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    21 March 2011

    UN Drugs Chief Urges Comprehensive, Proactive and Humane Approach to Supply and Demand in Drug Control

    VIENNA, 21 March (UN Information Service) - Calling for a vigorous, comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing drug demand, supply and trafficking, Yury Fedotov Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today opened the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which is meeting in Vienna from 21 to 25 March.

    More attention should be paid to safeguarding health, human rights and justice in drugs and crime policy, Mr. Fedotov said, advocating the need to relieve suffering and decrease the negative effects of drugs to individuals, families and communities.

    Although illicit cultivation of coca and opium is now limited to a few countries, production levels remain high, he said. Between 1998 and 2009, global production of opium rose almost 80 per cent. The market for cocaine has not been eliminated or significantly reduced; supply and demand have merely shifted elsewhere.

    Each year, drug lords earn a staggering US$320 billion, "So, if we are to make real progress against heroin and cocaine, and I trust we really can do it, we must continue to address illicit cultivation in a more meaningful and coordinated way," he told the annual meeting of the United Nations policy-making body for drug-related matters.

    Integrating strategies

    Integrated UNODC field programmes serve as regional and national hubs of action and expertise where the threat from drugs and crime is particularly severe or rapidly growing.

    UNODC has helped to put in place a number of regional and transnational mechanisms, including the Paris Pact, the Triangular Initiative and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre to confront the problem of Afghan opium. UNODC is also establishing a new Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries.

    The results are impressive. Just this month, the Triangular Initiative's partners coordinated joint operations that resulted in seizures of hundreds of kilograms of heroin, opium, morphine and hashish, and the arrest of traffickers. These joint operations demonstrate the Triangular Initiative's success in building mutual trust and confidence among its partners, said Mr. Fedotov.

    Increasingly, UNODC is spearheading regional initiatives to help prevent the destabilization of post-conflict countries by integrating drug and crime control into UN peacekeeping and peace-building missions. Mr. Fedotov highlighted that UNODC and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations had launched a Joint Plan of Action for West Africa, a region that has become a hub for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe.

    Healthy families and societies

    The Executive Director urged States to treat drug dependence as a health disorder. "Member States increasingly recognize that drug dependence is a disease not a crime, and that treatment offers a far more effective cure than punishment - a conclusion backed up by scientific evidence," he added.

    Appealing for shared responsibility among drug-consuming and drug-producer nations, he said: "We must also focus more on the demand side. An estimated 150 to 250 million adults use illicit drugs every year. Users destroy their own lives, and their families and communities suffer greatly."

    Alarmed by certain emerging trends, Mr. Fedotov pointed to the growing abuse of drugs by young children, especially in developing countries. Meanwhile, in developed countries abuse of prescription drugs was increasing and drug traffickers were responding to those demands, he said. Mr. Fedotov thus underlined the importance of family skills training to enable parents to protect their children from drug abuse. "Children whose parents use drugs are themselves at greater risk of drug use and other risky behaviours. Drugs contribute to social problems that harm communities, and they are creating dangerous new challenges to public health."

    The Executive Director said that the international drug control regime was not a punitive instrument against the misuse of drugs; it could help to explore ways in which to ensure universal access for the treatment for pain and illness. "It is intended to guarantee the availability of controlled substances for medical purposes, which is essential to public health. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, tens of millions of people with cancer, AIDS and other diseases needlessly suffer from pain or even die because they do not have access to controlled medications. Redressing this imbalance in access also needs our urgent attention."

    "In the face of such diverse and complex challenges to public health, security and development, it is time to seriously rethink our global strategy on drug control." Mr. Fedotov therefore exhorted Member States to increase their funding commensurate with the rising number of mandates being entrusted to the Office.

    Interview with Mr. Fedotov, Executive Director, UNODC (mp3)

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