Special commemorative event at the occasion of the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and Launch of the 2022 World Drug Report

Chair: Welcome. Today, to promote participation, we are conducting this meeting in a hybrid format. I welcome all our panelists, youth ambassadors, and the 26 registered speakers. WDR is historically launched on World Drug Day which is a very important day for us all to advance SDGs and build back better. The theme this year is addressing health challenges in humanitarian crises – you will all agree this is a very relevant topic considering international developments. Health and human crises in the world have made it more difficult for many people to access life-saving medications so it is a priority to us, improving access to medical substances, protecting the most vulnerable, the children and youth – to make sure no patient or person is left behind. This year, the WDR provides interesting insights into the interplay of drugs and environmental issues as well.

UNODC Executive Director, Ms. Waly: Welcome to this very special event today. I am especially pleased to have two youth representatives today – we must listen to them; it is an important reminder to protect the health and well-being of our future. We can only achieve shared goals with shared solutions. After two very difficult years, opioid overdose deaths are reaching record highs as well as the expansion of NPS into vulnerable regions is reaching records. A large majority of people in treatment in Africa and South America are under the age of 35 with women making up 40% of ATS (amphetamine type stimulants) users. Patients in North America are many times more likely to receive life-saving medication than in other parts of the globe – the most vulnerable among us are the least protected. We are calling for better care in crisis this year – people in emergencies and humanitarian crises, refugees need care. Care requires better communication.
Cannabis regulation – reported use is increasing in areas where legalization has been recorded. A greater proportion is being hospitalized as well. The gap between the actual and perceived risks is dangerous. Young people need to be engaged; they are the ambassadors of our future. We must keep investing in health and justice. [Border management]. This is your report, so I am encouraging you to make the best use of it to save lives.

UNODC Research Branch, Ms. Me: Thank you my team, ARQ focal points. Record high cocaine production.

The most harmful drug according to MS is cannabis – 33% says it is the most cause for treatment. But it is a more complex issue.

This year, we were able to differentiate between genders – there is a lot of parity. Cannabis use in the Americas has increased more for women for example.

We thank countries like Colombia where lot of research has been done about the interlinks between drugs and environmental issues, as well as Germany. Drugs are not the largest threat to the environment, but waste dumping by traffickers is indeed an issue – we have lots of data from Belgium and the Netherlands. Deforestation – drug cultivation doesn’t affect so much, but it pushes the frontiers of agriculture into forests. Carbon footprint of drugs.

Cannabis regulation (picture) we did a more in-depth analysis to find out the actual impacts – we cant pretend to know all the impacts. It will still take years to really see the long term impacts. An other reason is very important, the countries that made changes in legal regulations for cannabis have already been witnessing an expansion of their markets. Terminology is very important: legalization versus decriminalization. We have seen lots of misinformation spread in the media. Medical Cannabis is also a potent topic.

We have been looking closer at situations of conflict even before the Ukraine situation and hope we can apply our learnings to the latest issue.

86% of global opiates in 2021 were produced in Afghanistan. Even before the Taliban, the most important production regions were in Afghanistan and it affects the entire World.

The impact of eradication has been a very important point of a question for us. How can we build evidence to understand the effectiveness of our responses? The short term versus the long term is very interesting here. In the short term, cultivation actors experience it radically, but in the long run, it is not sustainable, at times production even expands.

Covid impact – there has been a clear drop in the accessibility of treatment services.

The methamphetamine market is expanding – more and more are coming from Afghanistan and its neighbors. The traditional markets in North America and Southeast Asia are also thriving.

Opioids (…)

NPS issue feels contained, the number of identified new substances is decreasing.

Youth Rep, Malak Shaara and Tedi Jaho:

France: We are happy to initiate and support, with Germany, UNODC on this issue. We will continue to support the creation of the WDR to better understand issues such as threats to the environment as the loss of biodiversity is dramatic, the decline of water, and the alarming rise of greenhouse gases is very concerning. We should of course continue to focus on the social and financial effects of illegal drugs markets, but we cannot ignore the environmental factors. Pollution, deforestation, contamination, and the release of massive toxic waste are just some examples. The impact of drugs on the environment is underreported but multifaceted. It has been claimed for example that a joint produced indoors has a carbon footprint multifold larger than a cup of coffee. We need to better measure and understand this phenomenon. Supporting AD projects is of key. I am particularly confident that disseminating such scientific information will raise awareness, especially among young people who are most committed to the protection of the planet.

