The world community must do more, and do better, to tackle the global drug problem, senior United Nations officials stressed today in Vienna, kicking off a two-day review of efforts to address a scourge that poses a serious threat to human life and undermines development.
"The cultivation, manufacture, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs continue to pose a major threat to the health of people everywhere; and to the stability and sustainable development of a number of countries and entire regions," Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said at the opening of the review.
"It is my hope that this high-level debate will help you to find common ground and come up with a powerful message that will enable us to strengthen our cooperation, and to address the world drug problem in a balanced, humane and effective way, based on the international conventions."
The High-Level Review of the implementation of Political Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the Commission in 2009 to counter the world drug problem brings together over 1,500 representatives of Member States, civil society organisations and the media.
The Plan of Action has three focuses: demand reduction, supply reduction, and countering money-laundering and promoting judicial cooperation to enhance international cooperation.
Mr. Fedotov noted that there have been successes in implementing the plan: the global cocaine market has shrunk; the delivery of treatment has improved; and international cooperation has been strengthened.
"And yet there have been serious setbacks," he added. Among these is the increase in opium poppy cultivation, which reached record levels in Afghanistan last year; an expanding illicit market for synthetic stimulants; and an "alarming" increase in new psychoactive substances.
"We have learned that sustainable success requires a balanced, cooperative, comprehensive and integrated approach, addressing both supply and demand," the Executive Director said. A balanced approach relies on evidence-based responses, with an emphasis on public health, he added.
Also, any public health response should also consider alternatives to penalization and incarceration of people with drug use disorders, as well as measures focusing on prevention, treatment, and social rehabilitation and integration, he maintained.
In his remarks to the opening, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the response of the UN family to the drug problem is firmly rooted in the fundamental principles of the three international drug control conventions, namely the protection of the health and welfare of humankind as well as the promotion and protection of human rights through the rule of law.
"Globally, however, the implementation of the international drug control conventions has been uneven and incomplete," he stated. "We can all do better, individually as nations and collectively through international cooperation."
The three international drug control conventions are the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
"The three Conventions are the legal basis for our work. But let us remember that Member States also can take action on the basis of these Conventions to promote public health, prevention, treatment and economic and social progress," Mr. Eliasson said.
The two-day review also marks the start of the 57th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which will run through 21 March and discuss issues such as regional efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs, implementation of the international drug control treaties and the challenges posed by new psychoactive substances.
The review also marks a milestone on the road towards the special session to be convened in 2016 by the UN General Assembly on the world drug problem.