Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director

Annual Parliamentary Hearing: "The world drug problem: taking stock and strengthening the global response"

New York, 8 February 2016


Allow me to begin by sharing with you a message from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

On behalf of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, I have to say that we welcome the focus of this year's Annual Parliamentary Hearing on the world drug problem, ahead of the UN General Assembly special session.

The engagement of IPU in addressing global challenges like the world drug problem is very much needed and highly appreciated.

Parliamentarians play an absolutely critical role in putting global commitments into practice in national legislation and ensuring that the necessary resources are devoted to make these pledges a reality.

I had the privilege of addressing the 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva last October, and I am glad to be able to join you today.

This meeting is another opportunity to ensure that the valuable national perspectives of parliamentarians can further enrich the UNGASS process.

Addressing the world drug problem is essential to promoting health and peaceful and inclusive societies, as part of overall efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UNGASS is therefore a chance to consider responses to the world drug problem within the holistic framework of the SDGs.

In the run up to the special session, there has been an open, inclusive and comprehensive preparatory process led by Member States through the Vienna-based Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

I am pleased that we have with us today Ambassador Khaled Shamaa, Chair of the Board Tasked with UNGASS Preparations, who is very skilfully facilitating this process.

Participation and debate have been encouraged through a dedicated UNGASS website, and through numerous events held in New York, as well as in Geneva and Vienna.

Diverse stakeholders, including UN entities, international and regional organizations and civil society, have provided their substantive contributions.

The UNGASS is also an important milestone on the way to 2019 and the review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem.

It has helped to focus the attention of the international community on the many existing and emerging challenges posed by drugs.

This includes heroin from Afghanistan, which despite decreases in opium poppy cultivation and production, continues to imperil peace, security, health and development in the region and beyond. 

The nexus of organized crime and terrorism has emerged as a critical threat as criminal groups and violent extremists are involved in drug trafficking in Africa and the Middle East.

There is growing concern about increasing drug consumption in West and East Africa, which remain a critical transit route for traffickers.

Violence continues to undermine stability and development in Central America.

New psychoactive substances, or so-called legal highs, continue to proliferate outside international control, posing new risks and increasing the need for treatment.

The potential for alternative development to empower poor farmers to break the vicious cycle of illicit cultivation and establish viable livelihoods has too often remained unrealized.

All three drug conventions recognize the importance of controlled substances for medical purposes, but problems with availability and access remain in too many parts of the world.

As a result, people suffering from grave diseases such as cancer or traumatic injury cannot get pain relief and adequate care.

Prevention efforts and services for people with drug use disorders also continue to fall short, with only one out of every six drug users globally receiving treatment.

Women in particular face barriers to treatment: representing one out of three drug users globally, but only one out of five drug users in treatment.

The result is that far too many people continue to needlessly lose their lives, with nearly two hundred thousand drug-related deaths in 2013.

I very much welcome the fact that the discussions leading to the UNGASS have  reiterated the importance of common and shared responsibility in addressing these challenges.

They have further emphasized the need for balanced and comprehensive policies, rooted in the international drug control conventions , giving due consideration to public health, prevention, treatment and care.

This includes considering alternatives to conviction or punishment, particularly for appropriate drug-related offences of a minor nature.

This in turn could help to address prison congestion, as well as prevent the recruitment of vulnerable individuals by criminals and violent extremists. 

Balanced and comprehensive approaches also include robust criminal justice responses to disrupt organized crime networks, as well as promoting alternative livelihoods and increasing access to essential controlled medicines, while preventing their diversion, abuse and trafficking.

Moreover, it means strengthening access to evidence-based and gender-responsive services for prevention and treatment of substance abuse, as well as for HIV prevention, treatment and care.

UNODC is the UN Secretariat's lead entity in assisting countries to address the challenges of drugs and crime, working with our UN partners  and development actors, including the international financial institutions.

As such, UNODC continues to support the CND in the preparatory process, including with the forthcoming UNGASS Special Segment taking place alongside the regular CND session in March. 

We are also supporting Member States to put balanced approaches to drug control into action on the ground, through our network of field offices and programmes linking global, inter-regional, regional and country-level responses.

UNODC is well placed to offer such comprehensive assistance as our mandate encompasses justice, the rule of law and health, and our support is informed by the analytical expertise and operational experience needed to address all aspects of supply and demand.

I am looking forward to hearing your views on how we can further enhance this work, and how the international community can improve collective responses to the challenges posed by the world drug problem.

Thank you.