Colombia: … we all know the war is far from over, on top of that the world drug problem is escalating the environmental threats: air pollution, soil and water pollution, etc. We welcome the timely publication of a dedicated booklet this year that focuses on this issue comprehensively. The situation in the rainforests is extremely dire – we have 300 types of marine ecosystems and hundreds of protected species in our country. Illicit crop cultivation usually takes place in remote areas, for example protected environmental areas where the flora and fauna is specially fragile. In Colombia, nearly half of illegal cultivation has been carried out in national forests and protected green areas. The use of fertilizers and pesticides is creating significant waste and damage to the environment. Besides these directive facts, we continue to monitor long-term effects on biodiversity. The link between drugs and the environment goes beyond this issue though. Deforestation has been accelerated by criminal control over national parks, informal infrastructures, clandestine facilities, etc. traffickers seize large areas for illegal mining and logging that threatens all our environments. The clandestine nature of production is dangerous because it is uncontrolled. With the purpose of mitigating these problems, we call on the international community to reduce the demand for illicit drugs, strengthen collaboration, and take action together.

Slovenia: Although the legal agricultural sector has a notable carbon footprint, I find it interesting that cocaine is larger, for example over 300 times as sugar cane which makes a great case for AD. Synthetic drugs are polluting with production and waste disposal – can lead to huge nonfinancial costs. Dumping waste can have horrible effects. It is one of my country’s foreign policy priorities. Drug cultivation can ramp up water use and cause indirect water pollution. This can affect ecosystems in many ways. We are not subject to significant impact but we rely on communal water waste analysis to inform our national drug policies of the population´s use patterns and trends. Cocaine, cannabis, tobacco and alcohol are the most common. Wastewater analysis is an important measure on drug use, but does not give a complete picture. Other under researched and underreported issues: environmental consequences and the role of women in illicit drug economies. Our collective efforts both at CND and CCPCJ are needed to address these shortcomings.

Thailand: limited discussion has been conducted on environmental effects … Leading to further deforestation. To eradicate opium production, we only have two options: burning releases toxic fumes or using chemicals that pollute as well. Precursors are also often disposed of in ways that pollute water and air, often simultaneously, with indirect effects on animals and our food chains. Two foundations have been established in Thailand to address these issues. While eradication is still carried out, these foundations are working with renowned scientists to understand the impacts and engage local communities to work together in the long run. We have a few areas where this has been successfully conducted – we found an alternative crop (coffee), linked it with the environmental protection components, and linked with financial flows. When AD is implemented in a holistic manner, it really supports our efforts. To conclude, drugs have a wide-ranging effect, the response to the world drug problem must be rooted in science, and we must not overlook the environment.

