Special Event, 22nd June: Vienna Launch of the World Drug Report

The Ambassador of Norway (CND Chair):

Today is an important day, when we can be grateful for all of the good work done under the conventions, and for the hard work being done around the world. I am also grateful for the work of UNODC and the sterling work of civil society, who we have with us here today. Today we are commemorating the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking, and also launching the flagship UNODC World Drug Report 2017. This is the 60th session of CND, and this is the 20th time that this very important report is being published. Our distinguished speakers today are Yury Fedotov (UNODC Executive Director), the Ambassador from Japan (Chair of CCPCJ) – and thank you for the very good cooperation that CND is enjoying with the CCPCJ – the Ambassadors from Costa Rica, Kenya and Australia, as well as Angela Mae (Chief of the UNODC Research and Analysis Branch), and Esbjörn Hornberg (Chair of VNGOC).

The World Drug Report provides us with a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in the world’s illicit drug markets – including the health consequences of drug use. Reliable data are a crucial tool in our efforts to address the “world drug problem”, and are key to implementing effective responses. The availability of high quality data on drugs is key to understanding the situation, and a cornerstone of evidence-based interventions. The importance of data collection is reflected in the three international drug conventions, and states are requested to submit data annually (the next deadline is approaching soon). The UNGASS Outcome Document from April last year also promotes the value of reliable, comparable statistics on drugs. CND Resolution 60/1, on preparations for the 62nd session, again highlighted the importance of strengthening capacity on data collection and analysis tools at the national level. Many countries lack the capacity and resources to produce good drug statistics, so technical assistance is crucial.

The CND also contributes to the global follow-up and thematic review on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals related to its mandate, and will continue to provide inputs and relevant data. Many of the indicators under these Goals are highly relevant to the work of CND. A stronger partnership is important to counter the “world drug problem” and support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda. In this regard, the Commission is looking to further enhance relations with other relevant Commissions within ECOSOC, including the Statistical Commission.

Yury Fedotov (UNODC Executive Director):

I thank the Chair for her kind words about UNODC, but we could not do this work without CND and CCPCJ, and all of you. The 2017 Report marks 20 years of this flagship publication, and in September we will also mark the 20th anniversary of the UNODC itself (on the date when it was decided to merge the existing bodies on drugs and crime into one). During this time, we have provided reliable estimates related to drugs, and today we are also organising presentations in New York and Geneva, and the Un Secretary General will also issue a statement today. The findings of the 2017 World Drug Report can support the implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document and the Sustainable Development Agenda. The Report reinforces the importance of science and rights-based treatment and care. Fewer than 1 in 6 people in need have access to drug treatment, and this is one of the Sustainable Development Goal targets, so we must scale up our efforts.

Too many people also continue to lack access to medications despite the conventions. Opioids remain the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of drug use disorders. The international community has come together to tackle this issue, including through the Paris Pact, and CND recently scheduled two more opioids. Much more needs to be done to ensure treatment and prevention for people who use drugs, including in prisons. Alternatives to incarceration for offences of a minor nature are foreseen in the conventions, and can help to reduce health harms and overcrowding of prisons. Opioid and cocaine production are increasing, so supply reduction must remain at the core of our response. Intersection rates have also increased, but at the same time the threat posed by new psychoactive substances (NPS) and other synthetic drugs continues to multiply. As we see with the NPS market, the number of substances continues to grow, and the need for early warning systems is clear. Business models are also changing, with criminals exploiting new methods such as online markets.

This year’s Report draws on the available evidence to explore the links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism. These groups profit from the drug trade, and numerous Security Council resolutions have expressed concern about this. Yet much more research needs to be done. While recognising that the links between drugs, crime and terrorism are sensitive, I urge all of us to work on this issue. I hope that the Report will serve to strengthen responses to the health, security and development challenges posed by drugs – and to support you in all of your efforts. Thank you.

Angela Mae (UNODC):

I want to thank my team here today for their passion and effort, and the best designer in the UN! A quarter of a billion people use drugs, and 30 million suffer the most with drug use disorders. In terms of deaths, the greatest cause is hepatitis C, more than HIV. In terms of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost, 28 million years were lost globally from drug use with the greatest cause being opioids by far. Opioid-related deaths – particularly in North America and Europe, where we see an epidemic emerging – have dramatically increased, not only from heroin use, but also mixes of controlled substances, fentanyl and similar substances that are not internationally scheduled. There are serious concerns in the United Kingdom too. More men die than women, but the trend is a more rapid increase for women. In 2015 [when the 2017 Report data is from] 12 million people injected drugs, 50 percent of whom were living with hepatitis C and 1.6 million with HIV – so hepatitis C produced more negative consequences than HIV. This is particularly relevant due to access to hepatitis C treatment – an effective treatment exists but it is very expensive.

