8 April 2003

UN Commission Presented with "Signs of Progress" in Global Counter-Narcotic Efforts

VIENNA, 8 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the central United Nations policy-making body dealing with drug-related issues, has opened its forty-sixth session in Vienna today. The last two days of this year's session, 16-17 April, have been reserved for the ministerial level discussion of the progress made towards meeting the goals of the Ten-Year Action Plan Against Illicit Drugs, approved in 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly.

As of yesterday, 116 countries have confirmed their participation, with 75 of them represented at the ministerial level.

The first speaker in the opening session -- chaired by the Under-Secretary for Global Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Ms. Patricia Olamendi -- was the President of the UN General Assembly Mr. Jan Kavan, who emphasised "a sense of shared responsibility" in global counter-narcotic efforts.

"In recent years, efforts to reduce abuse of illicit drugs have shown signs of progress," Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said in a report submitted to the Commission.

Citing the areas of "encouraging progress towards still distant goals," Mr. Costa emphasized the positive experiences in four major elements of the international drug policy. In the overall drug control policy -- the key is to balance interventions to reduce supply with those to reduce demand. In demand reduction -- there is a substantial body of evidence that prevention, treatment and rehabilitation work. In supply reduction -- promising results have been achieved in the reduction of areas under opium poppy and coca bush cultivation with the introduction of alternative development strategies providing farmers licit means of livelihood. In international cooperation -- the experience of the past five years proves that drug control on the global level only works when all countries operate within the common framework of international law: "Otherwise, problems are only pushed around, from one country to another, in a zero-sum game," Costa said.

Based on governments' reports -- and for this year's session 117 governments have submitted their responses to an UNODC biennial questionnaire -- action plans and measures adopted in 1998 served as a catalyst for action in implementation of the international drug control treaties. They became a global point of reference, giving the governments of the states most affected by the illegal drugs over the past three decades a sense of a common approach to a common problem. Now they see their national efforts integrated in -- and supported by -- the global strategy against illicit drugs.

Over the next two weeks, the Commission will also discuss new challenges encountered in recent years, including the dramatic increase in injecting drug use-related HIV/AIDS cases -- especially along drug trafficking routes -- as well as the spread of synthetic drugs worldwide.

In addition to the general debate, there are four round-table discussions planned during the ministerial segment on 16-17 April:

Parallel to that, four ancillary meetings will be held, enabling technical experts attending the ministerial segment to discuss technical issues (Inter-Regional Drug Trafficking -- the Challenge to Effective Drug Law Enforcement; HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse; Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation; and Successful Alternative Development -- How It Works.

During the forty-sixth session of the CND, the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs will hold two forum discussions on the 9 and 16 April.

On 14 April, a Swedish NGO Hassela Nordic Network -- a network for national and international exchange of drug-related information and anti-drug action -- will present to Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, and to CND President, the Under-Secretary for Global Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Patricia Olamendi, one million signatures collected since November 2002 by young people from 48 countries in support of international counter-narcotic efforts. Their view is: "We are the future, and we say 'No'!" A representative group of young persons from Austria, Italy and Sweden, will represent the million signatories.


For more information, please contact:

Kemal Kurspahic, Spokesman
Tel.: (43-1) 26060 5629 or 4116
Fax: (43-1) 26060 5875
Email: kemal.kurspahic@unodc.org