Home » Norman Baker , UK Home Office

Norman Baker , UK Home Office


Chair and distinguished guests.

Let me start by welcoming you Ambassador, into the chair of the 57th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and express the UK’s support.

UK Approach to Drugs
I want to share with Member States the UK’s experience of delivering a modern, balanced and evidence based drug strategy within the international conventions.

The UK has worked tirelessly to test our evidence base, and to continue developing an effective balance between our three central strands: reducing demand through prevention, building recovery, and by restricting supply.  

This approach is proving effective, with encouraging signs that drug use and the harms associated with drugs are falling in the UK.

We have collaborated across government and with civil society to deliver an approach that I am proud of.

The UK Government’s Drug Strategy has:

·        Re-focused on preventionand on addressing the risk factors associated with drug misuse. We have improved information, education and early intervention targeted at vulnerable groups. In England and Wales, drug use is now at its lowest level since measurement began for both young people and adults.

·         We have achieved a shift in approach to a recovery system.  Record numbers in England are completing treatment free of dependence, and drug related deaths are continuing to decrease year on year. Access to treatment and support to tackle the complex causes of drug use, including additional help with housing, employment and access to benefits, is available to all who want it. 

·         The UK has continued to develop our law enforcement approach, taking proportionate action to restrict the supply of drugs. We have launched a Serious and Organised Crime Strategy and established the National Crime Agency, re-energising our approach to tackling this threat.

Responding to a changing environment

The emergence of new psychoactive substances has rapidly changed the nature of the international drugs market. 

The pace at which a new global market has developed, the ease with which substances can be obtained, and the increasing international confirmation of the harms these substances pose, makes this an issue of great concern to all Member States.

We have real ambition in this area and are flexing our drugs strategy – prevention, recovery and restricting supply – to meet this challenge. We are developing a balanced and evidence based response.

·         We have developed a Forensic Early Warning System across health and law enforcement that has built a better real-time picture of the UK evidence of availability and harms of these substances.

·         We have developed innovative prevention campaigns targeted at the most vulnerable.  This includes Talk to Frank, our ground breaking communications campaign designed to engage in a genuine conversation with children and young adults in a language they recognise and understand. 

·         We are working in partnership with health care professionals to develop new and effective specialist recovery systems tailored for new psychoactive substances.

·         And we are working in partnership with law enforcement agencies to coordinate efforts to restrict supply.  This includes intelligence gathering and taking robust action at borders to tackle the entire supply chain.

·         We are gathering international evidence and testing potential legislative responses. This will enhance our existing legislative approach, which has included the introduction of extensive evidence based drug controls across a range of groups of new psychoactive substance.
International cooperation

International cooperation has been key to the success of the UK’s strategy. 

But there is more to be done to improve our collective response.  We must enhance the free exchange of evidence, information and analysis. This will enable us all to build an international picture of what really works and rebalance our approach within the international conventions across three pillars: prevention, recovery and restricting supply.

For example, our international approach to new psychoactive substances must include.

·         The further development of an international evidence base.  We welcome the existing international collaboration in this area – including the UNODC Early Warning Advisory System, the WHO’s ongoing analysis of emerging new psychoactive substances, and the INCB’s Project Ion – but we must seek further opportunities to  provide regular and systematic updates.

·         We must ensure an innovative global approach to prevention, and ensure that all communities understand the harms caused by drugs. We will continue to share our experience of targeted prevention campaigns, and will demonstrate the UK’s Talk to Frank next week.

·         We must continue to share lessons learnt on effective treatment techniques for recovery.

·         And we must work in partnership with source and transit countries to restrict supply. We must build local capacity to tackle the complex issues that drugs cause, and share information on the serious, organised and criminal networks that facilitate and profit from drugs.

The UK has requested the provisional control of mephedrone under the international conventions. This is in recognition of the international evidence of harms and the UKs experience that domestic controls are effective in preventing use.

I would encourage Member States to bring forward domestic controls. The UK is willing to share its experience in this field.


While rates of HIV transmission seem to have stabilised within the general population of some regions, we remain deeply concerned that transmission amongst injecting drug users is still alarmingly high.  It now account for more than 40% of new infections in some countries. In many places there is still low political commitment to reducing new infections among people who inject drugs. 

The UK remains firmly committed to supporting efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50% by 2015.  This is an objective the UK is proud to have helped secure.

We encourage member states to base their HIV prevention approach on thebest available evidence of what works and what delivers value for money. For injecting drug users we have strong evidence that this should include access to comprehensive prevention and treatment.  Including opioid substitution treatment, clean needle exchange programmes and access to antiretroviral treatment. Countries that have scaled up these services have kept new HIV infections among people who inject drugs at a low level.
Human rights and the death penalty

Our international work to tackle the threats we face from the international drugs trade must be consistent with our domestic and international human rights obligations. The UK monitors all of our work in this field to ensure it does not and cannot contribute to human rights abuses.

We welcome the efforts made by the UNODC to ensure that robust human rights safeguards are in place.  The UNODC’s 2012 position paper on the protection and promotion of human rights is an important tool to support the human rights compliance of its work.

I would encourage all Member States to implement similar safeguards to eliminate possible human rights violations.

While the UK recognises the seriousness of drugs-related crime, we oppose the use of the death penalty in any circumstances as a matter of principle. We consider that its use undermines human dignity.

Errors made in its application are irreversible, and this has rightly led many countries, including the UK to abolish the death penalty. Existing UN Safeguards stipulate that the death penalty may be applied – exclusively – to the “most serious crimes”. We do not believe this to include non-lethal crimes such as drugs offences.

UK policy is not to provide criminal justice, or other assistance, which may result in death sentences being applied.

In view of the growing worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty, we urge all member states to consider imposing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a step on the way towards final abolition.


I will conclude by reiterating the UK’s support for a modern, evidence based and balanced approach to drugs within the UN conventions. There is scope for improvements, and the UK will continue taking a leadership role in delivering an international approach that tackles existing and new challenges through prevention, recovery and by restricting supply.

Member States have much to gain through collaboration and I look forward to what we can achieve together.Chair, thank you for this opportunity to speak.

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