In terms of drug supply, opium and coca production have increased: opium mainly in Afghanistan and coca in Colombia. In terms of the flows of opiates, three separate markets exist: one in the Americas via Mexico and serving all of Americas, one in Afghanistan going all around the world, and one in Myanmar. New this year is an emerging route out of Afghanistan through the Caucasus (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc) to reach Western Europe, with reduced trafficking through the Balkan States, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece. Cocaine from the Americas is still being trafficked to the whole world, and increasingly to markets in the East, with big seizures reported in Djibouti and Sri Lanka. There has been an increase in cocaine use in North America and Europe: waste water analysis from some Europe cities implies increased use after a period of decline.

The Report also monitors new cannabis legislations. In the USA, the situation remains complex as state models differ from one-another. But perceptions that cannabis does not produce harm have increased, as has cannabis use itself – although this trend started around 2007, so is not linked to legalisation but more to the onset of medical marijuana schemes in many states at that time. The increased accessibility through these schemes seems to have really made a difference to these indicators. Even then, the increase in cannabis use only relates to people over 26 years: drug use among younger people (12-17 year olds) has reduced, and among people aged 18-25 there is only a slight increase.

The World Drug Report also documents another record high for seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), which points to a continued expansion of the market – with the biggest seizures no longer confined to Asia. The burden of ATS is second only to opioids. NPS is also a continued concern, with 500 new substances identified in 2015 alone. The emergence of NPS that mimic medicines, such a fentanyl analogues, is a newly identified trend. NPS initially gained popularity as a replacement for other illicit drugs, but with new regulations coming in, their use seems to have gone down. Yet they remain on the market, and so have clearly established a niche of their own – particularly among at-risk groups such as the homeless, men who have sex with men, prisoners, and youth.

The Report also includes a thematic focus on the links between drugs and organised crime, and looks at the use of the “dark net” and new technologies. The dark net’s role is still relatively small in terms of volume and numbers of people, but is nonetheless a concern – with the highest proportions of use in the UK and USA, and around 8 percent of people globally reporting accessing drugs in this way. Exploring the financial flows from drug proceeds allows us to see how much has been laundered, but leaves us with more questions than answers. But from what information we have, a third of the proceeds of drugs may be laundered. Corruption again leaves us with many questions we still have to answer, as there are many actors and processes at play here (such as doctors being bribed to prescribe certain substances etc). Afghanistan is the strongest evidence of a link between drugs and terrorism, but most evidence is classified making it hard to analyse. There is a strong link between heroin production and areas controlled by Taliban, with an estimated minimum of US$ 150 million benefit to the Taliban from the drug trade through taxation and direct involvement in the trade. About half of the Taliban’s total profit comes from drugs, and without the drug trade the Taliban would not be what they are today.

The Ambassador from Japan (Chair of CCPCJ):

I am pleased to be a part of this special event, and congratulations to Angela Mae and her team for this very important Report. The World Drug Report also matters to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), as we have to think about the nexus between drug issues and organised crime, which this year’s Report does by dedicating a substantial chapter to this issue, corruption and terrorism. The drug problem itself can be a crime, but can also facilitate other crimes. There is a trend of blurring boundaries between these groups, and illicit trafficking is a major source of funding: between one-fifth and one-third of organised criminal groups’ income is from drug trafficking in some countries.

The CND and the CCPCJ have a common approach in addressing our challenges – namely evidence-based interventions, and striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through its monitoring framework under the stewardship of the Statistics Commission. We share a great responsibility to further engage in the discussions in these areas, and to enhance our work together. Congratulations again, and thank you [to the CND Chair] for your kind words about our collaboration – I look forward to continue to work with our “twin” Commission.

The Ambassador from Costa Rica (President of the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – UNTOC):

One of the topics of the World Drug Report this year focuses on organised crime, and I want to congratulate Angela Mae and her tam for compiling this Report. The nexus between the “world drug problem” and organised crime also features prominently in the UNGASS Outcome Document, which encourages member states to ratify the UNTOC and strengthen international coordination. UNTOC provides us with the tools to deal with these criminal matters. Organised criminal groups have widened their portfolios with cybercrime and environmental crimes, and few groups are dedicated just to drug trafficking. But organised criminal groups have always been very resourceful and have adapted to change very quickly. The drug market continues to play a key role for organised criminal groups, some of which have been involved in the drug trade for as long as the conventions have been in place. They have changed their structures to adapt, and smaller groups with looser hierarchies are still very engaged and using new technologies and the internet to reduce the risks of being caught. Trafficking over the dark net is still relatively small in scale and concentrated in developed countries, but it is growing and is less resource intensive for those involved.

