Distinguished members of the Board,
It is an honour to have this opportunity to address the International Narcotics Control Board.
I am delighted to welcome the new President of the INCB, Dr. Jallal Toufiq, and the newly elected bureau.
Dr. Tofiq’s vast national and international experience working on drug use prevention, treatment, and policies will be extremely valuable in his new position.
During my brief meeting with him last week I was glad to express UNODC’s full support and our eagerness to expand cooperation with INCB under his leadership.
Allow me also to commend and thank the outgoing President, Ms. Pavadia, for her successful tenure as President and for the good work we have done together.
I would like to use this occasion as well to extend my sincerest condolences to the INCB and its members, on the passing of your fellow board member Mr. Bernard Leroy, who was a trusted and respected colleague.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the INCB convenes for this session, the international drug control system is facing important tests.
The synthetic drug market continues to grow.
Seizures are rising across several regions, and conflict zones from the Middle East to Asia have become production hubs for nearby markets.
The challenge of plant-based illicit drugs also persists. UNODC’s first global cocaine report, launched in March of this year, revealed record levels of supply and surging demand, while the 2022 crop of opium in Afghanistan saw cultivation increase by 32 per cent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, people with drug use disorders continue to lack access to effective treatment and care, and people who inject drugs continue to face far greater risks of HIV infection than those who do not.
Medicines containing controlled substances also remain inaccessible for many who need them, undermining the goal of the drug control conventions in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of humankind.
UNODC remains committed to working alongside INCB, to fulfil our respective mandates and help Member States implement the drug control conventions fully and effectively, while facing emerging drug challenges.
Our Office is providing legislative assistance and advisory services to Member States to help them develop effective drug control laws and policies, in line with the three conventions.
In 2022, we supported preliminary national consultations in Fiji and Mozambique to review drug control legislation, and this year we assisted Pakistan in developing a national industrial and medicinal cannabis policy.
UNODC continues to maintain the drug control repository established by the conventions, which now contains over 1,300 pieces of legislation from 190 countries, as well as the directory of competent national authorities of the 1988 convention, which now covers more than 1,150 authorities from 184 countries.
We are also continuing our technical assistance to Member States in response to drug challenges, fully aligned with the conventions, to reduce the demand for drugs and address illicit supply.
UNODC is helping Member States improve prevention, treatment and care services, using the UNODC-WHO International Standards, and we are cooperating with partners to support continuity of care in humanitarian settings.
In Cairo in March, I joined the Arab League to launch the first Arab Plan for Prevention and Reduction of the Dangers of Drugs, which UNODC is supporting.
As co-Chair of the Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations of UNAIDS this year, UNODC is focusing on ending the inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic among people who use drugs
To combat the growing threat of synthetic drugs, we are providing support through our Synthetic Drugs Strategy.
The UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, on which INCB is our partner, now has more than 55,000 users from 203 countries and territories.
We have also been advocating for improved access to and availability of controlled medicines globally.
Last year, we joined forces with the INCB and the World Health Organization to support the initiative of the Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in this regard.
In parallel, we have been leveraging our border management programmes to improve the capacities of Member States to curb illicit drug trafficking.
In 2022, for example, units trained and equipped by our Container Control programme reported seizures including 275 tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonnes of new psychoactive substances, and 864 tonnes and 5,300 drums of chemical precursors.
Units supported by the AIRCOP programme reported 947 seizures of cocaine.
UNODC has also been striving to enhance our work on alternative development.
We have supported the export of 300 hundred tons of premium coffee to Europe to generate sustainable income for farmer households in Bolivia, Myanmar and Lao PDR, and we are looking to expand this work to Colombia.
In addition to our support on the ground, our Office remains committed to equipping policymakers with data and evidence.
In June, we will be launching the 2023 edition of our flagship World Drug Report, which will cover a number of contemporary drug-related challenges, including synthetic drugs, regulatory approaches to medical use of cannabis, and drug-related health responses in humanitarian settings.
UNODC also continues to monitor illicit crop cultivation, and we recently opened the Information Centre in Tashkent for researching and analyzing transnational threats related to drugs and crime, including illicitly produced opiates from Afghanistan.
Our efforts are complemented by the INCB’s annual report, which completes the picture from the perspective of the Board’s mandate.
At the 66th regular session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March, Member States agreed on the modalities for the 2024 midterm review of international drug policy commitments.
The midterm review will serve as an important milestone in the ongoing debates on effectively addressing the world drug problem, and the implementation of the international drug control framework.
As these debates continue, the INCB’s role remains essential to facilitate balanced and effective implementation of the drug control conventions.
UNODC is eager to step up our cooperation with the Board, with UN entities, and with all relevant partners in the lead up to the review, and beyond, to support and promote responses that align with the conventions, while prioritizing people and their wellbeing.
In this vein, I would like to conclude by asking you to add the INCB’s voice to our own in the lead-up to World Drug Day on 26th June.
The theme of the day will focus on “people first”, to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, and to underline the importance of compassion, empathy, and human rights in drug responses.
Together, we can help pave the way for policies that better leverage the international framework to help and protect those affected by drug-related challenges, while preserving the rights and dignity of all.
Thank you, and I wish you a fruitful session.