For information only - not an official document

23 July 2019

President of International Narcotics Control Board calls for urgent assistance to address the drug situation in Afghanistan and the global imbalance in availability of internationally controlled medicines

NEW YORK/VIENNA, 23 July (UN Information Service) - Speaking at the Economic and Social Council, the President of the International Narcotics Control Board has made a call for urgent assistance from United Nations bodies and agencies to help address the drug control challenges facing Afghanistan. The Vienna-based Board has invoked article 14 bis of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, in view of the further deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Cornelis P. de Joncheere, President of INCB, stressed that efforts to stabilize the country would not be effective unless the illicit opiate economy was addressed.

The INCB President emphasized that actions taken by Governments to address drug-related crime must respect human rights and due process standards. The Board has reiterated its condemnation of extrajudicial responses to suspected drug-related offences. INCB also noted with great concern in its report that several jurisdictions in South Asia were considering reintroducing or making greater use of the death penalty for drug-related offences. The Board encourages all States that retain the death penalty for drug-related offences to consider abolishing such offences and to commute sentences already handed down.

INCB has made a specific recommendation to States to develop effective strategies for preventing drug abuse and to address drug dependence through evidence-based treatment, rehabilitation, aftercare and social reintegration, noting that prevention and treatment were an important treaty requirement.

The INCB 2018 Annual Report included a thematic chapter on the use of cannabis and warned of the risks if medical cannabis programmes were not properly regulated, highlighting the treaty requirement that Governments control the production and supply of cannabis for medical use, and provide INCB with estimates and statistics of national requirements for medical purposes, with a view to preventing diversion to illicit channels and abuse.

Mr. de Joncheere recalled the Board's concern about legislative developments concerning the "recreational" use of cannabis, and the potential health impact, particularly among young people. He recalled that the developments seen in a few jurisdictions were contrary to the treaties, the fundamental principle of which is to limit the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. These developments were also contrary to the commitments that States had made to each other, most recently at the 2016 special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, which reaffirmed the centrality of the three international drug control conventions as the cornerstone of the international drug control framework.

The INCB President was presenting to the Council the Board's 2018 reports, which included a special report on progress made by Governments towards improving the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic purposes for medical and scientific purposes. INCB's analysis showed some promising developments, such as a decrease in impediments related to cultural issues and biases, yet problems in sourcing and limited financial resources were increasingly reported. INCB data showed that the increase in the use of expensive synthetic opioids, mainly in high-income countries, had not been accompanied by an increase in the use of affordable morphine in low- and middle-income countries. Mr. de Joncheere called on Governments to commit to action to improve the access to controlled medicines, particularly in the context of the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage to take place in September 2019 and towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and wellbeing.

The INCB President acknowledged that "at the other extreme, in countries with high levels of consumption of opioids, the aggressive marketing of synthetic opioids and their over-prescription and use without adequate medical supervision and oversight, has led to dire consequences", referring to the increases in opioid deaths seen in some countries. Sound regulatory control, in line with the conventions, and proper medical supervision, were key to ensuring rational use. In this connection, the INCB Global OPIOIDS Project was facilitating cooperation among Governments to address the illicit flow of non-medical synthetic opioids and was also working with the Universal Postal Union to address the trafficking of these potent substances.

In closing, the INCB President referred to the ongoing cooperation of the Board with Governments, and support provided through INCB tools such as INCB Learning, the International Import and Export Authorization System (I2ES), the Pre-export notification system (PEN-Online) and Precursors Incident Communication System (PICS), as well as Project Ion and the IONICS system. 


INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the thirteen members of the Board are elected in a personal capacity by the Economic and Social Council for terms of five years.

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