Home » CND Thematic Discussion // Session 5 – Criminal misuse of information & communications technologies for drug trafficking

CND Thematic Discussion // Session 5 – Criminal misuse of information & communications technologies for drug trafficking

Chair: Good Morning. [organizational matters]

UNODC, Chief of the Drugs Research Section: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning, everyone. Today, I stand before you to delve deeper into the intricate web of online drug transactions. As we navigate the vast expanse of the internet, we encounter the visible web, the deep web, and the elusive dark web. Within this digital labyrinth, the dark web, accessible only through specific software, has become a hotspot for clandestine drug dealings. Although its prevalence is increasing, it still constitutes a fraction of the overall drug market. What piques our interest is the paradigm shift toward social media platforms becoming unexpected marketplaces. These platforms, with their intuitive interfaces, have become hubs for drug transactions, altering the dynamics of drug accessibility. From the standpoint of users, this evolution raises intriguing questions. How will this trend impact patterns of drug consumption? How can law enforcement adapt to these changing landscapes while ensuring the safety of our communities? These are the pressing challenges we face as we peer into the future of online drug distribution. Thank you for your attention.

UNODC, Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering Section: The global embrace of internet connectivity, now touching nearly 65% of the world’s populace, has opened Pandora’s box of opportunities and challenges. Amidst the myriad advantages, there lies a dark underbelly – the realm where transnational drug trafficking networks thrive. Exploiting the nuances of information and communication technologies, especially within the secretive folds of the dark web, these criminal enterprises operate with impunity, shielded by layers of encryption. In this digital arms race, technologies such as Darknets and blockchain have become double-edged swords. While they empower individuals and businesses, they also embolden criminal elements. Our response must be nuanced and robust. Strengthening regulatory frameworks is essential, ensuring that legal systems adapt to the complexities of our digital age. Moreover, establishing specialized cybercrime units armed with cutting-edge digital forensics tools is paramount. These units, seamlessly integrated into broader law enforcement efforts, can dissect the intricate layers of online criminal activities. Yet, our battle is not merely technical; it is a battle of innovation. We must invest in research, exploring the frontiers of artificial intelligence and machine learning to anticipate the next moves of these sophisticated criminal networks. We need to consider the formulation of specialized network networks in relation to the sharing of information and knowledge. We mentioned yesterday the asset recovery, interagency networks that exist in relation to ensuring work in relation to proceeds of crime activities. We don’t actually have something of that similar nature in relation to cybercrime law and drug trafficking. It exists globally that law enforcement, prosecutors can cooperate with each other share knowledge and information through a network.

Chair: Thank you for the introductory presentations. Now I open the floor.

Venezuela: My question is, is there any, in your knowledge, any campaign any assistance that you can provide to countries in order to counter or prevent rather prevent the involvement of youth and children in particular by being involved in these kinds of evolving crime because it’s not the traditional way to reach to drugs? As you have explained there are many ways but the use of ICTs help social network help this population to be able to reach further. Do you have any type of advice for governments? To help their young population?

EU: At the very end of the presentation, he was speaking about the need for international cooperation. And I was wondering, how about cooperation at the domestic level because obviously, we see cybercrime also in other areas, child abuse, trafficking and so on. For instance, Australia is very active in that and has established some good practices. So do we see cooperation there between those units of the police or other law enforcement bodies who deal with drug sales online and those who go after Sexual Child abuse and other crimes online? Because I suppose, a lot can be learned from each other in that respect.

USA: My understanding is that we can cover a wide range of things and tools, do you have any information or data that you can share on any ICTs that are being used that beyond just the internet and social media? If there are there any other things you know what you’re talking about? Radio, television, videoconferencing, etc… internet and social media, messaging apps, etc. Thank you.

Chair: We have a question online. This question is from South Africa. Which countries in Africa are most affected by the use of ICT cybercrime?

UNODC: Regarding Venezuela, you raise a critical point about preventing the involvement of youth and children in cybercrime-related activities. Indeed, this is a significant challenge, and prevention strategies are vital. The UN ODC, along with various international organizations and NGOs, has developed programs to raise awareness among vulnerable populations about online safety. These initiatives aim to educate them on safe online behavior, and I am more than willing to discuss these programs further in bilateral discussions to offer tailored assistance to specific countries.
In response to the EU’s query, you rightly emphasize the importance of domestic cooperation. While international collaboration is crucial, cooperation at the domestic level, especially between units dealing with various online crimes like drug sales, child abuse, and trafficking, is equally vital. Countries like Australia have indeed established commendable practices. Learning from each other’s experiences and strategies can significantly enhance our collective efforts. This exchange of knowledge is fundamental in our battle against cyber-enabled crimes.
To address the USA’s question about the range of ICTs used in cybercrime, it’s a multifaceted landscape. Beyond the internet and social media, various tools are employed, including radio, television, videoconferencing, and messaging apps. Criminals adapt swiftly, necessitating continuous research and vigilance to stay ahead of their tactics.
Lastly, in response to the question from South Africa about the most affected countries in Africa, it’s challenging to pinpoint specific nations. However, it’s true that South Africa stands out concerning the activity related to the dark web and drug markets within Africa. Let’s now proceed to our interactive discussions. I encourage everyone to keep their interventions concise, focusing on best practices and lessons learned in addressing the specific challenge of the increased use of ICTs for drug trafficking or related indicators.

