Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


63rd CND high-level side event "UN and SCO in the fight against the illicit drug threat: countering drug trafficking via the darknet"

2 March 2020

 I am pleased to address the fourth high-level event on cooperation between UNODC and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

I thank the Republic of Kazakhstan for holding this at the 63rd CND session, and I am grateful to the Russian Federation, the Kyrgyz Republic and the SCO for co-organizing.

Drug trafficking via the darknet, employing encrypted networks hidden from public view and often using cryptocurrencies to conceal transactions, represents a frontier threat that law enforcement in many countries are not yet equipped to deal with.

Reports from Europe indicate that trafficking of illicit drugs accounts for nearly half - specifically 47 per cent -  of all activities on the darknet, while a further 11 percent concern the sale of drug-related chemicals.

International and national law enforcement operations have had a few high-profile successes in shutting down darknet markets, notably Silk Road, Alpha Bay and Hansa, which resulted in at least a temporary decline in online drug transactions. But vendors and buyers could migrate to other online marketplaces that sprung up in their place.

Darknet drug trafficking continues to represent just a fraction of overall illicit drug sales, and most single transactions amount to less than 100 dollars. Nevertheless, it remains a serious concern that the number of people online who purchased drugs via the darknet grew from just under 5 per cent in 2014 to nearly 11 per cent in 2019. A serious emerging threat indeed.

At the same time, we are seeing market shifts in the SCO area, with synthetic drugs posing a growing threat alongside opiates and other plant-based drugs.

This side event provides an important opportunity to assess our responses to such shared challenges, and to discuss our common strategic directions and priorities.

It is extremely valuable to have such regular reviews, and I understand that these joint side events between UNODC and SCO on the margins of CND have developed into a useful tradition.

Our cooperation builds on Chapter 8 of the UN Charter, which highlights the important role of regional organizations, and on the declaration signed by our Secretaries-General in 2010, which called for practical cooperation on issues related to international peace and security, including combatting transnational crime and drug trafficking.

UNODC and SCO have further advanced our collaboration, building on our Memorandum of Understanding, as well as on the UN General Assembly resolution adopted last August "On cooperation between the UN and SCO".

SCO Member States collectively account for more than three billion people, with young people representing around half that number.

That is why a coordinated response to drugs, to protect the health, safety and development of this generation and the next, is so vital.

Here I would like to specifically mention the UNODC Programme in Central Asia and its support through the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, and platforms including the Triangular Initiative and its Joint Planning Cell, as well as the Afghanistan-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Initiative, all of which play an important role in preventing and countering the illicit drug threat.

I also welcome the continuous engagement of SCO with the Paris Pact Initiative.

UNODC remains committed to finding ways to strengthen our cooperation with SCO on both the political and expert level to promote balanced, comprehensive responses to drug trafficking via the darknet and other challenges posed by illicit drugs.

Thanks very much again to our partners and donors for their continued engagement and support. UNODC will continue to assist Member States in the region to collectively address challenges based on the principle of common and shared responsibility, building on the 2019 Ministerial Declaration and related commitments.

I wish you a productive discussion. Thank you.