Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Closing of the 64th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

  16 April 2021


Dear colleagues,

We have arrived at the successful conclusion of the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. I warmly congratulate the Chair and the extended Bureau on this achievement.

In the face of continuing challenges posed by the global pandemic, this hybrid session brought together some 1,400 participants from 128 countries, 19 inter-governmental organizations, and 72 non-governmental organizations.

More than 110 speakers participated in the general debate. The dialogue continued through more than 100 side events, all taking place virtually with participants from all over the world.

Together, over the course of this week, Member States, civil society, experts and academia sharpened the focus on what needs to be done to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on world drug challenges, and to work towards a recovery that will get us back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

We saw this focus in the joint statement adopted by the Commission on Monday, to address the impact of the pandemic on efforts to counter the world drug problem.

On Wednesday, Member States took a collective decision to place eight new substances under international control.

The four resolutions adopted at this session further reflect concerns for safeguarding health and welfare, and they offer concrete steps to strengthen access to drug treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services; alternative development; scientific evidence-based prevention and treatment; and responses to non-medical use of pharmaceuticals.

Just before the start of this session, we marked World Health Day, which this year had the theme of health equity.

Health for all in 2021 means ensuring equal access to vaccines. It also means equitable access to internationally controlled substances for pain relief, and other medical and scientific purposes. People need and deserve access to life-saving treatment, care, and other services, including for drug use disorders, HIV, and related diseases.

As health systems have come under unprecedented strain in the pandemic, such services have also been disrupted, and I very much welcome the efforts of the Commission to address these urgent problems.

Both the COVID crisis and the world drug problem are shared challenges that heighten the need for greater cooperation and shared solutions.

We have seen that drug use patterns and trafficking trends have shifted during the pandemic.

Dangerous developments observed before the crisis, including the expansion of drug trafficking online and through maritime and waterway routes, as well as non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, have accelerated. 

As the crisis has reversed global development progress, driven up poverty and heightened vulnerabilities, criminal groups have anticipated and exploited opportunities. By the end of 2020, drug trafficking continued in line with pre-pandemic trends, or even at an increased pace.

In order to respond effectively, we must also adapt and innovate, to offer greater support to the people who need it, and stop organized crime and drug traffickers from taking advantage of social and economic fragility.

As the CND joint statement recognizes, Member States have met adversity during the pandemic by developing new approaches to drug prevention and treatment, as well as to related health and social services, taking advantage of online platforms and other technologies.

UNODC remains your steadfast partner in advancing these responses. I thank Member States for recognizing UNODC’s work in the adopted resolutions, which we will take forward through our technical assistance, tools, guides, and flagship World Drug Report, from headquarters in Vienna as well as from our network of field offices.

In turn, we rely on your financial support to enable our Office to continue living up to these many responsibilities you have entrusted to us.

Distinguished Chair, Excellencies,

The energy and spirit that has kept crucial intergovernmental work progressing in Vienna throughout the pandemic has been very much in evidence over the past week, helping to chart a path forward through and beyond the current crisis.

Our determination to leave no one behind is reflected in the results of this Commission. Our efforts to turn commitments into effective action on the ground are reinforced by UNODC’s new corporate strategy, and our Strategic Vision for Africa.

In partnership with Member States, civil society, the private sector, experts, UN entities, regional organizations and all stakeholders, UNODC will advance balanced, humane and effective responses to world drug problems, and empower youth, women and the marginalized, for health and for justice.

This morning, we joined our host country in remembering and mourning the more than 9,500 people in Austria, and the more than three million people worldwide, who have lost their lives to the virus.

We can cherish and honour their memory by committing to greater solidarity and support, including through the work of this Commission, to meet the needs of this unprecedented moment, and to build resilience and capacities for the challenges to come. 

In closing, I would like to congratulate you all once again. I thank you for your dedication and engagement and I am grateful to my colleagues at UNOV/UNODC for their hard work in making this session possible.

Thank you.