UK: The United Kingdom is actively confronting the challenge posed to our law enforcement agencies by mapping and targeting key offenders operating online to supply controlled drugs across the UK and internationally, including on the darknet markets. Our law enforcement agencies continue to collaborate with internet service providers to shut down UK-based websites engaging in drug-related offenses, notably the sale of controlled drugs. We are implementing landmark regulatory reform through an online safety bill, which establishes clear legal duties for companies. They will be required to identify, report, and remove content related to drug supply on their platforms. Companies under our jurisdiction must report such content to the UK National Crime Agency. Additionally, our independent communications regulator will be granted regulatory powers to oversee tech companies and ensure they implement appropriate mitigations.

EU: Since our last discussion, the alarming trend of criminal misuse of information and communication technologies for illicit drug-related activities has unfortunately persisted, as highlighted in the United Nations World Drug Report 2023. Increased digitalization has ushered in innovations in drug supply chains. The trend of a digitally enabled drug market accelerated, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with social media applications and encrypted services becoming common facilitators for drug purchases. The latest World Drug Report reveals a shift in drug purchases, moving away from the dark web to surface-level websites and increasingly, social media platforms, especially at the retail level. Nearly anyone can now order drugs online, circumventing traditional channels, reducing costs, and shortening supply chains. Identifying new practices and enhancing engagement with the private sector is crucial to addressing these developments promptly. To tackle these challenges, the EU and its member states are implementing strategic priorities outlined in the EU Joint Strategy and Action Plan. One of these priorities involves addressing the exploitation of digital channels for medium and small volume illicit drug distribution, in close collaboration with the private sector. We are working closely with internet companies, preparing a knowledge package to effectively identify and combat online drug sales. Efforts are also directed towards addressing encrypted digital communication used for criminal purposes, including facilitating drug trafficking. Investigative authorities in some member states, with support from European agencies Europol and Eurojust, have successfully dismantled encrypted communication tools, disrupting criminal distribution networks and seizing criminal assets. Another priority is curbing drug trafficking via postal and express services after online purchases. Promoting the monitoring of suspicious postal items, incorporating new digital tools like artificial intelligence, and cooperating with the private sector are crucial in this area. All such activities must uphold stringent safeguards to protect human rights, especially the right to privacy and data protection. Moreover, information and communication tools can be effectively harnessed for demand reduction and promoting harm reduction services. Digital communication channels, including social media, provide avenues to disseminate preventive messages, reaching out to young people and vulnerable groups. Internet-based interventions, extending the reach of treatment programs, should be promoted, enhancing access to specialized drug services. Thank you very much.

USA: As we have witnessed in today’s presentations and as highlighted in the World Drug Report, the availability of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals, coupled with the use of online communication platforms for their buying and selling, has significantly lowered entry barriers for criminals. This digital landscape has made illegal drug manufacture more agile, modular, and technologically oriented. Additionally, online information on synthesizing synthetic drugs is easily accessible, further promoting widespread manufacturing. This alarming trend directly contributes to the trafficking of synthetic drugs like fentanyl into the United States, aligning with our experiences. I wish to commend the commendable work done by organizations such as the UNODC and INCB. The US strongly supports UNODC’s initiatives to curb the use of cyber assets and online trafficking of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals. We are actively collaborating with UNODC to launch a new partnership with technology companies. This collaboration aims to identify ways to deny criminal access to online platforms used for marketing dangerous drugs. Moreover, through this partnership, efforts will be made to develop tools assisting those seeking treatment for substance use disorders. We also aim to engage technology and social media companies in outreach programs to prevent youth from misusing social media platforms to purchase illicit drugs. I want to mention the excellent initiative here in Vienna, the Global Rapid Introduction of Dangerous Substances Program at INCB, which plays a vital role in enhancing public-private sector collaboration. This program has organized numerous expert group meetings, resulting in practical guidance documents and dismantling over 3000 online vendors and listings. For those who haven’t had the chance, I encourage you to visit the GRID’s operation centers to witness their remarkable work. We have been collaborating with many of you in this room to enhance our capacity to combat this threat. Together, through forums like the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Budapest Convention, we are strengthening international cooperation. A prime example of this is Operation Trojan Shield in 2021, a coordinated effort resulting in 800 arrests, confiscation of tons of drugs, firearms, and significant seizures of currencies. Such collaborations underscore the importance of using existing tools and platforms to combat cyber-enabled drug crime. We urge Member States to continue leveraging these resources and to look to UNODC as the lead international organization in driving innovative responses to cybercrime incidents.