Drugs form part of an illicit economy which weakens the rule of law, which in turn reinforces the drug market. Only interventions that match the global scale of the problem will have a sustainable effect. To counter this, we need to better understand the markets and we need better data on the nexus between drugs and organised crime. We all need to step up and share our information on this matter, and to integrate national responses with international strategies. We need to collect and share more gender-disaggregated data to better understand the role being played by women in drug markets. The CND has focused more on gender mainstreaming, under the leadership of the Chair, and this issue is very important for Costa Rica and for all of us.

The Ambassador of Kenya (Vice-Chair of CND):

Thank you for this comprehensive and user-friendly World Drug Report. The “world drug problem” is a major challenge for the international community, with 0.6 percent of the adult population suffering from drug use disorders. We certainly still have a long way to go. The 2017 Report shows us that we have to scale up treatment and prevention, but also that we need to improve access to controlled substances for medical purposes. Already the conventions include commitments to this end, while ensuring that there is no diversion or abuse of these substances. However, several decades later, this essential element is far from being achieved. The UNGASS Outcome Document notes concerns that the availability of controlled drugs for medical and scientific purposes remains low around the world, and contains various recommendations to enhance national efforts and international cooperation to address this issue. This year’s Report includes a focus on access to pain medication, highlights disparities between countries, and cites the lack of training of professionals, limited resources, and fear of diversion as barriers. The Report also highlights concerns about increased non-medical use of these substances, which is another challenge which we jointly need to address. At the same time, making these substances more available does not have to lead to increased non-medical use. The affordability of these medicines are another key issue for all of us. We must scale-up our efforts for those patients in need. National efforts cannot be fully productive without international and regional cooperation. Worrisome data show the creation of new drug use markets, of particular concern for Africa. Member states outlined the need for technical assistance and capacity building to counter the “world drug problem”, and there can be no substitute for coordinated international actions.

The Ambassador of Australia:

The World Drug Report has, since its inception, been a valuable source for Australia and globally. I also acknowledge that today is the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking. We were really pleased that there was agreement at the UNGASS on the strategy and actions to tackle this issue. Some of the challenges we face are old ones, but there are also serious new threats – such as synthetic drugs, including NPS, ATS and synthetic opioids, some of which are dangerous. Synthetic drugs often have unknown and varying potency, with sometimes fatal consequences. International cooperation must continue. This is essential also for the development of treatment standards. No one should be left behind in our efforts to tackle the “world drug problem”. Fewer than 1 in 6 people have access to treatment, and many harms are avoidable with proper treatment and prevention. Age, gender, and where someone lives should not be factors in whether or not you can access treatment. Australia is keen to share and develop data with the international community. On pain relief, I echo the Ambassador of Kenya, and the solution is possible under the conventions. We thank the WHO, INCB and others for their work to demonstrate this. In closing, this issue requires more joint work and more time. We know we are in good company on this, and look forward to translating the UNGASS outcomes for 2019 and beyond.

Esbjörn Hornberg (Chair of VNGOC):

It is my privilege to address you today as Chair of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. As you may know, we are a global membership organization comprising over 200 civil society members and we have been active in the field of drug policies for over three decades. The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Listen First – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”. This reminds us all of the need to pay more attention to the voices of children and youth in our communities, including those who use drugs or experience harms as a result of drug use.

The VNGOC’s intention is to attend to the needs of affected populations — those populations affected both by problematic drug use, violence, and harmful policies. Children and youth are an affected population. Attending to their voices as they articulate their own needs for healthy safe environments aligns our membership with VNGOC’s commitment to implement the practical recommendations of the UNGASS Outcome Document.

The perspective of youth is always enlightening and refreshing, helping us to see old problems in new ways, and calling for evidence-based treatment, harm reduction and prevention. Articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child grant young people freedom of expression, the right to be heard and have their views taken into account. Article 33 in the same Convention strongly calls for the protection of children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in relevant international treaties, and preventing the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has also acknowledged that this includes the protection of young people through evidence-based prevention, harm reduction  and dependence services. The Committee also welcomes alternatives to punitive or repressive drug control policies in relation to adolescents.

According with the report “Violence, Children, and Organized Crime”, recently published by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, adolescents and children from marginalized areas have suffered the influence of organized crime and violence associated with the illegal drug markets. State responses to these challenges are primarily based on security forces and punitive repression through the criminal justice system, primarily focusing on young men and adolescents. In some cases, this adds to excessive use of force; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, even extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.

Across the regions, the high rates of arbitrary detentions of young people for violation of drug laws is also concerning. Adolescents who are poor, or members of minorities are overrepresented among those killed or detained. Protecting children and youth from illicit drug is a huge challenge in the 21st century. Smart and comprehensive prevention and supply control strategies seek to protect youth both from substance use, and from harmful policies that foster violent neighborhoods, schools, and imprisonment of children themselves. We know that the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of children and youth in the traditional producer countries is threatened by violent drug markets that feed mostly the consumer habits of the global north.

We know that millions of children globally have one or more parents incarcerated for drug related offenses. UN Special Procedures have recognized the increasing number of women incarcerated under anti-drugs laws. The majority are mothers and sole caretakers of their children. The impacts of this incarceration on children (both those growing up in prison and those left outside with family members, in foster homes or other institutions) are lifelong. It is well documented that children living with parents with substance use disorders, as well as parental incarceration can result in childhood traumas, affecting children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Last year’s successful UNGASS gives us the opportunity to put people and public health at the heart of drug policies, and to align those drug policies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda calls on member states to leave no one, including children and youth, behind. Listening to children and youth means giving them a seat at the table, allowing them to speak on their own behalf and not speaking for them.

Russian Federation:

We congratulate UNODC for the World Drug Report, and note that this work is only possible due to sustainable funding from the UNODC core budget, and the use of reliable data from governments from around the world. We encourage the Office to continue technical assistance to improve national data collection.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE):

Thank you to UNODC for inviting us here. We have been given a mandate to work in this area, and have partnered with UNODC to ensure collaborations and agree a joint work plan. The “world drug problem” cannot be resolved singled-handed. In all of our activities, we will refer to this important and more user-friendly document.


We welcome the Report, which is the gold standard of global research in this area. The number of substance users in the USA remains high and continues to receive our attention. We are experiencing an opioid epidemic, and international cooperation is needed to tackle this – including through the further scheduling of synthetic opioids. Drugs continue to have an impact on public health, while revenues from the drug trade feed organised crime. In cooperation with UNODC, we recognise and support demand reduction efforts domestically and internationally.


The World Drug Report is one of the most important tools we have, and it is clear from the report and from the UNGASS Outcome Document that we all need to do more as we look towards 2019 and beyond and the ongoing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We want to highlight findings on NPS – the expansion is now at a slower pace, which could be a sign that international and national legislation is starting to have an impact. However, the emergence of NPS mimicking medicines is a concern. As included in CND Resolution 60/4, we are all committed to doing more on this, and the UK will continue to work with our international partners. The Report also highlights the need for proportionality, human rights and public health approaches, and efforts to counter organised crime.


Congratulations to the panel for their presentations, and to UNODC for the excellent job that it is doing. Bolivia has changed its set-up at the government level to ensure we have increased control of drug trafficking, money laundering, etc. The number of consumers may be increasing, whereas we have traditionally been a trafficking and production country. We have strict controls on money laundering in the banks, and on precursors. We are investing in our radar systems to detect small aircraft involved in the drug trade, and are increasing detection and destruction of the drugs that we find. One question about the Report – will it be translated into Spanish and made available? The more consumption that we have, the more production will take place. There must be more regulations about drug consumption.


I have no questions, but some observations. Congratulations to UNODC for the Report, and thank you to the panellists. Today is also an opportunity for us to appreciate the challenges that remain, and the challenges that are emerging. As a state most affected by the illicit transit of drugs, the findings in the report are a serious concern for us – especially the spikes in production and the expansion of the markets, the use of the internet, etc. In 2009, we all set very clear targets for ourselves [to eradicate drug use, supply, etc]. Yet when I look at the Report, one thing is clear – we are far from achieving those targets. In 2019, we will have the CND high-level segment to review these targets, and this Report gives us an idea of what kind of scorecard we will be looking at. So we have to intensify and step-up all of our efforts, including supply reduction and health. I hope that this Report not only contributes to our understanding, but also helps us to implement solutions. Next year, it would be helpful if, in the Report, the UNODC Secretariat could identify the links between the 2009 Political Declaration and the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document.


Thank you for this session. It is clear that more needs to be done, and we must review the negative impacts of policies and ensure a human rights based approach. The Government of Colombia remains committed to the measures in the conventions – including forced eradication and providing voluntary substitutions of crops as part of the peace agreement with FARC.

Angela Mae (UNODC):

There is no funding to print the Report from next year in the regular budget, which is getting smaller. The Executive Summary is already translated into all six UN languages, but the full Report will be translated at a later date.

The Ambassador of Norway (CND Chair):

Thank you all, I close today with a very warm gratitude to all of you.

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