Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Meeting with the International Narcotics Control Board 132nd session

  16 November 2021

Distinguished Members of the Board,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to address the Board, and I hope you have had a productive session so far.

Since we last met in May, UNODC launched the 2021 World Drug Report, which charted the continued effects of the global pandemic on illicit drug production, trafficking and use patterns.

Overall, we have seen that illicit drug markets have recovered quickly from the initial slowdowns registered at the start of COVID lockdowns, and European ports have been reporting record cocaine seizures over the past year.

The threats to the general public are increasing, with illicit drugs more available and accessible than ever before due to a steady rise in online sales and contactless delivery methods.

Moreover, as the World Drug Report noted, cannabis potency has increased in Europe as well as in North America, where it has quadrupled in less than 15 years. Despite this, the percentage of adolescents perceiving cannabis as harmful has declined significantly.

The Report also noted that the world has much work to do to improve access to controlled substances for medical purposes, in line with the call jointly issued by UNODC, WHO, and INCB last year.

As is the case with COVID vaccine inequity, people in poorer countries are suffering the most.

In 2019, four standard doses of controlled pain medication were available per day for every one million inhabitants in West and Central Africa, compared to 32,000 doses in North America.

Concerted efforts to improve drug use treatment, prevention, and care overall are needed.

Globally only one in eight people with drug use disorders receive adequate treatment, and women continue to experience unequal access to life-saving treatment.

Since the start of the COVID crisis, UNODC has emphasized the importance of ensuring continuity of evidence-based drug treatment in line with UNODC-WHO International Standards, as well as hepatitis C and HIV services among people who use drugs and people in prison.

Last week, I met in Geneva with the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, and with Dr. Tedros of WHO, and we agreed to step up our collaboration to fight the HIV epidemic among those populations.

Alongside our collective efforts to tackle drug-related health threats, UNODC has also prioritized income-generation assistance for the many rural communities facing economic hardship in the COVID recession.

UNODC has continued supporting farmers in Bolivia, Lao PDR and Myanmar to develop sustainable livelihoods away from illicit crops and drug-related criminal activity.

Our work includes initiatives to sell coffee on international markets through private sector partnerships. One notable success in this regard is a major new agreement between the French coffee company Malongo and the Vanmai Cooperative in Lao.

UNODC is also working to ensure that alternative development to sustainably reduce opium poppy cultivation is factored into support to the people of Afghanistan.

Just yesterday, UNODC released a new research brief on the drug situation in Afghanistan, which reveals that continued uncertainty since August 2021 has been driving up opium prices and increasing incentives for cultivation.

Moreover, methamphetamine manufacture in the country has sharply increased in recent years, and further expansion of the synthetic drug market seems likely in light of regional and global demand.

Recent developments threaten to drive up drug use in Afghanistan, which was already among the highest in the world, and urgent assistance to the people of Afghanistan must encompass treatment and care for drug use disorders.

In September, UNODC published an important study on access to evidence-based substance use, treatment, and care in humanitarian settings, based on expert consultations with UNHCR and WHO. This can help guide efforts for Afghanistan, as well as to provide effective services in conflict settings.

Overall, our research findings highlight the need for the international community to promote sustainable reductions in illicit drug cultivation, production, and demand, to support the people of Afghanistan and help mitigate spill-over threats outside the country.

Afghanistan accounts for some 85 percent of the world’s opium production. The 2021 opium harvest marked the fifth year in a row with production at historic highs of more than 6,000 tons, potentially yielding up to 320 tons of pure heroin to be trafficked to markets around the world.

Income from Afghan opiates amounted to some 1.8 to 2.7 billion dollars this year, most of it benefitting illicit supply chains outside Afghanistan.

In response, UNODC has developed a strategic framework focused on monitoring, preventing, and countering intersecting drug, crime, and terrorism threats in Afghanistan and its region.

Next week, I will be travelling to Central Asia to engage with our partners in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on how best we can support them on this front.

The linkages between drug trafficking with other crimes, and the criminal structures that sustain drug trafficking, were also the focus of last month’s CND thematic discussions.

I would like to thank the President and the Board Members for their active engagement in the dialogue.

This Friday, I will be addressing a special event of the CND to present UNODC’s comprehensive Synthetic Drug Strategy for 2021 to 2025.

Building on the UNODC Opioid Strategy, the new Strategy articulates four spheres of action, namely international cooperation; early warning systems; science-informed health responses; and counter-narcotic capacity-building.

The Strategy also seeks to ensure coherence across the UN system on the science of synthetic drugs through proactive consultations with relevant entities, including INCB.

I thank the Board for engaging with us on the new Synthetic Drugs Strategy, and for inviting UNODC to present it to you last week.

I welcome your feedback, and I invite you to share your ideas for how we can advance our collaboration through its implementation, as well as in the other areas of our joint support.

Allow me to close by offering my thanks once again to President Pavadia, and to all the Board members.

I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you.