On the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, UNODC and their UN partners coordinated simultaneous launches of their flagship World Drug Report 2015 – in Vienna, Geneva and New York. Member states had received a technical briefing about the report last week, so this event was billed as a CND Special Session in line General Assembly Resolution 69/200. The session was co-chaired by Ambassador Arthayudh Srisamoot from Thailand and Ambassador Khaled Abdelrahman Shamaa from Egypt.
Thailand (CND Chair)
Happy to be informed about key data and analysis in the Report, and will allow interventions from the floor to discuss the findings.
Egypt (Chair of the UNGAS Bureaux)
Preparations for the UNGASS are now well underway, and one of the main tasks is to prepare a short, concise and action oriented outcomes document. Realities on the ground differ between regions and between countries. The World Drug Report can be a valuable source of information for these discussions. Particularly welcome the thematic focus in Chapter 2 on alternative development, which is an important concept for CND and the UNGASS (as reflected in the 2014 Joint Ministerial Statement) – framed by the UN Guiding Principles on Alternative Development.
Yury Fedotov (UNODC Executive Director)
We can draw solid and practical conclusions from the Report, hence the decision to launch in three UN capitals today. As the lead UN agency, UNODC is firmly committed to supporting the CND as we move closer to the UNGASS. Health is a fundamental element of this year’s Report, and the launch in Geneva will focus on drug prevention, treatment and HIV/AIDS, while the launch in New York will focus on drug markets and drug trafficking.
Here in Vienna, the focus will be in alternative development – which is the subject of a special thematic chapter for the first time since 2000. Alternative development can help impoverished farmers to move from illicit drugs and into the licit economy. It is not a fiction; it has been shown to work in places like Thailand, Colombia and Peru – all of which he has visited recently to see the work being done. Peru has more hectares converted to licit crops and more families benefiting from alternative development – which promotes the welfare of farmers and their families, as well as protecting fragile ecosystems (for example, due to illicit logging and pesticide use by coca growers, 290,000 hectares of forest in Colombia have been lost). Programmes must focus on fostering sustainable licit economies, land credit, infrastructure, and access to markets. But funding remains a problem – we call on every member state to offer strong political support as well as funding.
UNODC exists to promote the health and welfare of human kind, and their work focuses on human rights, dignity, quality and the impact of drug abuse on individuals and communities. Drug use remains stable, but the toll remains too high. 600 people are lost every day due to overdose and other drug-related deaths – 25 people every hour. These deaths can be prevented, are unacceptable, and have terrible consequences for families and communities. The use of new psychoactive drugs continues to spread. Terrorists and violent extremists continue to be linked to drug trafficking.
In Peru, he met a woman who used to be a coca grower along with her family, until her husband was killed by insurgents. She then switched to cocoa for greater security and sustainability, a story that is heard all around the world.
Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol (Thailand)
Thanked UNODC for the updated data and analysis, but also for raising awareness through the report, the three launch events, and their campaign for 26th June. No country can tackle these issues alone, and we are at a critical junction for reflection. Thailand recommits itself to the three international drug conventions and the 2009 Political Declaration. In Asia, the main concerns are yaba (methamphetamine), ice (crystal methamphetamine), new psychoactive substances and new precursors. These all point to the urgency for enhanced international cooperation. Went on to outline Thai drug policy and results in terms of seizures etc, enhanced life skills and parenting skills, drug prevention, gender-sensitive treatment for women prisoners, and alternatives to detention for young people.
Yesid Reyes (Minister of Justice, Colombia)
Thanked UNODC for the Report which makes a valuable contribution to the current debate, as well as reflecting on persistent problems and emerging challenges. The Report reaffirms that we are far from having accomplished the goals we set out to accomplish. We therefore have to change the way we respond, as markets have increased in some parts of the world. Overall the problem remains stable, but this is not an achievement – rather it shows we need new approaches to protect the health and wellbeing of humanity.
Columbia has made progress at a huge cost of human lives, and there is a long road still ahead in terms of public health and development. We need consensus and agreement to go ahead. Only one in six “problem drug users” have access to treatment and a significant number of people die from overdose and blood-borne infections. This is unacceptable. There is a growing internal demand in Colombia, with a negative effect on health. In 2014, coca crops in Colombia have increased. Much still needs to be done, and the limitations of approaches based on supply reduction and repression need to be re-evaluated. The Report presents the available evidence based on the current policies, including evidence of the failings and shortcomings.
The debate on the need to revise our approaches must start with an acknowledgement that we have not achieved the objectives that we have set out to achieve, and in some cases we have created negative results. This negative impact has to be studied: punitive approaches have made people more vulnerable and isolated, and have undermined development and the safety of citizens in producer and transit countries. The World Drug Report must be used in the UNGASS preparations so that we can approach these issues in a precise, creative and intelligent way. The Report shows that we are far from where we hoped to be.