Australia: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The internet, a convenient platform for e-commerce, unfortunately, has also become a hub for drug-related activities, making it easier for individuals to purchase drugs through encrypted messaging applications, virtual currencies, and alternative online banking services. These technologies have facilitated organized crime groups, enabling them to conduct illicit business and communicate with consumers securely. Australia faces a significant ICT-related challenge in countering illicit drug-related activities, particularly the use of advanced information technology, including dedicated encrypted communication devices and platforms. These specialized devices, configured with hardware or software that obstructs law enforcement access, are increasingly being employed by criminals to facilitate drug production, trafficking, and money laundering. Australia has adopted a strategy that combines research, data analysis, policy development, and information sharing to counter the use of these technologies in drug-related domains. Operation Trojan Shield, conducted in collaboration with agencies like the Australian Federal Police, FBI, and Europol, led to the apprehension of individuals involved in the dark web drug trade. The operation resulted in the confiscation of currencies and cryptocurrencies worth 148 million, and over 800 arrests worldwide, showcasing its success on a global scale. We have established specialized units within our law enforcement agencies, focusing on mitigating cyber-enabled crimes, especially those related to drugs. Robust regulations compel entities to promptly report suspicious activities, supported by well-defined reporting protocols. Our efforts extend beyond national borders, as we collaborate through Interpol and the Five Eyes (?) alliance to share intelligence, exchange best practices, and coordinate joint efforts against cyber-enabled drug crime. Such collaborations have yielded tangible results, as seen in the success of Operation Trojan Shield. In conclusion, it is imperative that international cooperation, capacity building, and technical assistance are enhanced to prevent and combat drug-related crimes facilitated by evolving ICT. Tailor-made technical assistance and capacity-building activities must be provided, considering the specific needs and gaps identified by each country. Sharing best practices and case studies can significantly contribute to harmonizing legislation and decisions among countries. We must work together to address this pressing issue, leveraging modern technologies to fight illegal drug trafficking effectively. Thank you.

Japan: The use of ICT has significantly multiplied and transformed the nature of harm caused by criminal activities, including drug distribution. New technologies have streamlined traditional criminal processes, enhancing efficiency and ensuring greater secrecy. Traffickers have readily adopted these technologies to secure and conceal their activities, exacerbating the challenges faced in combatting drug-related crimes. The proliferation of criminal tools like software and hardware has not only increased the number of cases but has also diversified into more sophisticated manifestations of criminal activities. Consequently, addressing drug trafficking has become even more complex. Effectively countering these crimes, which have become exponentially more difficult due to their transnational nature, necessitates robust international cooperation within a solid legal framework. Harmonizing context-specific regulations and standardizing operating procedures for expedited international collaboration is imperative. Providing technical resources for law enforcement agencies tackling high-profile drug crimes is particularly challenging. Constant technological updates require the ongoing replacement of equipment and the enhancement of skills. It is evident that combating transnational crimes requires leveraging new and evolving technologies. Therefore, prioritizing the utilization of modern technologies must be a collective focus for all member states. A unified operational response, facilitated by full access to modern technologies, is essential to combat illegal drug trafficking effectively. In light of this, urgent international cooperation, capacity building, and technical assistance are imperative to prevent and counter drug-related crimes, especially those facilitated by evolving technologies. Tailored technical assistance and capacity-building activities are crucial to address the evolving nature of illicit drugs. The proportionality of resources and activities must be aligned with identified gaps and needs. Sharing best practices and case studies can significantly contribute to identifying effective strategies and eventually harmonizing decisions among countries in this area. International collaboration is crucial, and mutual learning can play a key role in this process. Moreover, the harmonization of legislations among countries is vital. It is observed that many nations, including Iran, face significant financial burdens and harm due to drug-related crimes facilitated by the use of ICT. We express our serious concern about the continued imposition of unilateral coercive measures, which violate fundamental principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. These measures obstruct effective responses to drug-related crimes at both national and international levels. They hinder international cooperation and impair the support provided by member states, particularly effective state support. These unilateral actions must be terminated, and efforts should be made to rectify the issues faced by affected populations due to these sanctions. Cooperation among nations and the allocation of adequate resources are essential to effectively combat the challenges posed by drug-related crimes facilitated by ICT.

Iran: The internet has become a convenient platform for ecommerce, yet it has also facilitated drug-related activities, making it easier for individuals to purchase illicit substances. The widespread use of mobile services, encrypted messaging applications, secure accounts, and cryptocurrencies has further complicated the detection of illicit drug trafficking by law enforcement agencies. In response to these challenges, Japan has bolstered its cybersecurity measures by monitoring internet activities and sharing investigative methods with relevant agencies. Collaborative efforts with ecommerce companies, internet service providers, and other private entities are underway to eliminate advertisements for illegal drugs and block access to illicit websites. Additionally, Japan is exploring the use of artificial intelligence and official intelligence data to analyze vast amounts of information on social networking sites and the internet, aiming to enhance the effectiveness of countermeasures against online drug-related activities.

Russia: The misuse of information and communication technologies for criminal purposes, especially in drug-related crimes, is a concerning aspect of our modern society. This trend was exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions, causing drug sales to shift from physical streets to cyberspace, gaining a stronghold among criminal groups. Presently, Russia has witnessed the proliferation of numerous large online marketplaces, approximately 15, dedicated to drug distribution. The national online illicit drug market is segmented by substances and geographical locations. These online drug stores often specialize in specific drug types and have been occasionally linked to destructive, extremist, and terrorist activities. Social network services and messaging apps are also being exploited for recruitment, drug deliveries, and marketing. International drug cartels are increasingly resorting to cryptocurrencies for their transactions. In the first half of 2020, over half of all restricted drug-related crimes in Russia were committed through the misuse of information systems and data networks (ISDS). Authorities anticipate a continuous rise in online drug market shares despite efforts to counteract biases and drug-related activities. Notably, Russian authorities have achieved significant results in combating these issues. Last year, a Russian-speaking platform, offering a wide range of criminal goods and services, including drugs, was shut down, significantly impacting the region. To address ISDS issues for criminal purposes, a dedicated unit was established within the Ministry of Interior of the Russian Federation. This unit collaborates with international partners and offers specialized training courses for law enforcement officers. Despite previous challenges in achieving consensus on this topic, revisiting it and laying the groundwork for joint efforts to combat criminal activities related to international telecommunication and information systems is crucial.

Mexico: Mexico acknowledges the concrete actions taken in response to commitments, such as meetings organized by AI and Siri on internet and e-commerce use, as outlined in the 2014 joint statement (paragraph 24). These efforts should not be viewed as isolated incidents. The focus should not be on whether the commitments have been implemented but rather on their relevance in light of technological advancements. Mexico appreciates UNODC’s systematic reflection on these issues in recent years. However, CND has not adopted recent resolutions addressing the use of communication and information technologies in drug production and trafficking. The future adoption of the new convention on cybercrime provides an opportunity to enhance practices and engage meaningfully with the upcoming follow-up mechanism. Criminals involved in illicit drug production and trafficking actively embrace technological advancements, necessitating CND’s proactive stance in addressing the evolving challenges presented by technology. This approach aligns with CND’s true mandate of addressing all aspects of drugs comprehensively.

Lebanon:  As it’s my first time speaking during this session, I am pleased to address you all. In our meeting with the chairman, my delegation emphasized the importance of incorporating digital perspectives and utilizing digital tools in responses to the drug trafficking problem. The advancement of information and communication technologies, along with the expansion of online platforms, is reshaping the operations of drug trafficking networks worldwide. Lebanon, like many other developing countries, recognizes the emerging challenges posed by ICTs. Efforts in prevention and countering illicit drug planning need to adapt to these challenges, requiring substantial technical resources, specialized personnel, and reliable global partnerships. Many member states, including Lebanon, have actively participated in ongoing global efforts to establish an international cybercrime legal instrument. Achieving this goal, especially through provisions on international cooperation and technical assistance, would be a significant development. Lebanon has made commendable progress in this regard through the efforts of its various security services, notably the Cyber Crime Unit and the internal security forces. However, these efforts are hindered by limitations in technical and human resources. In this discussion, my delegation’s main recommendation is to emphasize international cooperation and the sharing of best practices and useful technologies. Addressing the global challenge effectively demands a coordinated global response, acknowledging and bridging the digital divide. The fundamental goal of multilateral diplomacy and international organizations, including those in Vietnam, is to promote peace and achieve well-being and prosperity for all people. However, the ongoing conflict poses a significant challenge to these ideals. Israel’s actions against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, including 2,360 children, as reported by UNICEF, are deeply troubling. We firmly oppose attacks on civilians anywhere and at any time, as well as the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, limiting access to water, food, and medicine and leading to mass displacement. Israel’s defiance of international law, including humanitarian law, constitutes war crimes, as reported by numerous international humanitarian organizations. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not begin on October 7, 2023, and its resolution requires addressing its root causes. We call for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the peace process based on the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted in 2002. Regarding recent security incidents on the southern border of Lebanon and recurrent Israeli attacks against Lebanese villages, we call for a cessation of hostilities and a return to garment stability.

Algeria: The rapid proliferation of new technologies has unfortunately facilitated the growth of criminal activities, especially in the sale of psychotropic substances, which are now conducted behind the screens of computers and smartphones, often under the cover of anonymity. Although it’s impossible to control everything in cyberspace, efforts must be made to minimize the damages caused by ICTs used for criminal purposes. Algeria supports the efforts of a committee working on the establishment of a comprehensive international convention to counter the use of ICT for criminal purposes. Special attention should also be given to cryptocurrencies, as they escape official or banking control and can be easily used for illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs. In Nigeria, the use of cryptocurrencies is banned due to the ease they offer for money laundering and conducting business in the narcotics market. Addressing these challenges requires international cooperation and coordinated efforts, especially considering the potential of ICTs when exploited by organized criminal groups. Cooperation and coordination are essential to minimize the dangers posed by ICTs used for criminal activities. The escalating use of information and communication technologies for illicit drug-related activities poses a significant contemporary challenge. Digital technologies have provided criminals with unprecedented opportunities to engage in drug-related crimes, necessitating a multifaceted approach by governments and the private sector to prevent and curb these activities. Illicit trade in controlled substances has found a platform on the dark web, facilitated by anonymous transactions through cryptocurrencies. Encrypted communication platforms have also been adopted by criminal networks, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace and apprehend those involved. Additionally, new psychoactive substances are openly advertised on legitimate social media and e-commerce platforms, complicating government efforts to protect the health and well-being of citizens. The rapidly changing nature of markets for dangerous substances presents challenges in terms of monitoring, regulating, and prosecuting these drug-related activities. International cooperation, collaboration, and sharing of intelligence are crucial to effectively combat the global reach of these operations. Addressing this challenge requires closer international cooperation, a holistic approach by governments, and collaboration with the private sector to effectively combat the evolving nature of technology-driven drug trafficking in real time. Thank you for your attention.

Netherlands: At the beginning, I would like to express my full support for the statement made by the distinguished ambassador of Switzerland on Monday, to which my country has subscribed. Additionally, we align ourselves with the EU statement on the challenges discussed this morning. Speaking in our national capacity, the Dutch government has identified the fight against organized crime and its adverse impacts as a top priority. Our main focus is on drug-related serious and organized crime, aiming to dismantle the multinational criminal networks that have a disruptive effect on our societies. The Netherlands is meeting the challenges posed by organized crime groups with a strategic and holistic approach. Our efforts consist of prevention, disrupting the criminal business model, prosecution, and protection of our democratic legal order against violence and attacks. We are investing 1 billion euros per year to enhance operational partners in a comprehensive manner, involving judiciary, law enforcement, and financial investigation. Internationally, we are working to strengthen cooperation within the EU, building a coalition with Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, based on shared action plans. Moreover, we are conducting joint efforts with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region to address drug trafficking trends. To better understand the drug market, we will initiate a pilot study on the possible uses of wastewater testing and analysis in November. Additionally, the Netherlands is working on national regulation to compensate cleanup costs of drug waste and facilitate compensation procedures to mitigate the negative impact on society and the environment. Despite these efforts, we acknowledge there is still much to be done, especially in the face of cyber-enabled drug crimes. Access to electronic evidence is crucial, and cooperation between countries is necessary. While there have been successful joint investigations, challenges remain, such as the need for better access to unencrypted forms of data to combat online sales of illegal drugs. We are actively working on downstream disruption to reduce our country’s role as a transit hub for drugs to the rest of Europe. However, combating online sales of drugs is complex, often leading to unintended consequences. We are addressing these challenges while respecting human rights, emphasizing the need for international cooperation. The sale of online goods transcends national borders, and so should our approach in addressing this issue.

Saudi Arabia: We begin our statement with a strong condemnation of the killing of innocent civilians, regardless of their identity. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly condemns Israeli attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, particularly hospitals in Gaza. It is vital to ensure the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and we stress the need to exert every possible effort to halt the cycle of violence. The tragic events unfolding in Palestine demand that the international community fulfill its responsibilities and put an immediate end to military operations, providing protection for civilians. The root cause of these enduring and tragic events lies in the decades-long occupation of Palestinian land. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any form of forced displacement of the Palestinian people to neighboring countries. We reiterate our firm call for the implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Our resolute position supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. We firmly believe this is the only solution to the conflict and essential for ensuring peace and stability in the region. Regarding issues related to the global drug problem, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emphasizes the necessity of addressing this challenge in a manner consistent with the relevant international conventions, which serve as the cornerstone for confronting such issues. We recognize that the three drug control conventions are among the most widely ratified legally binding international documents, reflecting broad international consensus. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has faced an unprecedented level of drug trafficking, particularly involving substances like Captagon and other stimulants. We stress the importance of adopting a balanced and comprehensive approach to global drug policies that prioritize public health and development outcomes, in alignment with the original purpose of the international drug control conventions: promoting the health and welfare of humanity. International cooperation plays a crucial role in addressing these issues, especially those being discussed during this session. We express our concern about the emergence of new psychoactive substances, which add complexity to the drug problem. It is the duty of the international community to tackle this problem comprehensively and firmly. Thank you.

VNGOC / Uganda youth development link – Rogers Kasirye

VNGOC / Cyber Saathi Foundation – N. S. Nappinai

VNGOC / RMIT University – Monica Barratt: Good Morning. I am a senior research fellow at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.  For over 20 years my research has investigated drug use, drug markets and drug harm reduction in the context of an increasingly digitised world. I am also the executive director of Bluelight.org which is a digital global harm reduction community. My aim in providing this statement to the Commission is to highlight that technologies can facilitate or inhibit human practices and behaviours in multiple and complex ways. Both challenges and opportunities arise from technology in the drugs space that we need to understand, adapt to, and utilise. The Global Drug Survey accesses people who use darknet markets to buy drugs. Following law enforcement takedowns of darknet markets, we asked people who use drugs how they responded. In 2017 they were more likely to be more anxious and some were deterred altogether, however in 2019, the takedowns seemed to have less effect. The surveys demonstrated that the community using the darknet to buy and sell drugs easily adapts to law enforcement actions, anticipating takedowns more readily and innovating the market structures to reduce the impact of law enforcement actions. Research led by my PhD student Robin van der Sanden from New Zealand showed how in recent years, social media and messaging app platforms for buying and selling drugs became more commonly used. The convenience or ease at which people were accessing drugs through apps that they already used meant that they didn’t have to learn new skills to do so. They associated numerous benefits with this practice, including being able to separate themselves from physical markets and associated risks (e.g., violence, theft). In my role at Bluelight.org, we do not allow drug sales on our website or other platforms. Instead, we focus on providing moderated community spaces for people to share information that can help them reduce the risks associated with their drug use. In recent years we have expanded our reach from a web-based forum to also hosting a Discord server and Telegram group. By going to these platforms, we hope to reach people where they are accessing drugs to offer them alternative ways of reducing harms, including through support from an inclusive global community. As we attempt to address the criminal use of digital technologies in the drugs space, we need to be mindful that we do not inadvertently increase harms for people who use drugs. As an example, when pressure is placed on social media platforms to remove drug vendors, they may respond by removing all drug related content, which puts many harm reduction channels at risk. Keeping in mind the dual nature of technologies when developing new responses is critical if we are to continue to place the welfare of communities who use drugs at the centre of our responses. 

UAE: The United Arab Emirates recognizes the severe threat posed by drug traffickers operating on the internet and various social media platforms and applications. Addressing this issue has become a top priority for our country’s authorities. Law enforcement agencies have engaged in meetings with the owners of these platforms and applications to enhance coordination and awareness. We have conveyed the methods employed by drug dealers on social media platforms, where they indiscriminately market their drugs to all segments of society. Our agencies have actively developed an intelligent application to combat drug trafficking, and our law enforcement personnel have received specialized training to address these emerging patterns of drug-related crimes. Furthermore, legislative amendments have been made in our country to criminalize the transfer and deposit of funds associated with drug-related activities through social media platforms and other online channels. These measures have been complemented by preventive and awareness campaigns within our society. As a result of these concerted efforts, our law enforcement agencies have achieved significant milestones in combating electronic drug promotion on social media platforms in 2022. Specifically, 4,916 accounts on social media platforms have been removed and banned, and 100 individuals possessing 780 kilograms of drugs and psychotropic substances have been arrested. However, despite these achievements, the promotion of drugs on social media platforms continues to be a major challenge. We urge UN ODC and CMD to conduct in-depth studies and implement programs that facilitate effective international cooperation to address this problem. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

UNODC: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for granting me the floor and allowing me to discuss the efforts undertaken by our organization in supporting member states to effectively tackle this intricate challenge, as outlined in the 2019 ministerial declaration. The manufacture and trafficking of drugs are escalating globally. The rising use of online platforms for trafficking and selling synthetic drugs, as well as for illicit manufacturers to exchange information on synthetic drugs, designer precursors, and new synthesis pathways, intensify the complexity of these challenges and how to effectively combat them. We, at our organization, are providing a comprehensive framework for global action and support through the synthetic drug strategy. This initiative has assisted over 45 countries in strengthening their national, regional, and international responses to the growing synthetic drug problem. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to help member states build capacity to predict, prevent, and protect against the threats posed by synthetic drugs, including their online trafficking, an evolving form of transnational crime. To counter this transnational threat, forging strong partnerships and enhancing international collaboration and cooperation are paramount. One such significant partnership exists between our university laboratory and scientific service and the Cybercrime Anti-Money Laundering Section’s cyber investigation unit. This collaboration involves inspecting criminal online activities in close coordination with forensic scientists. The information gathered from cyber specialists can be combined with data from forensic scientists, allowing alerts to be sent to law enforcement authorities in a more prepared manner. Additionally, information obtained from cyber specialists can contribute to early warning systems, enhancing advanced early warnings to countries before substances appear in seizures or toxicology reports. In order to support countries in being more effective in their responses, it is imperative that operational drug control efforts and policy decisions are guided by science. Secondly, I would like to highlight the UN toolkit on synthetic drugs and its specialized module on cybercrime. This toolkit exemplifies how UNODC supports member states with practical tools to address the challenges posed by the online trafficking of synthetic drugs. The toolkit is an online platform that consolidates cross-cutting tools and resources related to synthetic drugs from UNODC and across the UN system. It encompasses various disciplines, offering practical tools and resources to address the challenges related to synthetic drugs. The specialized module on cybercrime includes practical tools on investigating and disrupting online trafficking of synthetic drugs, as well as identifying, intercepting, and deterring the use of cryptocurrencies in this trafficking. It delves into various online sales platforms and how cryptocurrencies are used to purchase synthetic drugs online. This module provides information on money laundering methods and suggests actions that member states can take against it. Developed in collaboration with UNODC’s cybercrime team, this module strengthens countries’ capacity to enhance their responses to the growing misuse of information and communication technologies for illicit drug-related activities. The UN toolkit on synthetic drugs, with its practical tools and resources, is readily accessible at syntheticdrugs.org. Thank you very much, distinguished delegates.

UNODC: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for allowing me to speak. I serve as a counter-cybercrime coordinator within the global program on cybercrime, focusing on Southeast Asia and the Pacific. I appreciate the interventions from various countries this morning and the shared focus on drug and cybercrime prevention through partnerships and awareness. Prevention efforts, although discussed, should not be overlooked. However, challenges arise in the realm of inefficient technologies, detection, and investigation concerning all types of crimes. I want to highlight three points to illustrate the challenges and potential areas for development: Cyber Patrol: This concept involves monitoring online advertisements for drug sales and investigating them. However, this approach is hindered by human resource constraints. Many countries lack the resources and skilled personnel needed for effective online monitoring. Moreover, jurisdictional issues often arise, complicating the process. Partnerships and Resources: Partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can significantly aid investigations. However, this necessitates substantial resources and collaboration between law enforcement and ISPs, which can be challenging due to human rights concerns and jurisdictional limitations. High-Level Expertise and International Cooperation: Investigating the dark web and other online platforms demands highly skilled professionals and extensive international cooperation. Organized crime groups are dynamic and quickly adapt to law enforcement efforts. Existing international cooperation mechanisms struggle to keep up with these agile criminal networks. In my region, organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking are diversifying into online scams, casinos, malicious mobile apps, and illicit cryptocurrency mining. These interconnected activities often serve as sources of funding for drug-related enterprises. While challenges persist, there are opportunities for improvement. I wish to express my gratitude to Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Thailand for their contributions. Their support has enabled us to enhance the capabilities of digital forensic labs, particularly in the areas of dark web investigations and cryptocurrency analysis, empowering us to combat drug-related cybercrimes effectively. Thank you for your attention.

UNODC: While governments possess adequate technological solutions, the challenges lie in implementation and regulation. The business cycle of online drug sales involves multiple stages: Informal Clinical Trials: Criminals conduct informal trials on substances, ensuring drug users do not die from side effects. Law enforcement agencies can intercept these trials if detected during the one-month period. Massive Production: Successful substances lead to large-scale production, requiring only a few months for criminals to adjust existing technologies and start manufacturing. Sales and Distribution: The produced drugs are sold for an extended period, often lasting six months or more. Introduction of New Substances: Criminals introduce new substances, providing a grace period to continue manufacturing. This cycle repeats as necessary. One challenge lies in the rapid adaptation of criminals. We have encountered websites operating on the dark web and the clear internet, providing substances and instructions. Although law enforcement agencies possess similar technology, legal, procedural, and process limitations hinder our effectiveness. Criminals continuously adapt, shifting to new products and substances. We need to focus not only on technological advancements but also on legal and procedural improvements. By addressing each stage of the business cycle, we can disrupt the process. Shortening the time it takes for consumers to adopt new substances can undermine the business cycle of drug dealers. Our efforts should focus on detecting new substances promptly and efficiently, thereby reducing criminals’ revenues and limiting their ability to sell drugs. Thank you.


Colombia: Good morning to all, Please allow me to convey a quick message from my delegation before we conclude this session. We are immensely grateful for the support provided by UNODC in drafting our new national drug policy. We are fully committed to implementing this policy, dedicating a significant portion of our natural resources and budget to combat the drug issue. We firmly believe in the power of multilateralism and are convinced that working in collaboration with the UN is far more effective than going at it alone. Our commitment to your leadership and the President’s vision is unwavering. We appreciate the opportunity to engage, sharing our concerns, thoughts, and aspirations. Most importantly, we hope to garner relevance for the work we are doing here. We look forward to a significant presence in December, ensuring a successful culmination of our efforts. I would like to echo the sentiments expressed by my Colombian counterparts. Cooperation and communication with member states are indispensable. We have repeatedly raised this issue bilaterally, and we are appreciative of the support we have received. We seek better coordination, as clarity regarding the competencies of our internal organs is crucial. Misinterpretations from external sources can lead to confusion and misunderstandings between different government sectors, a situation we earnestly wish to avoid. Thank you.

Chair: Rule 45

Australia: Autonomous Sanctions are utilized as a legal tool to address international concerns like human rights violations or invasions of sovereign nations. These sanctions comply with international law, including the United Nations Charter. Australia unequivocally condemns Hamas attacks on Israel as acts of terror against innocent civilians, standing in solidarity with Israel. Australia calls for the unconditional release of U.S. citizens killed in Gaza and emphasizes the importance of upholding international humanitarian law to protect civilian lives amidst hostilities.

USA: The United States wishes to join the statement of Australia, on the legality and usefulness of sanctions as permitted under international law. We also would like to join their statement in support of Israel. We recognize the right and indeed the imperative of any nation to defend itself against terrorism. That is why we unequivocally condemn Hamas, barbaric terrorist attack against Israel. The mourn the loss of all of this, and we recognize that civilians must be protected. But we also recognize that Hamas, which does not represent the Palestinian people, and in violation of international law, has used the powers of civilians as human shields. And they are dying and suffering because of monstrous criminal tactics.

Israel: I am taking the floor on the third day again to clarify: On Saturday, October 7, Israel was attacked by armed groups. Tragically, many lives were lost, including dozens of children, in this senseless act of violence. We condemn these acts unequivocally. Such barbaric actions have no justification in any context. It is essential to protect innocent lives and work towards peace. Israel is committed to safeguarding its borders and ensuring the safety of its citizens. We call for humanitarian access to provide medical aid and treatment to those in need. International organizations must play a role in ensuring the well-being of civilians. The situation in the region is deeply concerning. Israel faces threats from various sources, including the ongoing danger from armed groups. We urge the international community to condemn all acts of violence and support efforts to establish peace and stability in the region.

Chair: Thank you. This meeting is adjourned until 3pm. For those interested, I am holding a briefing at 1pm on the decision arrangements for the midterm review of all international drug policy commitments which will be a high level segment.



Chair: Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to discuss the organizational arrangements for the main points of the session today and refer to the conference room for further details. The Commission adopted resolution 66/1 outlining how the midterm review will be conducted. A high-level segment is scheduled during the 67th session in 2024, comprising four days in addition to the five regular commission session days. The high-level segment will assess the implementation of international policy commitments and outline the path forward to 2029. As stated in the 2019 ministerial declaration, this segment will consist of a general debate and two interactive multi-stakeholder roundtables, running parallel to the general debate. Both the general debate and roundtables will be open to all member states and organized according to the Economic and Social Council’s rules of procedure.

I want to emphasize that discussions during the roundtables will occur simultaneously with the general debate. So, all presentations will be available to everyone; there’s no need to take photographs or notes. Artificial intelligence will handle documentation for you. During the opening ceremony, we’ll invite dignitaries, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Executive Director of the UNODC, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, and representatives from the scientific community and civil society, continuing the tradition from previous high-level segments in 2014.

For the general debate, speakers are requested to limit their statements to a maximum of three minutes to allow all member states to address the ministerial segment. Chairs of regional groups have a maximum of five minutes. Longer statements can be posted on the CND website. The drawing of lots for speaking slots will take place during our intersessional meeting on 29 February. There are 114 slots for the general debate, divided among five regional groups. After drawing the lots, speakers will be organized into three groups: higher than ministerial level, ministerial level, and lower than ministerial level.

For the roundtables, there will be two topics: taking stock of the current situation on day one and planning the way forward on day two. Participants in the high-level segment are invited to attend the roundtables. Panelists’ interventions will be limited to five minutes, while floor interventions will be limited to three minutes. We encourage interactive discussions, with no prepared statements. To speak, please raise your nameplates. Longer statements can be submitted online and will be published on the website.

Regarding the format of the roundtables, they will be co-chaired by representatives from different regional groups. The co-chairs will prepare a summary of the key points from each roundtable to be presented to the plenary. Please notify us if there are any new nominations for co-chairs before 15 March.

For high-level side events, each member state can organize one event, either in person or virtually, from 18 to 22 March. Organizers are encouraged to coordinate with UN entities and other intergovernmental bodies. Applications for these events can be submitted from 4 to 11 January. The number of high-level side events is limited to 11, with one event in parallel. All applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Each event can last up to 90 minutes. High-level side events will be scheduled throughout the two days and may coincide with formal proceedings. A maximum of two side events per organizer is allowed.

Finally, I’d like to emphasize that only complete applications will be considered. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask. Thank you for your attention.

Are there any questions or comments about the information presented in this briefing?

Australia: seeking clarification on the speaking time for the general debate, as your notes mentioned five minutes and three minutes, while the screen displayed seven minutes and five minutes. Kindly confirm the accurate time allocation for the general debate. Thank you.

Brazil: Same question as Australia. And, there will be 11 high level events? Timeline for general debate?

Russia: Will there be a general debate in the general discussion?

Secretariat: Apologies for the oversight – the correct information is as on the slides 5-7 minutes. No general debate.

Canada: My question is regarding the roundtables are those envisioned to be at the minister level as well? Or are we looking for expert level participation?

Chair: Certainly, based on the past experiences in 2019 and 2014, member states had agreed upon modalities to provide significant roles for their high-level representatives, offering justifications for their participation in these events. While participation is ultimately the prerogative of member states, the inclusion of general debates, roundtables, and high-level side events could potentially facilitate and encourage greater high-level participation from delegations.

USA: Will there be a need for any kind of credentials or letters of authorization for member states to book delegation rooms and meeting rooms for bilaterals between ministers during the high-level segment? Regarding registration, will it follow the normal Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) procedure? Will there be a distinction made between participants in the high-level segment and those participating in the regular segment? Regarding bilateral meetings, will there be limitations on the number of rooms available for these meetings? Will these meetings be scheduled on a time slots basis, as has been done in previous occasions?

EU:  Need clarification about rules and implications related to hosting or co-sponsoring side events, both regular and high-level, during the 67th session. The concern is about the potential limitations and exclusions faced by member states in organizing these events.

Chair: Regarding accreditation, it would be the process as usual, but we would probably ask to make a distinction between who will be participating in the high level segments and who will participate in regular segment.
About rooms, our colleagues from conference management services will confirm –  they are usually having a limited number of rules for bilateral meetings. So that will probably be began as as has happened also on previous occasions, like on time slots basis.
There will be 11 high-level side events allowed. However, this limitation does not exclude sponsors from organizing regular side events.
Sponsors  still have the opportunity to initiate regular side events during the session, as many as they want.
I see no further questions. See you at 3pm.


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