26 June 2009

World Drug Day Focuses on Reducing Suffering and Vulnerability

VIENNA 26 June (UN Information Service) - This year's International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (World Drug Day) is highlighting the need to reduce suffering and vulnerability caused by drugs. In a message to mark the day, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "let us join together to help people suffering from drug addiction and to reduce the number of dangerous places on this planet where drugs are produced, trafficked and consumed."

2009 is the centenary of the first international efforts to control drugs, namely the meeting of the Opium Commission in Shanghai in 1909. According to the Secretary-General, "United Nations conventions have helped to address the challenge of drug abuse and reduce its terrible toll on individuals, families and communities." Evidence to support this conclusion is made in this year's World Drug Report which shows that global markets for cocaine, opiates and cannabis are steady or in decline.

Every year, around 5 million people die from tobacco-related illnesses, 2 million from alcohol, and 200,000 from drugs. "Clearly, when you compare drugs to other addictive substances, control is working," said the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa.

The United Nations is calling for greater attention to drug abuse as a health problem: one that can be prevented, treated and controlled. "Drugs can be used either as a medicine or as a poison: in both cases, we should alleviate suffering, and protect the health and welfare of mankind," said Mr. Costa.

The Secretary General urged Member States to upgrade their preventive interventions and integrate drug treatment into public health programmes, drawing on the expertise of the World Health Organization and UNODC.

This year's world drug campaign encourages young people to put their health first, and warns about the dangers of drugs. ( http://www.unodc.org/drugs/).

World Drug Day also focuses on the need to reduce vulnerability to drug trafficking. As highlighted in the 2009 World Drug Report, organized crime is making more than $300 billion a year through drug trafficking. In a vicious circle, crime profits from drugs, and drugs spread instability that enable crime. "We must strengthen the antibodies of weak societies through security, development, and the rule of law", said Mr. Costa. "Absent these essentials, these states risk instability and will face even greater challenges in reaching the Millennium Development Goals," said Mr. Ban.

The Secretary-General urged States to fully implement the UN Conventions against corruption and transnational organized crime in order to "prevent and control drug-related crime that is posing a serious security threat in many parts of the world."

For more information on World Drug Day, the World Drug Campaign, and the 2009 World Drug Report see www.unodc.org

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For further information, please contact:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org