Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


130th Session of the International Narcotics Control Board

  5 February 2021

Distinguished Members of the Board,

Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

The first month of the new year is behind us, and it has offered us a preview of the challenges that lie ahead.

The pandemic has already claimed over 2 million lives and is far from over. Its economic, social and human consequences are being felt more acutely every day.

The UN remains under significant stress. Mitigation measures put in place in 2020 to address the regular budget liquidity crisis remain in force.

Nevertheless, in his remarks to the General Assembly last week, the Secretary-General delivered a message of hope and determination for 2021, which I would like to echo today.

In the face of obstacles and amid widespread uncertainty, we at UNOV/UNODC are more committed than ever in our mission to assist countries in working for peace, health and justice for all.

As we adapt to COVID challenges, we continue to serve the international community.

With UNODC’s support, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs has successfully worked through a busy agenda, including extraordinary meetings of the subsidiary bodies, as well as the reconvened session, at which the Commission voted on the WHO scheduling recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.

I would like to thank the Board for sharing its views as part of this process, and remaining engaged throughout the preparations.

Taking stock of progress in the implementation of international commitments, the CND thematic discussions took place in October, in a hybrid format, with over 550 participants from over 100 Member States, UN entities, international and regional organizations, and civil society.

The discussions included a crucial focus on demand reduction and health topics, such as the risks associated with new psychoactive substances, and the high rates of transmission of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases associated with drug use.

UNODC took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of continuity and sustainability of essential treatment, care and rehabilitation services for people with drug use disorders, as well as hepatitis C and HIV services, including in prisons and other closed settings, throughout the pandemic.

Supporting Member States on evidence-based demand reduction remains a UNODC priority in the crisis.

Over the course of the past year, we rolled out a new phase of our Listen First campaign in over 30 countries, promoting positive parenting strategies for youth resilience and drug use prevention.

Another key health topic in the pandemic remains the lack of access, in many parts of the world, to internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.

I am grateful for the Board’s focus on this issue, and for organizing, together with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, a virtual side event on this topic at the CND thematic discussions, in which UNODC took part.

It is crucial for governments to work together to ensure that the procurement and supply of controlled medicines meet the needs of patients, including to address medicines for opioid substitution therapy.

I commend the Board’s continued efforts to tackle these challenges, notably through the INCB e-learning modules and other ongoing partnerships such as the UNODC-WHO-UICC Joint Global Programme.

The broad range of INCB e-learning tools is now complemented by a new e-learning tool on the scheduling process, developed by the CND Secretariat.

The Board has also made important contributions to the modules on access to medicines and on precursors of the UNODC-led UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs.

I am pleased to note that the Toolkit’s reach spans close to 120 countries, and almost two-thirds of surveyed users have said that it has already informed their decision-making.

UNODC is now working to make the Toolkit available in all six UN languages, starting with Chinese, Russian and Spanish in 2021.

There are many areas in which UNODC and INCB share information, learn from each other and collaborate, including in the field.

Worldwide, UNODC continues to support information sharing between forensic laboratories on precursors and on new psychoactive substances, the number of which continues to grow. Over 1,000 new psychoactive substances were recorded on illicit drug markets by the end of 2020.

We are committed to working closely with WHO, INCB and other relevant partners to support Member States in responding to these concerning developments.

Despite COVID challenges, UNODC has also continued to inform policy-makers through our research and analysis on drug cultivation.

By the end of last year, we delivered our 2019 coca cultivation surveys in Colombia and Bolivia, provided technical support to the survey in Peru, and validated the 2019 Peru coca cultivation estimates.

The opium survey teams in Afghanistan, Mexico and Myanmar were able to implement most of their monitoring work in 2020, including some field work.

The 2020 opium surveys for Afghanistan and Myanmar will be published in the first quarter of this year, while the fourth and fifth Mexico opium poppy cultivation surveys are due for publication respectively in April and December 2021.

The pandemic continues to have complex impacts on drug production, trafficking and use, which UNODC is monitoring closely. Work is underway on our 2021 World Drug Report, due for publication next June, which will include an analysis of recent developments.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The economic downturn resulting from the COVID crisis will hit vulnerable and marginalized groups the hardest.

We urgently need to step up coordinated supportto help Member States protect people and recover better, stronger and more resilient from this crisis. This includes integrated action to address the many challenges posed by the world drug problem.

The new UNODC strategy, which I will launch this month, will further strengthen our support for comprehensive, balanced action. The strategy charts a course for the next five years, and prioritizes partnerships to increase our impact and optimize our delivery.

I look forward to working closely with you this year, and to joining INCB and WHO to mark the anniversaries of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, at a special ceremonial segment of the CND 64th regular session in April.

I will stop here so that we can have an exchange of views and discuss avenues for collaboration.

Thank you.