Yury Fedotov

Director-General/Executive Director


Remarks at the launch of the World Drug Report 2015

26 June 2015


Your Royal Highness,


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to launch today UNODC's flagship publication: the World Drug Report 2015.

This year's report is special. It is the last one before the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem to be held next April, and it can provide a platform for detailed discussion among Member States. The report can also enhance the exchange of ideas and practical lessons on illicit drugs, while enabling Member States to draw solid and practical conclusions.

The World Drug Report 2015, therefore, has a role to play within the overall process that can assist in the achievement of the goals set out in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action by 2019.

To highlight this message, and the importance of UN interagency coordination, we have decided, for the very first time, to make the launch a truly global one. We are simultaneously launching the report in three major UN capitals: New York, Vienna and Geneva.   

Allow me also to commend the CND's invaluable work; in particular, the dedicated board responsible for UNGASS 2016 preparations, which has been so ably chaired by Ambassador Khaled Shamaa of Egypt.

As the lead organization in the UN Secretariat responsible for the global challenges of drugs and crime, UNODC is firmly committed to supporting Member States as we move closer to UNGASS 2016.

We will continue to work closely with the CND and all other partners, including civil society and the scientific community, to support UNGASS preparations.  

The recent debate on the UNGASS process, held on 7 May in New York, was summed up by the President of the General Assembly when he stressed the need for a "comprehensive, multi-dimensional and collaborative approach to finding practicable and sustainable solutions to the drug issues facing communities throughout the world."

This mirrors our overall approach. We are currently working alongside many other UN entities on the issue of illicit drugs. 

Health, in particular, is a fundamental element of this year's report. The Geneva launch, in partnership with UNAIDS and WHO, will concentrate on health, particularly prevention and treatment, as well as HIV/AIDS.

In New York, the main focus is on the trends and movements in drug use and drug trafficking.

Our event in Vienna highlights the importance of alternative development.

And, for the first time since the early 2000's, the thematic chapter of the report examines the many challenges of undertaking alternative development programmes in marginalized and isolated areas of the world.  

The report represents a link between efforts to help impoverished farmers move from illicit drug cultivation to the licit economy and the much wider sustainable development goals to be adopted at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in September.

Alternative development is not a fiction, it really works. One such example is Thailand's programme with hill tribe communities, which was undertaken by the Royal Project Foundation with the help of UNODC and other organizations.

I, therefore, personally thank Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol for being present today, and for her personal involvement in promoting alternative development in Thailand and elsewhere.

I wish her every success with the International Conference on Alternative Development to be held later this year in Thailand. 

If we look at Latin America, I saw the benefits of alternative development during a recent mission. In Colombia, I visited the Domingueka Kogi village to understand how UNODC's efforts, and those of its partners, helped indigenous people to improve their coffee production, in full harmony with nature.

In the Peruvian Amazonia, I also saw how alternative development  changes the lives of people. Thanks to alternative development Peru now has more surface area covered by alternative crops, around 80,000 hectares, and more families benefiting from alternative development.  

We also need to see alternative development within the overall work being done to protect fragile and vulnerable eco environments. 

The illicit logging of the rain forest and uncontrolled use of dangerous herbicides and pesticides by coca growers cause widespread destruction to ecosystems. In Colombia, for example, roughly 290,000 hectares of forest were lost directly to coca crops between 2001 and 2013. This must be stopped.

I would like to offer my warm appreciation to the Minister of Justice for Colombia, Yesid Reyes, for being present here today and for the many insights he provided during my mission.

The experiences of Colombia and Peru  highlight the need to make the implementation of alternative development much more meaningful at the grassroots level.

The report also shows that successful projects can foster a sustainable licit economy, including the transfer of skills and access to land, credit and infrastructure, as well as marketing support and access to markets.

But, funding remains a problem. I call on every Member State to offer their strong political support and funding for these projects and programmes. They can and do work, and they are capable of delivering enormous benefits.  

Allow me also to welcome, in her first official visit to Vienna as the new Afghan counter-narcotics minister, Salamat Azimi. Afghanistan is currently at the beginning of the road towards alternative development.

UNODC's work on alternative development is undertaken to protect and promote the health and welfare of humankind.

This work is underpinned by the balanced approach that calls for integrated and comprehensive efforts, aligned to human rights, dignity and equality, to overcome the drug traffickers and the appalling impact of drug abuse on individuals and communities.  

As the World Drug Report shows, there is a consistent and overwhelming need for these activities at the local, regional and international levels.

My colleague Angela Me, the Head of our Research and Trend Analysis Branch, will soon give you a detailed review of the trends and movements in illicit drugs reflected in the report. 

But, I would like to make the following points. Overall, the use of drugs throughout the world remains fairly stable, but we face considerable problems in a number of areas.

First and foremost, we continue to lose 600 every day who die globally from overdoses and other drug use conditions. These deaths are unacceptable and have terrible consequences for families and communities around the world.  

The continued rise in the area under cultivation in Afghanistan is a formidable challenge for the country and the international community.

Cultivation of coca remains a challenge in Latin America. The vulnerability of Africa, including West and East Africa, to drugs and crime remains a grave concern. 

The use of new psychoactive drugs continues to spread. There are also growing connections between criminals, including drug traffickers, and terrorists and violent extremists. It is a serious threat and recent UN Security Council resolutions have called for a redoubling of efforts to prevent terrorists from benefiting from transnational organized crime.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

During my visit to Peru, I had the pleasure to meet a truly inspirational lady whose life embodies everything that is positive and beneficial about alternative development.

Her name is Senora Maxamina and I think it is fair to say that she has led a hard and difficult life. Maxamina was a coca grower, alongside her husband who was later cruelly killed by insurgents.

Following this terrible tragedy, Maxamina switched to licit crops, especially the cocoa. When I visited Maxamina, a proud lady with three lovely daughters, she was drying the beans, so they could be taken to market.  

Cultivating and producing the cocoa is back-breaking work under a hot, relentless sun and  tropical rain, but Maxamina told me that she liked the work because it supported her family.

Maxamina said that one of her daughters was an agronomist and she had high hopes that her daughter would one day take over the family business to grow cocoa and other licit crops.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Maxamina's story is duplicated all over the world. Not only does it show the benefits of alternative development, but it goes to the very heart of why we are confronting the world drug problem.

We do so to protect the health and welfare of people like Maxamina. Illicit drugs are not just about demand and supply, health and law enforcement, they are about real people like Maxamina and it is about their destinies.

For this reason, we owe it to ourselves as we move closer and closer to UNGASS 2016 to ensure that people remain at the centre of all our efforts. They need our support. We must not let them down.

Thank you.