Official side event – Celebrating 100 years of the Opium Convention

INCB President
The event started with an introduction of the international drug control system since the Shanghai Conference in 1909 and the signature of the International Opium Convention in 1912. Since then, a series of conventions were signed:

– 1925, the International Opium Convention with the creation of the Permanent Central Opium Board
– 1931, Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs, with the creation of the Drug Supervisory Body.
– 1936, Convention for the Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs
– 1948, Protocol Bringing under International Control Drugs Outside the Scope of the 1931 Convention, adopted after WWII.
– 1953, Opium Protocol.

By 1960, the international drug control system was very complicated. This is why the objective of the 1961 Single Convention was to unify all of these conventions and create a drug control system to limit the production, distribution and use of illicit drugs to medical and scientific purposes. The permanent International Narcotics Control Board was then established. The Convention included new obligations in terms of prevention and treatment.

The 1971 Convention was born out of concerns raised from new psychotropic substances and their diversion to non-scientific and medical purposes.

The 1988 Convention was created because of the challenges caused by drug trafficking and organising crime. It sought to improve international cooperation and provide governments with a legal framework to combat the diversion of substances and established the current precursor control system. It highlighted the growing importance of prevention, treatment and demand reduction, as well as good services to those who need them. It also highlighted the importance to ensure access to essential medicines.

Today, we celebrate not only the centenary of the international drug control system, but also its success. The three conventions have almost universal acceptance. Levels of illicit drug consumption have been reduced. In 1906, 1.5% of the whole population were using opium. Now, it is 0.25%. Levels of illicit drug production are now 1/5 of what it used to be a century ago. The international drug control system is a fine example of how the international community can work together.

Governments and civil society should be proud of the successes achieved. The conventions provide the framework for international cooperation. There must be a balance between supply and demand. We must ensure that policies are not to the detriment of availability of essential medicines. Supply reduction should be focused on providing alternative livelihoods.

The integrity of the conventions must be safeguarded if the system is to function properly. Only when these are safeguarded and implemented will the international drug control will be a success.

China representative
The 1961 Convention is a milestone in international drug control. China suffered harm in modern history. We attach great importance to drug control and have developed a drug strategy to tackle the drug problem, with equal emphasis between drug demand and supply. We also insist on international cooperation and have achieved results in combating criminality and reducing harms. More and more countries in the region are affected by drugs, with a rise in availability of precursors. The world drug situation also poses challenges for drug control in China. For years, INCB and UNOC have played a key role in implementing the drug control treaties. We express sincere gratitude to the support from UNODC and INCB to drug control in China.

USA representative, Kerlikowski
The USA was one of the signatories to the frist drug convention. We request all member states to support our resolution celebrating the 100 years of drug control. The criminal justice system should be key to reducing the drug problem. We must look at ways to cooperate and implement the principle of shared responsibility.

Thailand
The international convention in 2012 was a remarkable achievement. We are proud to have been part of the fight against drugs since the very beginning. We have consistently supported the world’s efforts to combat narcotics. We were present in 1931 and later on. We have been at the forefront of combating opium production with alternative development activities. These were one of the first development programmes. The success of this approach has been evident. Thailand recognises that the problem of illegal drugs cannot be solved by a country alone but with joint efforts. The international community needs to continue to work together to continue our combat illicit drugs.

Japan
The international community has achieved much in reducing the opium poppy cultivation in Asia. The international framework has increased the capacity of countries to combat this issue, encourage the adoption of demand reduction policies and alternative development programmes. Japan would like to play a more active role to increase cooperation in tackling the world drug problem.

Colombia
Colombia wishes to stated that we are deeply committed to combat the scourge of drug trafficking. We have built institutions and have good and effective cooperation with other countries and have achieved interesting results. The fight against drugs is only possible with the support of the international community so that we can work together to reduce supply and demand. The principle of common and shared responsibility is crucial. We urge all countries to continue showing their commitment to this principle today and in the future.

VNGOC
There is significant information on the conventions. We cannot deny the Hague convention starting point – the international community coming together to work on a common goal. The conventions are both an opportunity and an obligation. The obligation is to work on the letter and the spirit of the convention and build a strong international framework. The opportunity is for states to improve the conventions based on science. Civil society had a role in the creation of the Hague convention. We believe that civil society should continue to have a lead role in this regard. The fundamental principles of the convention need to be reconciled with the needs of today – how can we ensure a balance between supply and demand, and how to use the lessons learned from 100 years of practice? Our conventions cannot be static, they need to reflect changes. We wish to work with international agencies to reduce the global drug problem. We already have constructive engagement with UNODC, INCB and member states.

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