The Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly devoted to countering the world drug problem this morning concluded its two-day session, approving its final report and a draft decision by which the Assembly would endorse measures to strengthen United Nations machinery for international drug control.
The measures are embodied in a preliminary report of a 13-member expert group which stressed that the effectiveness of the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) should be enhanced through institutional changes and improvements in its funding arrangements. It also assessed the operations and functioning of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the main policy-making body for international drug control matters. The expert group, convened by the Secretary-General, will hold two more sessions -- later this month in Vienna, and in New York next November -- before submitting its final report in 1999.
By its draft decision, the Ad Hoc Committee would also have the General Assembly take note of a joint statement by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) (made up of executive heads of agencies and programmes of the United Nations system) to the special session. In the statement, transmitted by the Secretary-General in a note, the executive heads encouraged the inclusion of alternative development measures in United Nations system programmes to promote sustainable development. They said many of the cross-cutting issues that the United Nations system dealt with had drug control implications, and resolved to take that dimension into consideration in planning and executing their own activities.
Yesterday, the Ad Hoc Committee approved three draft resolutions for action by the Assembly covering a political declaration, a declaration on guiding principles of drug demand reduction and measures to enhance international cooperation to counter the world drug problem.
The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, Bertrand Juppin de Fondaumiere, introduced the note of the Secretary-General concerning the strengthening of the United Nations machinery for drug control. N.K. Singh, Chairman of the group of experts, made a statement on their meeting.
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In statements before the Ad Hoc Committee this morning, the representative of Canada said a recent conference in his country on youth and drugs showed that young people were not the problem, but the solution. The most important lesson was to listen to young people, and to trust them to find solutions for themselves.
The Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs and External Relations of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ado Vaher, said the use of drugs undermined children's rights, and drugs flourished in settings where those rights were not adequately protected.
The Director of External Relations of the Joint and Co-sponsored United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Sally Cowal, said a comprehensive package of measures to prevent the spread of HIV among injectors must be put in place, including the provision of sterile injecting equipment. Strong political commitment at the highest national level and within the United Nations system was needed.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.
Representatives of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the World Customs Organization, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and the Common Fund for Commodities also spoke.
Representatives of Transnational Radical Party, Rotary International, Pax Romana, and European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, as well as youth representatives from Canada, Sweden, and Norway, also spoke.
Ad Hoc Committee Work Programme
The Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly met this morning to continue its review of international drug control instruments and consider measures to promote implementation of those treaties and the strengthening of international cooperation in the fight against the illicit and related activities. It will also discuss the strengthening of United Nations machinery for drug control and consider its report to the Assembly.
Also this morning, the Ad Hoc Committee, which began its work yesterday, will hear further statements by representatives of United Nations funds and programmes, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
MARCO CAPPATO, of the Transnational Radical Party, said that despite the long-standing and continuing war on drugs, there had been no comprehensive study on that approach. In the meantime, there had been a constant increase in the production and consumption of illegal drugs. The war on drugs was prohibitionist and ineffective. It led to no reduction in demand or supply, only to high prices, criminality and health risks. The time had come for a fundamental change in the approach towards drug abuse. Dealing with dangerous addictive substances should not be left to criminals, in the hands of people who had no responsibility and only wanted to make money. Nor should consumers and producers be treated like criminals. He called for constructive debate with representatives of organizations who cared about health and welfare.
HERB DHALIWAL (Canada) said the Youth Vision Jeunesse Drug Abuse Prevention Forum held in Banff, Alberta, in April had come up with an approach to solutions that showed young people were not the problem; they were the solution. He was proud of the role of the Government of Canada in the organization of the youth meeting, but responsibility for its success belonged to the young people themselves. The workshops at the meeting had been special in many ways. Young people had told stories of their lives on the street and addiction to drugs, and there were also stories of recovery and roads to success, found through, for example, music, outdoor activities, or through helping others. Those young people were living examples of techniques that actually worked. But the most important lesson was to listen to young people, and to trust them to find solutions for themselves. "If they ask for advice, we should give it freely, but they will not care how much we know, until they know how much we care."
He introduced three of the young organizers of the Banff meeting to talk about some of the recommendations they had reached.