VNGOC – Remarks by Sylvia Kay, Transnational Institute (TNI): Thank you very much to the Vienna NGO Committee for inviting me to be part of the panel. It is an honour to be part of today’s discussion to mark the World Drug Day and to launch the 2022 World Drug Report. In my intervention, I want to focus on a particular novel aspect of this year’s World Drug Report – namely Special Booklet number 5 which examines the connections between drugs and the environment. I want to firstly commend all of those involved in the production of this Special Booklet and encourage all of you to read it: it is data rich, comprehensive, and makes a significant advance in the debate. In the short time I have for my intervention, I will hone in on a few key points that the Special Booklet makes, with additional insights from a report that the Transnational Institute is launching today, entitled ‘Prohibited Plants. Environmental Justice in Drug Policy’. The first key point is around the scale and scope of environmental harm. The Special Booklet accurately notes that illicit drugs are not the main drivers of environmental destruction worldwide. However, this does not mean that local and individual impacts cannot be significant. For this reason, as the Special Booklet argues, it is key that in drug policy responses, the principle of ‘do no harm’ should serve as a minimum baseline approach. This is important as we have at times seen harmful crop-substitution projects involving highly destructive industrial, mono-culture plantations cast as alternative development. These types of projects should not qualify for public funding and support. The Special Booklet is, arguably, more cautious regarding the environmental impacts of other supply side measures such as eradication, interdiction, or more stringent pre-cursor controls. Here I would argue, it is equally critical that an ‘environmental harm reduction approach’ is applied which means that any supply side interventions must be assessed against the direct and indirect environmental harms that they can cause.The second key point is around the transition to regulated markets in relation to cannabis. As the Special Booklet notes, legal regulation gives authorities better opportunities to introduce environmental safeguards, compliance and monitoring mechanisms as compared to illicit, underground markets.  TNI shares the concern however about the high carbon footprint associated with indoor cannabis cultivation. As the Booklet notes, the greenhouse gas emissions of cannabis cultivated indoors are 900 to 3,600 times higher than those of indoor-cultivated energy-intensive food crops. Outdoor cultivation, meanwhile, can reduce the carbon footprint of cannabis by up to 96 per cent. These findings are highly relevant for countries to take on board in the design of their cannabis markets, including in this week’s hearings in Germany that will take place. From an environmental as well as development point of view, significant benefit can accrue from sourcing cannabis from traditional producing countries in the global South which engage almost exclusively in outdoor growing. The third and final point, I wish to make is around forward-thinking sustainability pathways. It is excellent that the Booklet makes mention of approaches such as agroecology and community-based resource management as ways in which drug policy can also pro-actively contribute to environmental protection and conservation. It will be important that these approaches receive the full public support and investment that they require. Thank you for your attention and congratulations again on the launch of the 2022 World Drug Report which marks an important and historic milestone in connecting the dots between drug policy and the environment.

Chair: The floor is open for interventions from delegations – please follow the rules of conduct.

Peru: I try to be brief – we welcome the publication that constitutes an important tool in our work and to evaluate our responses. We assign the highest importance to working alongside UNODC in the fight against illicit drug trafficking and its complex health and political context – Ukraine and COVID. Peru is working within the framework of technical assistance to reduce cocaine production + UNODC global container program since 2017. Our opinion is that it is one of the most important findings in the report that 90% of trafficking is through containers. Last year, we had very important meetings with Miss Waly to talk about AD and related issues. There has been very clear communication from the UNODC about the short versus long-term effects of crop eradication. This is a huge challenge for us, and the conclusion is that we need more cooperation.

Australia: We welcome this excellent report that informs the work of policymakers everywhere. The national drug situation and the work undertaken in this commission remain a priority for us. The complex and dynamic nature of the world drug situation can be perpetuated by crises. We welcome the detailed analysis of such situations. The impact of these on the patterns of use and the risks associated as well as the limited availability of services is of high importance to build practical, scientific solutions. We all need to be part of the collective effort and we emphasize the need for multifaceted regional and international approach.

Singapore: We recognize the importance of data collection and analysis – proud to say this as co-chair of the friends of the research branch. Despite the harmful effects of cannabis, including respiratory and cognitive effects, it remains the most widely used drug, it is a fact – it is becoming more potent, and fewer young people see it as harmful, yet it is destroying communities and families. The one-sided promotion and marketing for the recreational use of cannabis reinforce a misconception of low risks. If this is left unchecked, it can itself become a harm. Cycles of misinformation build on each other – a drug epidemic can be a huge problem.

Costa Rica: The increased use of illegal substances in the past few years is a global concern. It must be addressed in a coordinated manner. Providing uninterrupted health services is important and protecting human rights. WDR is a tool to foster collaboration and to address the problem in a more efficient manner.

Iran: WDR is a critical tool to spot new trends and to have an updated image of the world drug problem. Our neighbouring country, Afghanistan is a huge player in opium production, which is concerning to us. Methamphetamine use rose 5-fold as well. This is an alarming trend and if it is not properly addressed, it will start to seriously affect other regions as well. We have taken big steps to counter the issue, we set a global record on illicit drug seizures. We have a strategy to reduce demand as well – treatment and rehabilitation centres, especially catering to women has been a key factor as well as training children and young adults in schools. We have not received international support and solidarity. We need financial and technological support on the basis of shared responsibility.

