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, or the so-called Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, which had demonstrated an effective way of adjusting drug policy strategies to current trends in drug abuse.
LUIS FILIPE PEREIRA, Minister of Health of Portugal, said that five years ago, his country had made a commitment to achieving significant results in the supply and demand for drugs. The Portuguese Drug Strategy, approved in 1999, was based on a multidisciplinary and integrated approach. An action plan, approved in 2000, defined the actions and measures needed to implement the provisions of the strategy.
Regarding demand reduction, he agreed that efforts should concentrate on early interventions for young people. Portugal had implemented several national prevention campaigns in night leisure venues. The goal of those campaigns was to provide accurate information on the risks associated with the use of psychoactive substances. In the area of money-laundering, Portugal had adopted two laws creating a new legal framework against money-laundering. Under existing Portuguese laws, the consumer could suffer penalties. Under the new legal framework, the drug addict was no longer considered as a criminal but rather as a patient needing help. The new law envisaged measures that would lead to medical treatment.
"Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction" had been created to promote treatment and dissuasion from new drug use instead of penal sanctions, he said. Commissions covered an important target group in terms of age and use patterns which, in general, were not covered by other services or institutions. Data collected by the Commissions allowed for the profiling of drug users in different stages and was an important input for the conceptualization of demand reduction services. Portugal was fully committed to the implementation of the 1998 Political Declaration.
ZAINAL ABIDIN ZIN, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Malaysia, said that his Government had declared a total war against drugs, hoping to create a drug-free nation by 2015. The international drug control conventions had continued to provide the basic framework for judicial cooperation. Cooperation between law enforcement agencies should be enhanced, especially in the areas of extradition, mutual legal assistance and on measures to counter money-laundering.
In January 2001, Malaysia enforced the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Significant progress had been made in effective investigation and the reporting of suspicious transaction activities by all financial institutions. Malaysia was not in the process of incorporating legislation to include counter terrorist funding in the Act as part of its commitment to respond to that new threat.
At the regional level, he said the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) continued to step up and broaden its cooperation with other international organizations. The ASEAN ministers had agreed to advance the target year for realizing a drug-free ASEAN from 2020 to 2015. In July 2001, ASEAN ministers had designated 2002-2003 as ASEAN drug-awareness years.
DUSAN KEBER, Minister of Health of Slovenia, said Slovenia lay on the well-known Balkan heroin route. On that route, heroin travelled to northern Europe and synthetic drugs flowed in the opposite direction. Given the country's strategic location, Slovenia had developed extensive drug supply reduction activities within its police and customs service. Due to the growing presence of synthetic drugs in Slovenia, greater focus had been given to preventing the production and trafficking of such
drugs and their precursors. Legislation adopted in 1999 and 2000 formed the basis for Slovenia's modern approach to solving problems stemming from the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs.
Slovenia's Interministerial Commission against Drugs was a national coordinating policy body. At the local level, Slovenia had developed a successful model for local action groups. Slovenia had a well-developed treatment system for illicit drug addiction. Special emphasis was placed on preventing the social exclusion of drug users.
Although the rate of illicit drug users was slowing, Slovenia was still experiencing growth in the number of illicit drug users, he said. Different programmes for the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts were needed. He stressed the importance of the non-governmental sectors, which should be afforded special attention within the Commission's framework.
MUTAHAR RASHAD AL-MASRI, Vice-Minister of the Interior of Yemen, provided an overview of the drug situation in his country, as well as his Government's efforts to tackle the problem. Yemen, in the past, did not know what drugs were, except for hashish. In previous years, it was a transit country for smuggling due to its geographic location and its long coastline. Yemen had exerted tremendous efforts to combat the drug problem and at the national level had enacted a law criminalizing drug trafficking. It also had a high-level national committee, headed by the Minister of the Interior, to combat the drug problem.
