Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    13 March 2014

    High-Level Review opens, UNODC Chief calls for "balanced approach" when countering illicit drugs

    UNODC Executive Director uses keynote speech to take stock and reflect on successes and setbacks in addressing the global drug problem

    VIENNA, 13 March (UN Information Service) - The High-Level Review of the 57th Session of the Commission began in Vienna today with over 1,500 representatives of Member States from all over the world, civil society organisations and the media.

    Notable speakers at the opening session included Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, who in her own speech, said, "a drug policy should be based on zero tolerance focusing on prevention, treatment, control, and aiming to reduce both supply and demand of and for illegal drugs." In his speech also delivered during the opening, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, said, "The three Conventions are the legal basis for our work. But let us remember that Member States also can take action on the basis of these Conventions to promote public health, prevention, treatment and economic and social progress."

    In his keynote speech the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, said it was his hope that the debate would help Member States "find common ground and come up with a powerful message that will enable us to strengthen our cooperation, to address the world drug problem in a balanced, humane and effective way, based on the international conventions."

    Mr. Fedotov acknowledged "there was no simple answer" to the question of whether the international community had succeeded or failed in the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action agreed in 2009. He also noted that the global cocaine market had shrunk between 2007 and 2011, and there were successes in treatment delivery, as well as alternative development practices.

    But he said, "At the same time, reductions in supply or demand for some drugs in one part of the world have been partly offset by increases in other parts. The overall magnitude of drug demand has not substantially changed at the global level." He also highlighted record opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan in 2013 as a "serious setback." Mr. Fedotov specifically referenced the dramatic surge of violence in Central America and stressed that we "must do what we can to address this urgent problem."

    These challenges could only be countered, he said, by using a balanced approach to illicit drug demand and supply. Mr. Fedotov also said that a health-centred strategy focusing on drug demand had not always been implemented by every country. Any public health response, Mr. Fedotov noted, should also consider alternatives to penalization and incarceration of people with drug use disorders.

    Mr. Fedotov emphasized that a balanced approach also included measures focusing on prevention, treatment, and social rehabilitation and integration and said those countries that had invested in evidence informed risk reduction had reduced HIV transmission among injecting drug users. He also used his keynote speech to praise the important work of civil society, especially at the grassroots level. On the issue of the death penalty, Mr. Fedotov told the meeting that the death penalty had "never been in the spirit of the conventions; furthermore, it can impede international cooperation in fighting drug trafficking."

    To read the speech of the UNODC Executive Director, please go to:

    To read the Speech of Her Majesty Queen Silvia, please go to:

    To read the speech of the UN Deputy Secretary-General, please go to:

    * *** *

    For further information please contact:

    David Dadge
    Spokesperson, UNODC
    Telephone: (+43- 1) 26060-5629
    Mobile: (+43) 699-1459-5629
    Email: david.dadge[at]