Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

The Humanitarian approach to drug policy: opportunities and challenges for an effective cooperation between public authorities and health-based organizations 

  15 March 2022

Minister Dadone, 

Distinguished delegates,  

Colleagues and friends 

I am pleased to be here with you today to highlight the need to prioritize the wellbeing of people and communities in drug policies 

An effective and humane approach to addressing drug-related challenges is one that places the health, wellbeing, and dignity of people first. 

More than 36 million people around the world suffered from drug use disorders according to our latest data, yet only one in eight of them receive adequate treatment. 

These are women, men and young people who need evidence-based care, and the policies that enable the provision of such care. 

Other people are denied access to much-needed medication, particularly for pain relief; such medications are in fact not available to the majority of the world’s population, especially those who live in poorer countries. 

I was proud to join the Chair of this 65th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs yesterday in a timely joint call to action to facilitate access to controlled medicines around the world, and I repeat that call today. 

People-centred drug policies are crucial for safer, more prosperous societies, and they are more crucial than ever as the world faces multiple crises. 

As we call for peace in the midst of growing conflict, for vaccine equity to fight the pandemic, and for climate action to avert environmental disaster, we must also deal with the humanitarian consequences of such crises in all of our policies, including drug-related policies.  

This includes access to treatment and care for drug use disordersas well as for related disorders such as HIV and viral hepatitis, in emergencies. 

It also includes access to controlled medicines in humanitarian settings 

The three international drug control conventions, and the many follow-up commitments undertaken by Member States and their partners, are anchored in the health and safety of people. 

Government entities, international organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector all have a key role to play in keeping the spirit of those commitments in sight, and putting them into action. 

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is proud to collaborate with all stakeholders to put the health, dignity and rights of people at the centre of responses to drug challenges, and to build bridges between the health system and the law enforcement and criminal justice sectors, as well as education, youth and community services.  

Last year, UNODC was active in more than 50 countries to promotevidence and human rights-based interventions on drug related-challenges 

We worked on the prevention of drug use for the healthy and safe development of children and youth; the provision of quality drug treatment, care, overdose prevention and management, and rehabilitation services; HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; and improving access to controlled medicines.  

Since 2016, our Office has also scaled up efforts to document and support best practices in the collaboration between the health and the criminal justice sectors.  

We are conducting a series of technical consultations onthe promotion of drug treatment and health services to people in contact with criminal justice systems, at all stages of the criminal justice chain. I thank all of you who are engaged in these processes.  

At country level, we are supporting the review of legislation and training for law enforcement officers on referrals to HIV services, and on the provision of health services in prison settings.  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

The United Nations and its Member States have pledged to leave no one behind in our pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We must keep that pledge in mind in our approach to drug-related challenges, in all settings and in all circumstances, for the health and well-being of people everywhere 

It is fitting to reaffirm this commitment at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which has led the way in promoting cooperative and evidence-based, balanced responses to the world drug problem. 

I welcome the aim of this event to provide concrete examples of cooperation in action. I would like to thank Italy for bringing us together today, with the support of the Council of Europe, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs. 

UNODC will continue to work with you and with all Member States, sister organizations, and other key stakeholders, to put people first.  

Thank you.