Czechia: The new Czech presidency will prioritize evidence based policy making – freedom of citizens, protection of human rights, dignity and rule of law, a Europe that promotes unilateralism. We reaffirm our strong commitments to the UNGASS outcome document of 2016, the 2019 declaration, Agenda 2030 and the UN declaration of human rights. We emphasize the role of human rights and our obligations to the implementation of the current EU drug strategy. We reaffirm our commitment to destigmatisation and the harm reduction approach to become an integral part, a main principle. The incoming Czech presidency will support an integrated approach with balance between criminal justice and public health as well as acknowledge the need of the most vulnerable groups of our societies. We support the involvement of civil society including youth initiatives and strengthening collaboration with other un agencies.  We strongly condemn the military aggression of Russia in Ukraine.

Spain: We always welcome the WDR as a crucial contribution to our work. 90% of users are in substitution therapy and the syringes we distribute show very good numbers in an international context. Our interventions are based on science and are approved unanimously by our regional governments.

China: WDR is important to see the global context for the world drug problem. The picture is constantly changing but the problem remains serious. Most drugs consumed in China come from outside the country as we are located in a rich cultivation region. In 2021, compared to 2016 drug related crimes decreased by almost 50%. Drug seizures dropped by 60%. People in treatment that have been clean for 3 years increased manyfold. To conclude, our experience is that science-based policymaking and comprehensive balanced approaches and participation of whole society are key to addressing the dug problem. We need to collaborate with the international community and work with the SDGs in mind.

Thailand: Thailand has already been committed to the international drug control conventions and the 2019 declaration. Putting our commitments into concrete actions, we have established a new narcotic court.  To disrupt the illicit supply chain, we are focusing on AD. We reaffirm our determination to find sustainable solutions not only to the drug problem but environmental issues as well.

Austria: We are committed to CND. WDR is timely and comprehensive, it takes a good look at the most affected. Women continue to face great barriers to treatment; we must further expand gender-based services. The issue of addiction can not be addressed by a criminal approach successfully – the medical, economic, and social aspects must be taken into account in designing programs.

Japan: inaudible

Mexico: We are grateful to the WDR to provide a clear picture of the actual issues. It is important for all MS to identify their priorities. Drug cartels are changing the focus from plant-based to chemical substances that are easier to produce and transport. Cannabis confiscations are decreasing in Mexico, but higher potency cannabis is very available, even though criminal groups have recently shifted their attention to other drugs. Cocaine is the second most used drug, and the methamphetamine market now outgrew alcohol. Opioids don’t play a major role in my country but on our northern border, there is a high rate of use particularly among deportees. Combatting the production and trafficking is producing higher death rates than overdose. Strengthening international cooperation is also a priority for us – we are motivated to discover new paradigms.

Colombia: Social investment and development, dismantling organized crimes, disrupting illegal financial flows, minimizing illicit crops, mitigating deforestation – these are our priorities. More needs to be done. The world drug problem is far from being solved. The international community needs to engage in a multifaceted integrated approach. We are grateful for UNODC and their work facilitating collaboration and producing data.

Venezuela: WDR clearly shows drugs are a continued threat to safety and health as well as the environment. WDR highlights indicators of high availability, we are right next door to the higher producers of cocaine in the world. In all areas of surveillance and containment systems – we salute the UNODC in particular for its presence on the ground and technical assistance. Once again, we are facing exclusionary elements such as the creation of regional offices that leave countries out… we are seeking to create an environment that is more inclusive and truly addresses the world drug problem. Regional collaboration programs to prevent the inflow of drugs into our countries. My country does not produce illegal substances and consumption […] We assume the fight against drugs in its all manifestations with strict compliance to our treaty commitments.

Philippines: WDR is studied by our relevant authorities. Despite the many challenges, my government has made great strides – seized tons of drugs, destroyed crops, dismantled labs, and thousands of youth have been rescued from the grips of drugs. We have our annual report available on our website. Much is yet to be done to explore the online challenges and solutions to the proliferation of the market.

Belarus: A system of anti-drug strategy has been put in place in Belarus. All kinds of narcotic drugs are banned. The criminal court deals out strict punishment to those included in the supply chain – up to 25 years of imprisonment. 140 persons died as a result of drug overdose last year. Anonymous treatment is possible and is provided free of charge. We have social videos and awareness billboards to prevent drug addiction, particularly among young people.