In addition, he continued, Yemen had expanded the scope of its actions and increased material and financial resources devoted to the battle. Yemen had a special law to address money laundering, considering the close relationship between that and drug trafficking. Yemen had also expanded channels of cooperation, especially with neighbouring countries. It had bilateral treaties with a number of Arab and African countries, and conventions for cooperation in the legal domain. It was cooperating with all agencies responsible for combating the drug problem. At the international level, Yemen had joined various conventions and had participated in a number of international conferences.
MARION CASPERS-MERK, Drug Commissioner of the Federal Government, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Security of Germany, said the approach followed by the 1998 Special Session had, in principle, been the right one. A new general framework for international cooperation to address the rising drug problem had been created. Germany was currently working on a National Plan of Action on Drugs and Addiction to replace its earlier Drug Control Plan. The new Plan rested on four pillars, namely prevention, therapy, survival assistance and harm reduction, and repression and supply reduction.
The political and social developments that had intensified the drug problem comprised one of the two main reasons for the increasing worldwide drug problem, she said. The Special Session's decisions had not been implemented with the necessary vigour. It was not a question of defining new objectives, or elaborating a new drug policy, but rather of consistently pursuing the objectives set forth in 1998. The three international drug conventions, although born of a completely different era, continued to provide an appropriate foundation on which to build a modern drug policy.
The drug conventions offered sufficient flexibility for a policy that considered both the criminal aspects of the drug problem and also the health and social concerns of drug addicts, she continued. The Conventions made many relevant obligations subject to constitutional or legislative constraints. Therefore Germany believed no fundamental changes needed to be made to international drug conventions. Germany fully supported the goals set forth in 1998, and would do its utmost to implement measures adopted by the United Nations, as well as decisions taken by the Commission.
GEDIMINAS CERNIAUSKAS, Deputy Minister of Health of Lithuania, said that there had been a constant increase in drug addiction in his country. Drug addiction was considered one of the most urgent social problems. The number of people using drugs, particularly among the young, was growing and crimes related to illicit drug circulation was increasing, among other things. In order to fight the drug problem, Lithuania had adopted a number of measures in three main areas - policy development, drug demand and drug supply reduction.
To implement the three United Nations conventions, which his country had ratified, a number of national laws and regulations had been put in place in the field of drug control. In 1999, the Government had adopted the National Programme for Drug Control and Prevention of Drug Addiction for 1999-2003. The main purpose of that programme was to set forth policy objectives for drug control and prevention, as well as concrete measures for their implementation. The Government would approve the Second Programme this year.
Cooperation between the competent national institutions, as well as with the international community, could contribute effectively to the success of policies on drug control and drug abuse prevention. He hoped the ministerial segment would give a strong impetus for further implementation of political commitments agreed to in 1998.
CHUNG-HA SUH, Republic of Korea, said that illicit drugs not only affected the health and lives of individuals but also undermined the political, social and cultural foundations of all countries. The problems of illicit manufacturing and trafficking of drugs and drug abuse presented a formidable challenge that could only be met on a global scale. That was all the more important since the lines between supplier, demand and transit countries had become increasingly blurred.
To address the drug problem on the home front, the Republic of Korea had taken various measures to strengthen its legal framework for drug control measures, he said. Stricter laws to punish the sale and distribution of drugs to persons under age had been introduced, for example. Korean law enforcement authorities were allowed to control the transactions of precursor chemicals, and to keep persons dealing in such substances under surveillance. Punitive measures alone were not enough to root out drug manufacturing and trafficking. It was necessary to tackle the critical issue of money-laundering. With the increasing volume of drug trafficking, locating and seizing profits from drug dealing was becoming more important than ever.
VAN DUC PHAM, Deputy Chief of Police, Ministry of Public Security of Viet Nam, said that over the years, his Government had undertaken active measures to prevent and push back the illicit drug menace. Among them were the gradual completion of the legal system on drug control, establishment of the National Drug Control Committee, drastic eradication of opium cultivation and expansion of international cooperation in the field of drug control.
Over the past five years, countries had together achieved positive results in the implementation of the Political Declaration adopted in 1998, he said. However, a lot of difficulties and challenges remained, especially the emerging danger of ATS in East and South-East Asia. Viet Nam continued to encounter numerous difficulties, including the influx of illicit drugs from outside. Together with its own efforts, Viet Nam hoped to receive further assistance and cooperation from the United Nations and the international community, including the provision of more projects on legal system completion, and personnel training and equipment supplies for the law enforcement agencies of Viet Nam and other countries in the region.
EFREN Q. FERNANDEZ, Executive Director, Dangerous Drugs Board of the Philippines, said the number one drug problem in his country was the illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants. The second was the persistent cultivation of cannabis. A new law, adopted in 2002, provided the necessary framework for a comprehensive, integrated and balanced strategy towards the Philippine drug problem. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act included a multisectoral approach to drug demand reduction, control of precursors and essential chemicals, and coverage of clandestine laboratories. The Dangerous Drugs Board was expanded and directly placed under the Office of the President.
Despite a difficult period of transition, the Government's determination to win the war on drugs remained firm, he stated. Political interest remained high. A congressional oversight committee would be monitoring the implementation of the new law to ensure that it was responsive to the drug situation on the ground.
GONZALO ROBLES OROZCO, representative of the Ministry of the Interior of Spain, said that there was no doubt that the international community had major challenges ahead of it in tackling the drug problem. The international community, as a whole, and individual Member States had made progress. In comparing the present situation with that of five years ago, the international community had strengthened the tools necessary to deal with the drug problem, thereby laying a solid foundation for many initiatives, which did not exist a few years ago.
Among the most positive results, he noted, was a significant increase in the quality of prevention programmes and an increase in international cooperation. However, great challenges remained. It was now necessary to consolidate what had been achieved. It was also essential to reaffirm the value of the United Nations conventions, which were drafted and adopted with a view to protect public health.
He noted that, in recent months, various forums had been discussing advocating alternative drug policies, most notably the legalization of cannabis. For the time being, research did not allow his country to include cannabis on the list of drugs with medicinal uses. The importance Spain attached to multilateral cooperation was demonstrated by, among other things, the assistance it provided to countries in need. Progress would only be made if the contributions of all actors in the international community were recognized as indispensable.
DJIBRIL YIPÈNÈ BASSOLE, Minister of Security of Burkina Faso, said that the special session had laid down international goals for reducing the drug problem. Reporting on the progress of his country, he said that the Government had implemented a multi-sectoral policy to tackle the drug problem. In implementing a policy for drug demand reduction, Burkina Faso had always emphasized prevention. To stop illicit drug trafficking, it had organized small-scale operations and seized a considerable amount of drugs. He noted that the traffickers themselves were increasingly using sophisticated techniques.
Despite the Government's policies and actions, considerable amounts of cannabis crops were appearing in the border areas of the country. No country would be successful in its efforts without international cooperation, he stressed. The struggle against drug trafficking had to be incorporated into national development strategies. Burkina Faso's specific needs had to do with financial assistance and technological support, in terms of training experts in the area of money laundering, the link between drugs and AIDS and cyber-crime. He hoped a consensus decision would be agreed on at the ministerial segment to advance the struggle against the global scourge of drugs.
RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ ANINAT (Chile) said that only through international cooperation could the phenomenon of drugs be crushed. In 2002, a new national policy had been approved with the aim of reducing drug demand by 2008. The strategy also aimed to reduce marijuana levels, cocaine consumption and the illicit use of chemical substances. In the fight against drugs, it was important to strengthen the role of the family as the main source of protection. It was also important to avoid drug use among youth, to rehabilitate people affected by drug use and avoid the use of Chile's economic system for money laundering.
Consumption of illicit drugs had actually gone down slightly in Chile, he said. There had also been a reduction in the coca base. Chile's strategy was based on the fact that no country alone could tackle the drug issue. The increase of poly-drug and synthetic drug abuse, money laundering and terrorism were among the great challenges faced by all countries and regions. The problem of drugs was also eroding the enjoyment of human rights.