Our obligation is to put individuals, rights and wellbeing at the centre of the drug debate, and to design new measures that would make it possible to get better results. The focus on alternative development must be strengthened – this is the cornerstone of our strategy in Colombia. 150,000 families have been helped with these programmes; diverting hectares of land towards the production of cacao, rubber and oil palm, and sustainable forestry. This has reduced vulnerability across whole communities. We also suspended spraying crops with glyphosate. But we need funding to continue these approaches, to offer a dignified way out for people, and to guarantee access to controlled medical drugs and treatment.
Salamat Azimi (Afghan Counter-Narcotics Minister)
Illicit drugs are one of the main challenges for Afghanistan – which is a prime victim of this menace – along with factors such as insecurity, poverty and unemployment. Drug trafficking networks continue to encourage farmers, including through the advance purchase of opium poppy. In parallel, there is a deteriorating security situation in the areas under cultivation. The government is committed to the elimination of the opium economy, and has reviewed and revised the national drug control strategy and laws. Their work includes district-based programmes, gender-sensitive programmes, a national awareness strategy, surveys, capacity building, and the implementation of alternative livelihoods. We will use the capacity of 2,000 hospitals and clinics to deliver drug treatment services. Greater international support is needed for public health packages. We are also trying to institutionalise drug demand reduction into the higher education system in Afghanistan.
When we meet in New York for the UNGASS, Afghanistan will represent the Asian group. It is important to expedite the implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration, but also to focus on the new and emerging challenges, trends and realities on the ground, and how to address them through a holistic and balanced approach. UNODC has also been actively supporting our efforts, and is crucial in facilitating and coordinating international cooperation.
Angela Me (Chief, UNODC Statistics and Surveys Section)
Ms Me the presented a series of slides highlighting the main or new findings from the World Drug Report, including:
- Drug use in prisons is higher than in the general population: i.e. 5% prevalence of heroin use in prisons, compared to 0.35% in the general population.
- One in three drug users are women, yet just one in five people in treatment are women.
- The Report also provides a detailed review of the evidence around drug prevention, looking at what works and what does not. General population prevention programmes tend not to have an impact, while targeted interventions have proven more successful.
- The Report explores the meaning attached to the description of addiction as a ‘chronic’ disorder. Ms Me made an analogy with diabetes in terms of the need for long-term treatment and care, and the need to evaluate impacts while the person is in treatment, not after they have left.
- Going through some of main graphics from the Report, poppy cultivation has increased although there has not been a large increase in the heroin market. However, increased heroin-related deaths in the USA do indicate increased supply.
- The potency of cannabis has increased, as is the proportion of people accessing treatment for cannabis-related problems. But the market remains very diverse.
- The thematic chapter on alternative development describes the need to shift from “vicious cycles” to “virtuous cycles” (see below). The key elements for success include long-term political and financial support; income-generating alternatives; marketing of alternative products; land tenure and the sustainable management and use of land; local ownership and community participation; and a focus on women.
- Despite an increase in political support and rhetoric around alternative development, the available international funding for this approach has actually reduced since 2009 (although domestic funding for alternative development has increased). Alternative development therefore remains in a “state of flux”, but the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals for beyond 2015 could provide a new framework for this approach.
The Chair then opened the discussion to the floor for comments.
Panama (on behalf of GRULAC)
The drug problem must be approached with genuine political will, and concrete actions based on an integrated, multidisciplinary and balanced approach – based on the principle of shared responsibility. GRULAC welcomes the thematic focus on alternative development, and the focus on gender – including the gender-disaggregated data in the annex.
Latvia (on behalf of EU)
The EU advocates for a balanced approach between demand and supply reduction, and underlines the importance of data collection, research and information exchange. The World Drug Report serves an important source of information, and the EMCDDA plays a key role. They also welcome the gender focus.
The EU also reiterates its opposition to the death penalty, and welcomes the discussion on new psychoactive substances – agreeing with the recommendation for enhanced international cooperation and better scheduling responses. They also welcome the dedication of Chapter 2 to alternative development, which is a crucial element of the EU’s understanding of how the world drug problem should be addressed. The issue of the availability of internationally controlled substances has become a key issue at CND in recent years, and should be reflected more in future World Drug Reports.
Thanks UNODC, and is pleased that the Report shows the positive results of alternative development programmes in Peru following commitment from the Government as part of a comprehensive national strategy (alongside treatment, prevention, interdiction and sanctions). This approach, in line with three international drug conventions, is showing concrete results and we are encouraged to keep on this valid path. These programmes improve the lives of rural families, and Mr Fedotov visited Peru last month to see the impacts first-hand. 80,000 hectares have been taken away from drug production and into alternative crops, with 72,000 families benefiting. But more resources and support are required to reach the target of 35,000 hectares of coca bush eradicated.
This is an excellent Report, which makes a big contribution for the UNGASS and the post-2015 development agenda. Countries should commit to sending data to the UNODC for their Reports.