Egypt: We command the thematic choice this year – the environment. There is more to be done to address the challenges, it is important to have reliable data on this issue as we think it is very under-researched. We are looking forward to UNODC’s active participation in […]. The pandemic has exposed the deeper vulnerabilities of the international community where criminal groups have taken advantage of the instability.  The recent WDR shows the importance of our collective response, so it should be addressed in a multilateral way: we urge the strengthening of international cooperation (technical assistance); we urge MS to implement the conventions thoroughly; combatting non-medical use should be a priority for all MS (tramadol to be scheduled); CND as the sole policy-making body and the central role of UNODC.

Canada: Russia´s illegal war, the covid pandemic and the continuing humanitarian crises are putting an enormous strain on the World. Dangerous synthetic opioids are exacerbating the opioid crisis. Tragically, covid has worsened long-standing problems.  Our approach is comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate – we work with government agencies, civil society, and people who have or had lived experiences. Our decision to legally regulate cannabis is aimed at keeping cannabis away from children and easing medical access. A comprehensive approach is key, as is emphasized by the WDR. We must look beyond addressing the supply chain. We are proud to support UNODC initiatives, such as the development of a gender-sensitive database of synthetic drugs.

Türkiye:  The increasing drug problem, especially concerning cannabis is worsening every year, we would like to see the WDR next year analyzing cannabis potency. The number of hospitalizations and treatment needs are increasing. Cannabis is the most abused drug in the world, yet people don’t see it as risky anymore. The WHO recommendations regarding cannabis have been mostly rejected – any change in the control of cannabis cannot find wide support and this scheduling decision cannot be interpreted as supporting legalization in any way. We invite all countries to abide by the conventions. Methamphetamine is a game-changer as it has been trafficked in greater numbers to more destinations over the past few years. We struggle with this increasingly. My country is strongly committed to the conventions.

USA: (…) This year’s report talks about the various standards for prevention and the unbalanced scientific rigor that goes into designing programs – guidelines are warranted. A dedicated section on NPS is appreciated. Scheduling alone to solve the problems is insufficient.  Environmental degradation and the proliferation of criminal groups are pressing issues.

Uruguay: We emphasize a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach with a human rights and gender perspective, placing people and their health and freedom at the center of policies. It is essential to address the situation of women and children who are proportionally more affected by violence and humanitarian crises. We must join forces to combat organized crime and its links to other criminal activities. Regarding the report, we thank you for preparing this important document but there were two discrepancies regarding my country that we have already noted to the Secretary.

Belgium: We welcome the WDR and are happy to participate with our own data. One of our studies has been mentioned on the important issue of trans-border waste dumping. Due to lack of information, it was not surprising that media reports were not on time – this leads us to put more efforts into communicating our findings and encourage all MS to contribute more data. We are also concerned about medical access.

Russia: We regret that this event, devoted to the report, has been overshadowed by politicized statements and false accusations which we strongly deny. Such an unprofessional attitude will have a significant effect on our success of addressing our common problems. Back to the report – we see alarming trends, records of illicit production and cultivation, the complexity of the Afghan threat. We welcome the observations on the legalization of cannabis which is absolutely out of line of UN conventions and poses a serious threat to the global drug control system. At the same time, some parts of the report refer to alcohol in the context of cannabis regulation – we believe it sends a wrong a dangerous message. The impact of legalization on public health is devastating, even the level of suicide where cannabis was present, have significantly increased in jurisdictions where cannabis was legalized. Liberal attitudes toward illicit drugs are dangerous but unfortunately on the rise nowadays. Some findings of the report will facilitate our intercessional meetings in the case of non-compliance with the conventions. Afghanistan’s illicit production is also of key importance to us – it is clear to us that it will be hard to counter but lessons should be learned. Freezing Afghan national assets abroad has further exacerbated the problem. We take note of the continued analysis related to the impact of the covid pandemic and different aspects of the drug situation. Significant increase in online crime. The thematic chapter shows that environmental effects are small (?). Effective joint efforts are very important in carrying out our work.

