Side event: World Drug Report: Latest trends and addressing users’ needs

Organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Research and Trend Analysis Branch. Pakistan Office.

The event will review the current issues on drug demand and drug supply that characterize the world drug problem and the way in which they are currently addressed in the World Drug Report. It will provide an opportunity to review the needs of the multiple audiences of the Report and discuss options to increase its usefulness and use by all stakeholders.

Chair, Ms. Angela Me Chief, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, UNODC: Feedback that the report has become the reference point for global drugs issues. We want to transparently tell you how we created the World Drug Report and we wanted to hear feedback, to see how we can improve. We have many audiences with different needs who want to see different kinds of issues. The quality criteria we use relies on solid evidence, if issues do not have solid evidence we will not include them in our publications. The opportunities we have as the UNODC is structured around five sections of research and we have a team of 50 working on the world drug report. The challenge we have is producing a report like this every year. We try to cover in depth topics but we do not have the capacity to engage prominent experts in all the topics.

Presentation of the World Drug Report by Ms Chloe Carpenter, Chief, Drug Research Section, UNODC: It has been a challenge to address people’s different needs. We want to provide a baseline for monitoring and to provide analytical insights into a range of issues. Producing a baseline includes producing global and regional data, which may be provided by member states. Data on global estimates can be found on the website. The first data we collate is on prevalence of drug use and data on problematic drug use. We also provide data on the prevalence of people who inject drugs. Among people who inject drugs we estimate the number of those living with Hepatitis C, HIV or both. We also provide estimated data on deaths caused by drug use but this is the least reliable data. We also provide data on the cultivation and production of opium poppies and coca bushes. We work with member states to produce these estimates. We also monitor global seizures of drugs, this is our most reliable data. We also include reporting on NPS – new substances, allows us to look at what kind of substances are growing on the market. We also produce maps on trafficking routes and flows. The maps do not change that much but there is evidence of some new flows of trafficking. We also mobilise studies not part of the global routine indicators. For example, the number of healthy lives that are lost through drug use. Last year we looked at the issue of TB and drug use. Last year we looked at waste water to measure cocaine, indicates an increase in use among European countries. I also want to show you what we looked at with drugs and the darknet, we looked at the available studies and reported on these – not generalisable. Our other objective of providing an analysis on specific drug issues and the thematic chapter – based on all the country data we could find. Last year we looked at the world drug problem and sustainable development. We also looked at the links between drugs and illicit financial flow, including considerations of the links between terrorist groups and drugs. We provided some original analysis on opium production in Afghanistan – 80% of areas under control of insurgent groups.

Ms Jane Mounteney Head, Public Health Unit, EMCDDA: We are stakeholders in the WDR. We are the central reference point for drugs research in the EU and we produce a similar report – we share some data, and try and harmonise our reporting. From an EU perspective, you provide a good backdrop for our analysis. We are most interested in global production and trafficking, the report provides a frame for us, and shed light on some countries who do not have any other information available. I would like to highlight some of the key challenges: data quality and coverage and how you address these. You have the challenge of timeliness – how to stay up to date and fresh. You make great use of new analysis and triangulation. The relevant challenge: the policy, ‘so what?’ factor – one way you do this is through the infographics and where you discuss implications for policy. To conclude: you have a happy 21st birthday! We fully support the publication and like the new style. To finish on future areas: continuation of thematic areas, moving to more online products (Social media), and how can we move from readers to users of the WDR. Thank you.

Dave Bewley-Taylor, Senior Associate, IDPC: IDPC has been analysing the report for around a decade, acting as a critical friend and producing some interesting publications. A pleasure to say the report has been going from strength to strength – a remarkable piece of word. An impressive overview of the illicit drug market and SDGs, it is a feat of analysis. It is becoming more user friendly, the office’s most thorough and accessible publications. Not convinced about the new format, sometimes repetitive – but just my personal view. In terms of process it is good to see the involvement of the Scientific Advisory Committee. Positive to see collaboration with civil society. Methodological improvements over the year – use of data ranges, omission of certain datasets if they do not meet standards. A key improvement is the admission of the high levels of uncertainty, related to the issue of datasets. The report demonstrates a nuance of the illicit drugs market. I think the datasets on health are really good, particularly the harm caused by use. The focus on TB was useful this year. It is positive to see the office mention the shortage of good treatment available globally. Good to include gender data and the slide on the darknet. The dark net is an area that will challenge us in terms of data capture. All in all, a very solid piece of work. My main issue is with the data itself – it is becoming increasingly difficult that the report provides ample evidence when it does not include human rights data. It still focuses on harms caused by drugs, rather than the harms of drug policy. Remains a need to move away from a focus on measuring scales and flows and more towards measuring the impacts of drug policies on individuals and communities in line with the SDGs.

Comments from the Floor:

Representative from Turkey Anti-Narcotics Department: Our main reference point for drug related issues. It is very useful for us. Every year we report evidence on the role of the PKK on drug trafficking. Annually 1.5 billion dollars from drug trafficking. We could not see PKK on the report, as you say you need evidence, I think the report should include intelligence related to drug trafficking. Do you have flexibilities to include more in the future?

Chair: every year we have a focus in the report. Last year we looked at terrorism, reliant on definition given by the security council. It is difficult to define what a terrorist group is – the PKK is not included by the SC as a terrorist group. This year the theme will be youth, women and elderly people.

Turkey: terrorism is the problem of the world and should include more information.

Journalist: you could use the term irregular armed groups

Chair: how do you define them?

IDPC: I found it interesting in terms of the synergies – the high levels of uncertainties. Data capture in this area is highly problematic, we must understand how complex and expensive this is. It was harsh to criticise think tanks in the report.

Turkey: the seizures are very important, and the statements of the terrorist groups.

Chair: the issue is we need to have a global report of intelligence to have a global perspective, we are reflecting on how to do this.

Drug enforcement administrator for the US: We use this report. I would like to understand what your data resources are and how you go out as a timeline.

West African states Representative: Member states endorse an outcome document but difficult to measure the effectiveness of streamlining this policy. The link between cases between health and drug use as an alternative to incarceration. We need to advise member states with more guidance on alternatives to incarceration.

Chloe Carpentier: every year we send the questionnaire to the member states with a deadline which is often missed. We use the data to produce a draft to share with the member states. All this is detailed in the report.

Sri Lanka: we also have some problems. We are reporting only for the current data, the UNODC should provide support for producing data.

Chair: thank you this is a very important issue. We have the greatest issues with coverage in Asia and Africa. How to bring the little research that is available to the report.


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