PRUM SOKHA, Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior of Cambodia, said that in response to an increase in the abuse of illicit drugs and in drug trafficking through his country, in 1995, the Government had created a multi-sectoral agency to coordinate drug control - the National Authority for Combating Drugs. The objective of his Government was to use best practices adopted in other countries.
In 1996, Cambodia passed a drug control law that was regarded by many as one of the strongest pieces of drug control legislation in South-East Asia. Further development of the law, including the strengthening of the penalty clauses, was currently underway. In March, the Cambodian cabinet formally agreed to move ahead with accession to all three international drug control conventions.
As part of its fight against illicit drugs, it was imperative that Cambodia's law enforcement agencies developed the capacity to effectively combat drug trafficking into and through Cambodia, he added. It was also crucial to reduce the diversion of licit chemicals for the production of illicit drugs within Cambodia. In that respect too, considerable training, coordination and sharing of best practices was required. There was still much to be done and he asked that that assistance given by countries be continued and expanded.
OUSMAN BADJIE, Secretary of State for the Interior and Religious Affairs of the Gambia, said the rapid expansion of the drug phenomenon, increased consumption and illicit trafficking had become a concern for all Governments. The Gambia's National Plan of Action sought to address the country's strategies for drug control. Due to inadequate financial and material resources, the Plan would be presented to the donor community for assistance.
The effects of globalization and the rapid development of information technology had not all been positive, he said. International drug trafficking organizations were part of the problem. Some 50 to 75 per cent of the revenues of organized crime came from drugs. Drug trafficking was a global problem that required concerted international efforts. Such efforts should be coordinated to effectively fight drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
Money laundering was a threat to the functioning of financial systems, he added. The Gambia had sought to improve existing legislation and measures governing banking and financial practices. A money-laundering bill would soon be tabled before its National Assembly. As money laundering was an international problem, international cooperation was needed to fight it. The promotion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation to counter the world drug problem, the strengthening of United Nations drug control policies and the impact of drug trafficking on urban crime were of concern to his Government.
INGJERD SCHOU, Minister of Social Affairs of Norway, said that in spite of the tremendous challenges in the field of drug abuse control confronting national authorities and regional and international organizations, progress, although uneven, had been made. The easy availability of illicit drugs on the Norwegian market had for many years now been a matter of considerable concern.
Last December, her Government launched a three-year, comprehensive, multi-sectoral strategy and action plan on alcohol and drug abuse problems. The overall objective was to significantly reduce the harm caused by substance abuse. The Government would pursue a drug and alcohol policy, which would be more effective in preventing substance problems from arising in the first place. A major challenge in that process would be to maintain and reinforce the will among people to fight substance abuse through preventive measures. An effort would be made to mobilize an even stronger involvement and higher degree of awareness in the population at large.
Her Government resisted any legalization of illicit drugs, including cannabis. Norway's national policy was based on three strategies: strengthening control of illicit production and trafficking; reinforcing preventive efforts in the local communities; and making provisions for well-organized and effective treatment and care of substance abusers.
YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said Japan was particularly concerned about the rapid growth in the production and abuse of synthetic drugs, such as amphetamine-type stimulants. It had struggled for some 50 years against amphetamine-type stimulants. As a result, virtually no illicit drugs were now produced in Japan. The country could contain the one per cent of the population who abused drugs. The amphetamine-type stimulants problem, particularly among the youth, was one of Japan's most serious social and health issues. Among the lessons it had learned was the need for effective law enforcement and institution building, control of precursor materials, and commitment to the principle of "zero tolerance".
He was concerned about the trends in some countries to relax drug control legislation, as it impaired global efforts for demand reduction and did not demonstrate consistency with the goals of the 1998 Political Declaration. Since almost all amphetamine-type stimulants were smuggled into Japan, regional and international cooperation was essential for effective control. In particular, border control with neighbouring countries had to be strengthened. Since 1998, Japan had extended bilateral and multilateral cooperation to reduce the production of illicit drugs, particularly in Asia.
