Yury Fedotov

Director-General/Executive Director

Remarks at the 32nd International Drug Enforcement Conference

Cartagena, 2 June, 2015


Distinguished participants,  

My thanks for inviting me to the 32nd annual International Drug Enforcement Conference.  

In the discussions leading up to the UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem in April next year, countries have placed great emphasis on the need for a balanced, integrated, comprehensive and coordinated global approach to address the many challenges posed by illicit drugs.  

This has brought a welcome focus on health and the need to reduce demand, including through effective measures on prevention and treatment.  

At the same time, vigorous law enforcement action is clearly a vital part of a balanced response.  

IDEC has been meeting for more than three decades, providing a practical forum for law enforcement officials to share intelligence and develop operational strategies.  

We at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime very much appreciate IDEC's contribution to enhancing international cooperation.  

A key part of UNODC's work supporting Member States involves building connections to strengthen action against transnational organized crime and the illicit drug trade.  

These efforts include the Network of Prosecutors against Organized Crime, or REFCO, which links 10 prosecutor's offices in Central America and the Dominican Republic in order to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of organized crime.  

Our inter-regional drug control approach connects our work in West and Central Asia, Southeast Europe, the Gulf region and Africa, to expand cross-border law enforcement action, cooperation in criminal matters and drug prevention responses.  

We have launched a new initiative under this approach called Networking the Networks, which seeks to further strengthen criminal intelligence sharing and operational coordination within and between regions.  

Networks linking law enforcement coordination centres and platforms, as well as law enforcement training institutions, are already up and running, and a new network bringing together Financial Intelligence Units will be launched later this year.  

Our global Container Control Programme, developed with the World Customs Organization to counter all forms of illicit trafficking, continues to expand, to include developing capacities at airports as well as sea ports and dry ports.  

In all of these efforts, professional partnerships are critical to success, and once again I would like to commend your efforts in this regard.  

The importance of partnerships has also been emphasized in the preparatory process for UNGASS 2016.  

These preparations have been underway for some time under the leadership of the Vienna-based Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which was tasked by the General Assembly with overseeing an inclusive preparatory process.  

A high-level review was held in Vienna last year, which brought together 129 States and adopted a Joint Ministerial Statement.  

The statement and the preparatory process so far have recognized the three UN drug conventions as the cornerstone of an international drug control system that seeks to promote and protect the health and welfare of humankind.  

They have also acknowledged the successes as well as the setbacks in trying to achieve this.  

As you all know very well, the challenges remain formidable, whether we are talking about improving access to evidence-based prevention and treatment services for drug use disorders and HIV/AIDS, or making available controlled medications for medical purposes; or providing alternative livelihoods to reduce the vulnerabilities of poor farmers to illicit drug cultivation.  

On the supply side, the international community is grappling with record opium cultivation in Afghanistan and continued challenges with coca cultivation, as well as a rapid rise in new psychoactive substances and the growth of the "dark market" online.  

The strengthening nexus of organized crime and terrorism, in which drug trafficking appears to play a notable role, is a major concern.  

The Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as terrorists in West Africa and the Sahel and the Middle East are profiting from the drug trade.  

Boko Haram in Nigeria has been involved, directly or through levying taxes, in the illicit trafficking of drugs. ISIL/Da'esh and Al Nusra Front are also believed to facilitate the smuggling of chemical precursors for the production of captagon.   

It is clear that illicit drugs, as well as related challenges posed by organized crime, corruption and terrorism, have a major impact on all our societies. All over the world, lives continue to be lost, and communities torn apart, as a result of illicit drugs.  

It is equally clear there are no simple solutions, and there remain diverse views and perspectives on the way forward.  

Keeping this in mind, as well as the fact that the debate is ongoing, I think the process towards UNGASS 2016 has nevertheless helped to achieve some important things.  

The discussions have helped to direct international attention to the harms caused by the cultivation, production, trafficking, marketing and consumption of illicit drugs, and their impact on health, development, peace and security.  

Member States in different regions, including production, transit and destination countries, are actively engaged in the debate, and they have repeatedly recognized the world drug problem as a common and shared responsibility.  

This in turn has helped to reinforce the important message that we cannot afford to work in silos - not between organizations, including within the UN system, and certainly not between countries and regions.  

While strategies must be targeted and flexible, a balanced approach must look at all aspects of supply and demand.  

That includes dealing with the social and health consequences of drug use in countries with weak public health sectors.  

It includes enhancing information exchange for more effective control of precursors.  

It includes promoting tools of international cooperation provided by the UN Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption, such as mutual legal assistance and extradition.  

It includes addressing criminal violence, and links with terrorism and corruption.  

A balanced approach acknowledges that drug trafficking often goes hand in hand with other criminal activities such as human trafficking and firearms smuggling, and requires integrated, comprehensive responses.  

A balanced approach also means connecting with broader development efforts to reduce vulnerabilities and support opportunities.  

Overall, the debate towards UNGASS 2016 and the preparations leading to the session has brought a welcome emphasis on the human dimension of the problem, and the need for evidence-based approaches.  

They have strengthened the dialogue with the scientific community, and helped to promote engagement with young people.  

In this way I believe UNGASS 2016 can help to lay the foundations for more effective and positive action, and lead to meaningful progress.   

As the lead entity of the UN in assisting countries to address the global challenges of drugs and crime, UNODC and its network of field offices remains committed to working with you to put this balanced approach into action on the ground.  

I welcome your views on how we can best support you.

Thank you.