1 March 2006

INCB Calls for Change in Alternative Development Approach

VIENNA 1 March (UN Information Service) -- The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) today said that the international community must rethink its approach to alternative development, in order for it to work more effectively as an international drug control strategy. The issue is the focus of Chapter One of its Annual Report , released today in Vienna.

Though the Board notes that there are cases in which alternative development has contributed to successes in the reduction in illicit drug crop cultivation, it addresses the main weaknesses of the classic alternative development approach. For instance, the current approach to alternative development focusses only on crop substitution rather than more broadly defined legitimate livelihoods. Also, it limits itself to isolated projects rather than addressing the whole economy of a country; it does not take international terms of trade into account, and neglects urban areas and the problem of drug abuse.

 "This narrow and mechanical approach does not have the desired effects," said Hamid Ghodse, President of the INCB. "A truly comprehensive concept of alternative development includes not only the cultivation of alternative crops, but also transport and infrastructure development, education, health care, security, stability and good governance," he added.  Alternative development is about providing holistic, legitimate alternatives for people whose only livelihood so far has come from the drug business.

The implementation of largely individual rural alternative development projects in isolated areas does not provide the desired impact on drug control on a larger scale, says the INCB. Alternative development should be taken out of the confines of a "project-by-project" approach, and be seen as a cross-cutting issue, involving a multitude of players at the local, national and international levels.  "It seems likely that it is only possible to have a significant effect on the world drug problem if alternative development becomes much more inclusive, addressing the needs of the many other groups involved in drug abuse," said Professor Ghodse.

The INCB emphasizes that the long-term sustainability of legitimate livelihoods should be taken into account, in particular in light of international tariffs and terms of trade. Member States should formulate their domestic and international trade policies with a view to improving market access for alternative development products.

The Board proposes that the principles of alternative development, in its broadest sense, should be applied in socially marginalized urban environments, as well as in the remote rural areas. This would reap greater dividends than if it is practiced in either of those societies alone because of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between supply and demand.

Smuggling of drugs via the postal system on the rise

The Board, in its Annual Report urges Governments to strengthen national legislation and screen all routes of incoming and outgoing international mail. The smuggling of drugs by mail poses a major threat to law enforcement, and has been steadily increasing over the past year. The Board also recommends that the screening process include the premises of international mail courier companies and it also suggests limiting the number of entry points for parcels to allow for a more effective control of consignments.

Over the past five years, almost every region of the world has experienced an increase in such activity. Besides cocaine and heroin, pharmaceutical preparations containing internationally controlled substances and illicit drugs of abuse such as MDMA and GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyric acid) are also smuggled through the postal system. MDMA, which is more commonly known as "Ecstasy", is popular among young adults. It is often sold in nightclubs and bars, or at all-night parties.  In addition to chemical stimulation, the drug reportedly suppresses the need to eat, drink, or sleep.  When taken at all-night parties where extensive dancing occurs, the drug often leads to severe dehydration and heat stroke in the user since it has the effect of "short-circuiting" the body's temperature signals to the brain. GHB is also popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs and all-night parties.  GHB has gained notoriety as one of the drugs used to facilitate sexual assault, adding an urgency to law enforcement efforts to pursue traffickers of these drugs.

Rapid Increase in Illicit Methamphetamine Manufacture

The Board sounds the alarm on the rapid increase in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. Besides rapidly increasing in North America and South-East Asia, the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine is also spreading to other regions such as Africa, Eastern Europe and Oceania. This trend is fuelled by traffickers' ability to divert ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the key precursors for methamphetamine, from licit distribution channels.

Bosnia and Herzegovina adopts National Drug Control Legislation

The Board welcomes the adoption of comprehensive drug control legislation by the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For many years, Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked drug control legislation at the national level. This was one of the main factors behind the near-total lack of coordination in the area of drug control between the authorities of the two entities of the country, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska. "Bosnia and Herzegovina has finally taken the first step in fulfilling its obligations under the international drug control conventions", said Professor Ghodse. "Now it is time to make sure that they keep on this path, and implement the law adequately."

Regional Highlights

The Report discusses, region by region, major trends in drug abuse and trafficking worldwide. In Afghanistan, the Board notes that investigating the routes utilized for smuggling the precursor acetic anhydride remains difficult. The precursor is needed in substantial quantities to manufacture illicit heroin. Afghanistan has no licit requirements for acetic anhydride and no licit imports of the substance, indicating that the precursor is trafficked into the country.

In Europe, the Board notes that the total amount of cocaine seized continued to increase. The increased demand for treatment of cocaine abuse in Western Europe indicates that the abuse of that substance may be widespread. Surveys show that the annual prevalence rate for cocaine abuse has risen among young people in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as in some areas in Austria, Greece, Ireland and Italy. In the Netherlands and Spain, cocaine is now the second most commonly reported drug in specialist treatment centres after heroin.

Note to Editors:

The main launch of the Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will take place in Vienna, Austria, at 11 am on Tuesday, 28 February 2006. The Report is embargoed till 0001 hours GMT, 1 March 2006. For further information, please contact Jaya Mohan, Associate Information Officer, UNIS at jaya.mohan@unvienna.org  or Tel: ++43 1 26060 4448

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