Below is the text of the statement of Diederik Lohman on behalf of Human Rights Watch.
‘Thank you, Madam Chair.
Let me start by expressing appreciation for ensuring that the voices of NGOs are heard at this meeting.
I make this intervention on behalf of Human Rights Watch.
Ladies and gentleman, as you undoubtedly know, the 1961 Single Convention created a dual obligation for member states: to ensure availability of narcotic drugs for medical and scientific purposes and to prevent the illicit manufacturing of, trafficking in, and use of such drugs.
The Convention called for a balanced approach in which efforts to reduce supply and demand for illicit drugs would not interfere with their availability for medical purposes.
Unfortunately, in the last fifty years that balance has been lost. CND’s focus has almost exclusively been on drug control efforts, without appropriate attention for their availability for medical purposes.
This has sent a message to member states that the issue of availability is of marginal concern.
This has resulted in many countries ignoring their obligation to ensure adequate availability of drugs like morphine and methadone.
In fact, many countries have adopted drug control regulations that are so restrictive that they directly and severely impede the availability of morphine for the treatment of severe pain and of methadone for drug treatment.
The World Health Organization estimates that tens of millions—I repeat: tens of millions—of people suffer from severe pain without access to treatment. Among them are 5.5 million terminal cancer and 1 million end-stage AIDS patients. Millions of people who are dependent on opioids could benefit from methadone substitution treatment but do not have access to it.
Some delegations here have said that availability of controlled medicines should be left to WHO and the INCB, and that CND has no role to play. But this is not the case. Undoubtedly, on a technical level, WHO and INCB are the lead agencies. But CND, as one of the bodies responsible for the implementation of the drug conventions, has an important political and oversight role. It has the duty to call on countries to meet their obligations under the Conventions. So far, it has largely abdicated this responsibility with respect to availability of controlled substances for medical purposes.
Unfortunately, last week’s political declaration continued the trend. It contains just one lonely paragraph on the topic, whereas dozens of paragraphs are devoted to control of illicit drugs. The paragraph fails to make a commitment to improving availability of controlled medicines, to set targets or benchmarks.
Every year, CND talks about the devastation caused by abuse of controlled substances. It is time that it also starts addressing the enormous suffering caused by the lack of availability of controlled medications.