SOUBANH SRITHIRATH, Minister of the President's Office and Chairman of the National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, said that his Government had made it a priority to gradually reduce the cultivation of opium poppy and to eliminate it by 2005, well ahead of the 2008 target established by the special session. As a result of the adoption and ongoing implementation of a balanced approach to opium elimination since 2000, a downward trend had been recorded.
Consequently, he continued, the number of opium addicts had also decreased by 16 per cent from 1998 to 2002. Where appropriate, especially when other alternatives were in place, the Government encouraged opium growers to voluntarily eradicate their opium fields and, if necessary, also resorted to law enforcement measures. Parallel to legislative and law enforcement measures, a comprehensive national strategy for drug demand reduction was now being developed and was expected to be approved soon by the Government.
While his country had been relatively successful in implementing opium elimination programmes and was progressing in drug demand reduction, much still remained to be done on the legal side. The country was still not party to the 1998 Convention, and was working towards improving its legislation to meet the requirements of that Convention. However, progress had been slow, due to the long list of priority laws and regulations that were waiting promulgation by the National Assembly.
ALHAJI BELLO LAFIAJI, Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency of Nigeria, said that his country had made considerable progress in implementing the action plan and measures adopted at the special session. In 1999, Nigeria's drug control strategy, launched in 1995, was reviewed and upgraded to a more comprehensive National Drug Control Master Plan. The Plan had four components - control of adequacy of penal sanctions, control of licit supply, control of illicit supply and drug demand reduction.
In line with the global plan of action, Nigeria had made tremendous progress in the eradication of cannabis, which was the only controlled drug produced in the country. Since 1994, the country had launched "Operation Burn the Weeds", which focused on the identification and destruction of cannabis plantations. The two main objectives of the exercise were to ensure drastic reduction in the supply of the drug in the country and to deprive the cultivators of their capital base.
Current trends indicated that cannabis cultivation had been on the decline in Nigeria since 2000, he said. However, the lack of alternative development assistance for cannabis, and the growing campaign for declassification and liberalization of cannabis abuse had been making it difficult to sustain the gains of the eradication programme. He joined the majority of Member States and the INCB in raising their voices against that trend.
DANIEL TAWEMA, Minister of the Interior of Benin, said that in spite of the efforts of his country and the assistance extended by the UNODC and other organizations to support the daily work of his Government, Benin still failed to reach the minimum expected results. He believed that was the case with the majority of States affected by drugs. If that was the case, it was necessary to reorient collective efforts. He hoped that the UNODC and the UNDCP would have the means at their disposal to assist countries before the next session of the Commission. He hoped everyone would follow up on the current session of the Commission and the ministerial segment by making a new start, and truly take advantage of international solidarity.
JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN, Archbishop, President of the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care of the Holy See, emphasized the need for global education in the fight against drugs. Modern generations suffered from a crisis of inferiority. The slogan was, "I feel, therefore I am". Drugs were an easy key to that world. Global education could assist youth in learning to distinguish between material well-being and happiness, and understanding the right meaning of life. It could also teach youth to practice the virtue of moderation, to respect the law and to live for others. The family could play a role in that regard. Educators must welcome drug users and support them in their fight against drug addiction.
MOHAMED FALLAH AL-OTEIN, representative of the Arab Interior Ministers Council, said that the Council was established as a regional entity and encompassed all 22 Arab States. It aimed at developing and fostering cooperation, and coordinating the efforts of member States in the fields of internal security and crime control, including drug crimes. The Council had approved the Arab Strategy against the Abuse of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in 1986, he said. The Strategy aimed at tackling the drug phenomenon in all its dimensions at the national, regional and international levels.
The growing calls to legalize the use of certain types of drugs were contributing to destroying individuals and families, and eventually harming the society, he said. The great majority of people in the international arena were against such calls and were calling for implementing the international conventions and legal instruments, which criminalized and penalized any illicit production, traffic and use of drugs. He called on all countries to shoulder their responsibilities and not to lift the restrictions on drug use.