Commended UNODC for a pleasant read with inspiring graphics – but the findings are not encouraging. Drug gangs take advantage of weakened states and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. They recruit refugees for their dirty business and contribute to the over-crowding of prisons. By their misdeeds they worsen the conflicts themselves. This is the reason to step-up aid and programmes to tackle this scourge.
Thanked UNODC for this important document, but questioned some data from Brazil on Page 54, which is extrapolated from college surveys. They are undertaking new general population research on drugs, but stated that the absence of such data was not justification for such extrapolations.
We have learned some important lessons about the world drug problem, and there are no single answers for all member states. We must understand individual realities – Bolivia feels that this is one of the greatest contributions that can be made for the UNGASS. We agree on key matters, but we need to renew and revise certain elements which are out of step with the century that we are in. We need to focus on new psychoactive substances, to emphasise human rights, and promote the nationalisation and regionalisation of the fight against trafficking. Just as President Morales stated in this hall in 2012, we remain committed to these efforts.
Egypt (Chair of the UNGAS Bureaux)
Morales spoke in the other hall, in the M Building.
There are many positive signs, but the Report reflects the trends for drug markets. Mexico believes it is urgent that we review and revise our strategy. Without making major changes, we will continue to see the same results. This Report is guidance on the reality, which can help us to design alternative responses. We ask for more information to be presented before the UNGASS.
Acknowledged the chapter on alternative development, which is a valid and effective strategy. Ecuador fully agrees with the holistic approach to alternative development that is being recommended.
Welcome the report, which is the foundation for inter-governmental discussions for the UNGASS. They are happy to have contributed to this work [Russia provided funding for the thematic chapter on alternative development]. The dramatic situation of drugs calls for decisive action from the international community – including at the UNGASS which will reaffirm commitment to an uncompromising fight against this cross-border challenge. We will provide a more detailed assessment of the Report in due course.
Esbjörn Hörnberg (Chair, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs)
I am speaking in my capacity as Chair of the Civil Society Task Force on Drugs. The Civil Society Task Force looks forward to reviewing the World Drug Report in the coming days and we appreciate the effort to provide what we have seen a comprehensive and balanced report about the world drug problem that will inform all discussions in the lead up to CND and the UNGASS.
The CSTF is designed to secure civil society engagement and coordination in order to effectively include NGO voices in the UNGASS. The Vienna NGO Committee and the New York NGO Committee have overseen the composition of the CSTF, aiming for an overall balance in terms of both geography and approaches to drug policies and interventions.
The CSTF is not ultimately looking to come to consensus on all issues, but rather is tasked with and committed to providing a channel for civil society to share views and expertise in a comprehensive way – a platform where all the voices are heard. We can also work toward identifying key priority issues and/or areas that deserve the utmost attention, and highlight these areas with one voice.
It is critical that the collective voices of civil society be engaged and we call on Member States to consider our contribution to developing the priorities in the drugs field, based on significant expertise and experience at the community level. Based on our past experience and the Declaration that civil society agreed to in Beyond 2008, a number of priorities have emerged that we believe should be given priority by Member States.
We expect a more comprehensive list will follow as we work together as a Task Force. These are:
- Abolition of the Death Penalty and support for the principle of proportionality for drug related offences;
- The adoption of a public health approach to the world drug problem based on the WHO definition, “Public Health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole”;
- Development of prevention strategies, in particular those that protect the rights of children;
- A renewed commitment to the availability and financial sustainability of equally important and mutually reinforcing evidence-‐based harm reduction, voluntary drug treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation measures, which are under threat in many parts of the world due to economic constraints;
- Urgent, focused action led by WHO to address the global problem of lack of access to essential controlled medicines for pain relief, palliative care, and opioid dependence treatment; and
- Sustainable development opportunities for those currently involved in the cultivation of crops used to produce illicit drugs, and putting an end to conditioning their inclusion in alternative development projects on prior eradication of these crops.
- Engagement of all of civil society, including people who use drugs, people in recovery, families and communities, will provide an added value to the UNGASS.
There are of course other areas where civil society holds differing viewpoints. The diversity of the CSTF fosters dialogue and can serve as a platform to encourage respectful exchange, share evidence‐informed best practices, and provide constructive criticism of policies and programs that work or could be improved.
In order to create this platform, and bring in the diversity and richness of the voices of all members of civil society around the world, we will need the support of Member States. Financial support by Member States is critical. Just as important is facilitation of civil society participation through inclusion in meetings and discussions leading up to UNGASS as well as the UNGASS itself.
Specifically, we are asking that Member States support a one‐day interactive civil society hearing to be held in New York at least three months prior to the UNGASS (similar to those held in connection with recent high level meetings on HIV/AIDS, migration, Non- communicable diseases, and the post-2015 development agenda), with a President’s Summary to be circulated to Member States and other stakeholders in preparation for UNGASS.
We also call on Member States to support civil society representation on discussion panels at UNGASS and their invitation to make interventions from the floor during interactive discussions at UNGASS and during its leadup.
We are counting on you, the Member States, to make meaningful and effective participation in UNASS 2016 possible for all of civil society.