Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director

Opening Remarks on the Event to Commemorate the 100 th Anniversary of the Signing of the 1912 International Opium Convention


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1909, the International Opium Commission was convened in Shanghai to exchange views on the problem of opium trade and consumption.

Participants at the Commission agreed to gradually suppress opium smoking, to limit its use to medical purposes, to control its exports and to control its harmful derivatives.

This forum led to the signing of the Hague Opium Convention in 1912, which formally established narcotics' control as a fundamental element of international law. The Convention entered into force in 1915.

The International Opium Convention of 1912 established the groundwork for the evolving international system of drug control.

Also present in the Convention was a concern for public health. The contracting powers committed themselves to restrict the use of drugs listed in the Convention to medical and other legitimate purposes.

Several other conventions, protocols and agreements followed. These were initially under the framework of the League of Nations, but later under the umbrella of the United Nations.

The 1912 Hague Convention was later superseded by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which consolidated the various  instruments into a single convention, and the 1971 Convention established control mechanisms to deal with psychotropic substances.

Both these treaties allowed for controlled substances to be used for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing their illicit use, due to the negative effects on health.

The 1988 UN Convention on Illicit Traffic created mechanisms to control the flow of precursor chemicals to avoid their use in the illicit manufacture of drugs.

It also criminalized the laundering of criminal proceeds and provided for the targeting of drug trafficking, a growing phemomenon in the 1980's, due to the involvement of organized criminal groups.

Member States also examined new ways of dealing with this problem by adopting the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. A vital tool for combating drug trafficking criminal networks.

The 2005 UN Convention against Corruption has also reinforced this international legal structure.

UNODC, as well as the INCB, have contributed to the global efforts by supporting States in implementing their treaty obligations.

Much has been done in the period between the Hague Convention and today. Nevertheless, challenges remain.

One of them is the increasing number of substances capable of damaging health, not all of which are under international control.

Another is the sophistication of criminal organizations, and the fact that the world can no longer distinguish between into origin, transit and destination countries.

Sadly, the illicit manufacture and illicit consumption of drugs occur everywhere. And, no one country is large enough to deal with these transnational issues.

These developments make it even more important for States to share responsibility for dealing with the supply and demand aspects of drug control.

One consequence of this shared responsibility is that unilateral changes in drug policy have a strong impact on the drug control system as a whole and upon other States.

Another consequence is that we need more international cooperation, not less. We, need to stand together in order to benefit from our efforts on drug supply and drug demand.

UNODC stands ready to continue to facilitate this productive exchange of views, which will contribute to increasing the effectiveness of the international system of drug control.

The human dimension has remained essential in the context of the world drug problem.

More than ever, we need to do what those States in the beginning of the 20th century did: join forces and reaffirm our commitment to the international system of drug control.

Thank you.