3 March 2005

United Nations Counter-Drugs Chief Calls on Private Sector to Rebuild Regions Gutted by Drugs and Crime

VIENNA, 3 March (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), addressed the Global Partners Symposium, calling on private industry to “pull its best-laid plans off the drawing board and set them loose in the real world.” During his remarks, delivered this morning at the UN Headquarters in Vienna, Mr. Costa asked the private sector to support sustainable development in regions devastated by drug economies. He also told symposium co-sponsors, Sandoz, the generics division of Novartis pharmaceuticals, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), that drug companies could play a special role in preventing the trafficking of precursor chemicals.

“The problem,” said Mr. Costa, “is that the export of these precursors is not illegal. The same chemicals used to process opium or manufacture synthetic drugs are also components of legitimate medications. So tracking chemicals en route to clandestine drug labs is very difficult. But it’s not impossible, especially when UNODC has partners with the expertise and the resources that Novartis/Sandoz, and other pharmaceutical companies possess.”  Mr. Costa believes the sale and transport of chemical precursors, critical ingredients in the processing of opium and coca, should be closely monitored.

The Global Partners Symposium was designed to advance the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), to support corporate social responsibility in private sector companies, and to improve the quality of life in developing nations. Some examples of corporate social responsibility include the use of cost saving technologies to standardize the quality and price of generic drugs, and using entrepreneurial innovation to eliminate poverty around the world. UNIDO and Novartis/Sandoz are also signing a memorandum of understanding aimed at advancing development in poor nations.     

Mr. Costa commended the pharmaceutical giant Novartis/Sandoz, saying: “Your commitment to fighting debilitating diseases in developing countries has been exceptional. Novartis/Sandoz is the model multinational company in terms of helping those who truly need help.”

UNIDO was cited as a catalyst for the creation of numerous public-private partnerships; the organization has on many occasions fostered cooperation between developing nations and private companies. In 2004, UNIDO recommended several partnerships that would safely apply new technologies in developing countries to help governments fight hunger, disease and poverty.

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