VNGOC – Slumchild Foundation, George Ochieng Odalo: My name is George Ochieng Odalo, a prevention practitioner in the line of substance use targeting young people; I also serve as the Founder and Executive Director at Slum child foundation, where we work with young people in the slums to promote prevention of of the same. Since the Emergence of Covid-19 early 2020, its impact has been felt everywhere with a lot of people around the globe leading to increased consumption among the vulnerable groups with women and young people being the worse hit victims. Furthermore the world has been crippling with gap of promoting substance use for scientific purposes which should not be an avenue to promote or give chance to promote recreational use. There are several cases we have around the world and more specifically in African and Kenya where I come from, Politicians are using this avenue to seek political mileage which is more of a personal gain, without factoring the poor people who barely fit for meals and not able to afford treatment. As African civil society organizations we have tried to create a nexus between drugs and crime which should emulated with others around the globe in order to help address the all size fits all, this will help promote prevention which is less expensive than treatment. During African Conference on drugs and crime we came up with an outcome document that speaks out thoughts and aspirations  that ideally address the continental challenges which other cut across the globe as integrate other international and regional instruments like UNGASS outcome document, the UNODC strategic vision for Africa, the Kyoto declaration among others, it is our plea as young people from the worse hit areas with drugs and crime that state parties and other likeminded Civil Societies organizations around the globe to support our work through the UN established avenues, we need each other to be able to achieve the goal of this year International Drug day. Thank you.

VNGOC – African Palliative Care Association, Eve Namisango:  We appreciate your focus on improving availability of internationally controlled essential medicines. My name is Eve Namisango and I represent the African Palliative Care Association, which works on improving rational access to these medicines through appropriate training and regulations throughout the continent. Access and availability in Africa is the lowest in the world, as you see from this map, also used by the INCB. According to the 2021 World Drug Report Òon a per capita basis, the availability of pharmaceutical opioids for medical consumption in Africa as a whole [É] was less than 1 per cent of the availability in North America. While we are aware of the problem of non-medical use in North America, we endorse the recommendations of the Stanford Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis and the Lancet Commission on Pain and Palliative Care calling for local manufacturing and public procurement of generic oral morphine in Low and Middle Income countries. Taking the profit motive out of the pain medicine market will remove black market incentives while improving access to medical opioids  to relieve the serious suffering experienced by patients with cancer, traumatic injury, surgical pain, mental health disorders and HIV/AIDS. This requires training of health professionals as well as regulators.  Africa as a continent has limited pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity even though locally reconstituted morphine is cheap to produce. We are blessed that the government of Uganda subsidizes morphine availability of hospice and palliative care patients. The danger is that the pharmaceutical industry markets expensive patented opioids that are unaffordable for most governments in Africa. We recommend that regional bodies such as the African Union working in partnership with UNODC, the INCB, academia and civil society to negotiate technology sharing and public procurement of opioids to remove the profit and ensure that countries comply with the drug control treaties to ensure access for all patients.

Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, Board: Thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to take the floor today. Distinguished participants, my name is Dr. Penny Hill, Deputy Secretary of the Vienna NGO Committee, speaking on behalf of our Chair Jamie Bridge today. The VNGOC is a global network of NGOs working on drug-related matters, whose mandate is to ensure and support civil society engagement in drug policy discussions in Vienna. We currently have 349 members from 95 countries around the world, and are growing every year. Thank you, as always for including civil society in this discussion today. We welcome the latest World Drug Report, which always presents a rich source of enormous data and analysis, and would like to specifically thank Angela and her team for the work that has gone into this years report. The overall picture, upon initial glance, is of a global drug market which is getting bigger and stronger. Civil society has pivotal role to play in the response to the growth of drug markets, across all dimensions including prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and rehabilitation. We particularly welcome thematic focus on the environment this year, and thank our civil society panellist Sylvia Kay from the Transnational Institute, and our civil society speakers, Eve Namisango from the African Palliative Care Association, and George Ochieng Odalo, Slum Child Foundation for showcasing the what can be achieved through collaborating with civil society. As we also mark the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also want to acknowledge and thank the NGOs from all across the world who took part in the various awareness raising events, campaigns and actions over the past few days. Thank you once again for supporting civil society engagement, and for your attention today.

Chair: Thank you to all participants in today’s event and the UNODC Research Branch – the information in the WDR is of infinite value. Thank you for attending today. Stay safe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *