Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


128th session of the International Narcotics Control Board

  4 September 2020

Distinguished members of the Board,

Good afternoon.

Allow me to begin by welcoming the new Board members and congratulating President de Joncheere on his re-election, as well as the Vice-Presidents, Rapporteur and committee colleagues on their elections.

I had the pleasure to meet with the Board for the first time during my very first week as UNODC Executive Director, at the beginning of February.

Our second meeting is taking place under radically different circumstances.

We meet virtually, and in a world that continues to struggle with multiple challenges posed by drug use and drug trafficking, insufficient access to essential medicines and illicit drug cultivation.

This year’s World Drug Report shows that more people are using drugs, and there are more drugs than before.

Some 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users, and with a more pronounced increase in developing countries.

Drug markets are expanding and are becoming more complex.

Global opium production and cocaine manufacture remain among the highest levels recorded in modern times, while even stronger growth has been registered in the manufacture and trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants.

In addition to controlled substances, there are hundreds of dangerous substances that are not under international control.

There has also been a rapid rise in the misuse of psychoactive medicines, with significant negative health consequences.

The COVID-19 crisis has compounded many drug threats and left most countries with fewer resources to provide services and address these problems.

In this regard, I commend the Board for its efforts throughout the pandemic to support national authorities in maintaining systems for licit trade in controlled substances, while preventing diversion and abuse.

I welcome the joint efforts of our offices during the COVID-19 lockdown, including to provide urgent support to countries such as Moldova, Kenya and Afghanistan that were facing difficulties in importing medication for opioid substitution therapy.

Together with WHO, UNODC and INCB also issued a joint statement in August on the importance of ensuring that the procurement and supply of controlled medicines in countries meet the needs of patients, both those who have COVID-19 and those who require internationally controlled medicines for other medical conditions.

I further appreciate INCB’s active engagement in the 63rd session of the CND.

With the support of UNODC, the Commission has managed to ensure business continuity over the past months, including during the lockdown period. This includes intersessional consultations on WHO’s scheduling recommendations related to cannabis and related substances.

The June topical meeting held as part of this process was the first UN Secretariat meeting using a remote interpretation platform.

The virtual format has in fact enabled the participation of more capital-based experts, who may not have attended an in-person meeting pre-COVID.

More than 600 national experts and Member States representatives registered for the last topical meeting at the end of August.

Their participation has enriched the discussions, which focused on the implications arising from economic, social, legal, administrative and other factors of the recommendations, if adopted.

We value INCB’s involvement and contributions to this process, which will continue into October, with the CND expected to act upon the recommendations during its reconvened 63rd session in early December.

COVID-19 related restrictions will also affect the annual thematic sessions of the Commission on the follow-up to the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, which will be held from 19to 21 October in a hybrid, in-person and virtual format.

I am sure that INCB will have much to contribute to these important policy implementation discussions, which will have a strong demand reduction focus.

There remain far too many people with drug use disorders who cannot get the help they need, with only one out of eight receiving drug-related treatment.

One of three people who use drugs is a woman, but women represent only one out of five people in treatment.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 crisis to make these problems worse.

Even as the pandemic has negatively impacted our delivery and finances, UNODC remains fully engaged in supporting Member States to address these challenges.

Through our integrated Opioids Strategy, UNODC has continued to lead development of the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs.

Nearly 2,000 users in some 86 countries have accessed the toolkit, and the website as well as mobile app will be launched soon, with resources also available in French and Russian.

INCB contributed to the Toolkit modules on precursors control and access to medicines, and I hope our offices can explore expanding such collaborations in future.

I also welcome INCB’s cooperation in the field, including with developing guidelines for the import and export of drugs and precursors in Eastern Africa, and strengthening regional cooperation on NPS through the Regional Center for Anti-Drug Intelligence in Bolivia, among other activities.

The COVID-19 situation has delayed the first meeting of the Coordination Committee, which was agreed in 2017 to help ensure synergies between UNODC and INCB activities.

I hope the proposed biannual meetings will be able to start soon to promote complementarity and effective cooperation between INCB and UNODC at headquarters and in the field.

All of us at the UN Secretariat are struggling to deliver in the face of not only COVID-related difficulties, but a serious regular budget crisis that poses numerous challenges to our operations and remains largely outside of our control.

Member States nonetheless need our support, and we need to strengthen synergies and partnerships to provide assistance and build capacities as effectively and efficiently as we can.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to address the 128th session of the Board.

I look forward to continuing our dialogue and to hearing your views on how we can strengthen the cooperation between UNODC and INCB to support Member States in protecting and promoting the health and welfare of their citizens, leaving no one behind.