2 March 2005

Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board Focuses on Need to Integrate Drug Demand and Supply Strategies

VIENNA, 2 March (UN Information Service) -- “The integration of supply and demand reduction strategies: moving beyond a balanced approach” is the focus of the first chapter of the Annual Report of the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), released here today.

In the past, approaches to tackling the drugs demand and supply situation have called for a balance between activities related to reducing the supply of and demand for drugs. While this approach has been fairly successful, in this year’s Report, INCB noted that both demand and supply reduction programmes yield limited results when working in isolation. The Board called for more comprehensive cooperation between supply and demand reduction programmes at the local, regional and international levels. In order to integrate and streamline supply and demand reduction programmes, it recommended the creation of National Drug Policy Coordination mechanisms. “To make real progress in achieving the 10-year targets set by the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in 1998, it is imperative that national governments ensure that there is operational and policy level integration of demand and supply reduction efforts,” said Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the INCB.

Sales of illicit drugs via Internet pharmacies

The Annual Report focused on the fact that several billion doses of medicine are sold illicitly on the Internet every year, posing potentially fatal health risks to customers. The Board noted that illicit sales and smuggling of pharmaceuticals have been rising steadily. In recognition of this problem, the Board organized an expert group meeting on this issue in October 2004. The Board has proposed a two-pronged approach which encourages countries to share information and, at the same time, to choke off the supply end of the chain. Countries should also share their experiences and set up a mechanism that allows for rapid information exchange on specific cases.

Shift in Dutch policy towards cannabis

The Board welcomed the significant shift in the cannabis policy announced by the Government of the Netherlands. In an inter-ministerial policy paper on cannabis, the Government acknowledged that “cannabis is not harmless” -- neither for the abusers, nor the community. The Dutch Government informed the INCB of this crucial and significant change in August 2004 -- a move which brings it closer towards full compliance with the international drug control treaties with regard to cannabis. The Board urged the Government to take further action to reduce the number of coffee shops in the country, which are contrary to the provisions of international drug control treaties.

Progress in curbing diversion of precursors

The Board called on governments to increase sharing of real-time information on seizures and diversions of precursors which are key chemicals used in the manufacture of cocaine, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants. It also discussed the progress made by its international initiatives -- Project Prism, Operation Purple and Operation Topaz, aimed at preventing the diversion of key chemicals to the illicit market. Governments have followed up numerous transactions resulting in more than 430 cases of seizures, attempted diversions and actual diversions, with the assistance of INCB. Some of these cases have led to the dismantling of clandestine laboratories and trafficking networks and the arrest of traffickers.

Drug problem in Africa alarming

In its Report, the Board called on the international community to provide appropriate assistance to African states, in order to help them in their efforts to fight drug abuse and trafficking. It also called on African governments to give a higher priority to addressing the drug problem in their countries. Africa continues to be a major source of the cannabis found in illicit markets in the region or in Europe. According to INCB, there is some evidence to suggest that some of the civil conflicts in Africa are partially funded by profits from drug trafficking. On the other hand, the availability of narcotic drugs used for medical purposes, such as pain alleviation is especially low in Africa. More than 30 countries consume almost no narcotic drugs and even the largest of the African consumer countries of these drugs use only a fraction of the amounts that are consumed in the United States or Western Europe.

Regional Highlights

The Report discussed region by region, major trends in drug consumption and trafficking worldwide. It noted that opium production in Afghanistan and its impact on peace and security remains the central element of the drug situation in West Asia. In Afghanistan itself, illicit drug production and related activities reached a record level in 2004 and are threatening the stability of the country. Drug abuse has also risen in Afghanistan in recent years.

It is also observed that the drug situation in Iraq may deteriorate further because of the disintegration of the drug control structure in the country. The complex links between terrorism, organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking pose a serious threat, raising concerns that the overall situation may worsen.

The INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug conventions. It was established in 1968 in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

INCB Report is available at http://www.incb.org/e/ind_ar.htm

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