11 March 2009

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs Meets to Address World Drug Problem

VIENNA, 11 March (UN Information Service) - The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) opened in Vienna today to review the effectiveness of drug control. The meeting reviews what has been achieved since the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on drugs in 1998, and will discuss what further steps are needed to reduce the threat posed by drugs to health and security. This is the first meeting to take place in the new "M" building of the Vienna International Centre.

On 11 and 12 March, the 52 nd session of the CND - which is the United Nations' policy-making body for drug-related matters - is meeting at the ministerial level to give a strong political impetus to tackling the world drug problem. Over 1,400 participants from 130 countries, NGOs and international organizations are taking part in a lively session that includes a general debate, round tables and thematic discussion on issues related to drug supply, trafficking and demand, as well as side events.

A Political Declaration and Plan of Action will be adopted on 12 March.

The Chair of the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia, Libertina Amathila, warned that "our youth is wasting away as a result of drug abuse. Sustainable development and the security and stability of many countries are affected".

In his address, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, said that "the world drug problem has been contained, but not solved". He urged states to "treat drug dependence as an illness and devote more resources to prevention, treatment and harm reduction". He warned that drug control has had "a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions" that is "undermining security and development and causing some to make a dangerous wager in favour of legalization". "Drugs are not harmful because they are controlled, they are controlled because they are harmful", said Mr. Costa. The UN's top drug control official told the CND that "there is no need for governments to make a choice between public health and public security. They can and must protect both". For a full transcript of Mr. Costa's speech and his paper on Organized Crime and its Threat to Security, please click  http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/how-to-tackle-a-disturbing-consequence-of-drug-control-.html.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia said he was at the CND to correct the "historical mistakes" of the 1961 Single Convention that phased out traditional consumption of coca over a 25-year period. Since coca is not a narcotic it cannot be scheduled, he said, adding that even the Convention stated that coca chewing did not cause addiction.  "I am not a criminal. If I am a criminal throw me in jail. Throw the President of Bolivia in jail" he said, holding up a leaf of coca. "I have a responsibility to defend our identity. Coca is sacred", he added.  He said his country believed in "rationalizing" or limiting coca production, but not zero production.

Her Royal Highness Queen Silvia of Sweden, who offered her comments as President of the Mentor Foundation, called for a team effort among governments and civil society to tackle a problem "that causes so much harm and distress to individuals, families and communities in all parts of the globe". She said that "often it is those who are most marginalized and most at risk that have the weakest voice and yet we must hear that voice and work with them". 

Follow the CND live webcast on the UNODC website at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/cnd-live.html

UNIFEED, a service that news providers broadcast-quality video from throughout the UN system will have 2- 3 minutes of broadcast quality news footage from the CND today.  To access the footage, visit : http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/unifeed/

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For further information, please contact:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Telephone : (+43-1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org