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JEN DE DELLEY of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, an organizer of the forum, said there was agreement that drug abuse should be treated as a health problem; there was need for greater access to health services; media images of alcohol and drugs created a distorted picture of reality; and that there should be rules against media messages that promoted drug abuse. Information sharing was also dealt with by the participants who also called for creation of networks. If young people were the hope of the future, government leaders should make long-term commitment to that future by investing in youth programmes and facilities.
VERONICA SHOG, an organizer from Sweden, said both her parents were drug abusers and that her mother died from it. She had friends who were drug abusers, hence, her involvement in the fight to combat the drug problem. Young people should be involved in social issues such as the drug problem. They had a lot to give and adults had a lot to learn from them.
STEN MAGNE BERGLUND, an organizer from Norway, said the youth should be involved in the fight against drug abuse. Governments must adopt market research methods in drug abuse programmes, taking into account the views of the youth.
Mr. GLAY, of Rotary International, said its Board of Directors had approved a 10-year programme to accelerate fight against drug abuse, and provided youth with alternative programmes. There were other programmes on the prevention of violence and crime. He stressed the importance of reducing drug demand through improvements in the quality of life. Rotary International had branches around the world and shared the commitment to improve the quality of life. The potential of NGOs should be fully utilized.
PAUL SNATCHKO, of Pax Romana, speaking also on behalf of Caritas International, Franciscans International, and Pax Christi International, said that the debate on drugs could not be addressed without also taking into consideration the fundamental privileges or immunities to which all persons had a moral claim. Abuse of Narcotic drugs undermined the dignity of each human being. All aspects of life suffered at the hands of drug abuse, and he called for a holistic approach to solutions. A primary approach was to address the economic factor behind the illicit drugs trade. He was especially concerned about the well-being of those who produced drug crops, saying alternatives should be provided. The need to eliminate illicit drugs was paramount, but human rights must not be overlooked in pursuing that goal. He was concerned that initiatives, such as mandatory drug sentencing and the increased militarization of the war on drugs, impinged on human rights.
SALLY COWAL, Director of External Relations, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, called for the strengthening of effective HIV
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prevention programmes among drug users. There must be a comprehensive package of measures to prevent the spread of HIV among injectors, including provision of sterile injecting equipment, raising awareness and educating injectors and their sex partners about HIV risks and safe practices. Drug treatment programmes should be made available and access to counselling provided to HIV- infected injectors. Many studies had now established that needle exchange programmes, if properly run, reduced the number of new cases of HIV infection. Strong political commitment at the highest national level and within the United Nations system was needed to ensure that proper programmes were put in place.
JOFFRE GARCIA JAIME (Ecuador) said his Government agreed with the convening of the special session. Laws relating to drug abuse and control were constantly being updated by the Prosecutor's office in his country. Ecuador had participated in all conferences on the drug problem. New attitudes must be adopted towards the problem by the judiciary, psychiatrists and social workers involved in drug issues. International agreements on drug control programmes were included in domestic Ecuadorian legislation. His Government was carrying out outreach programmes on drug abuse with the involvement of the private sector.
ADO VAHER, Director, Office of United Nations Affairs and External Relations, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the impact of drugs on the lives of children and young people was not only a question of their basic needs going unmet, but a matter of gross violations of their rights. The use of drugs undermined children's rights, and drugs flourished in settings where those rights were not adequately protected. The Convention on the Rights of the Child dealt both explicitly and implicitly with drugs.
Demand reduction involved meeting and protecting children's rights to information, opportunities to develop life skills, a safe and supportive environment and opportunities to participate and to be involved in decisions that affected their lives, including on ways of strengthening preventing drug addiction and trafficking. The UNICEF had identified the health and development of young people as one of the seven priorities that were central to its efforts from 1998 to 2000 and beyond. It was ready to add its capacity for advocacy and for supporting the acceleration of national activities to those of its partners in order to fight the war against drugs.
MARTIN HOPENHAYN, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said the fact that different people consumed different types of drugs, obvious as it was, was usually overlooked when it came to formulating drug policies. That was a mistake. Drug abuse policies failed to address important racial and cultural patterns, for example, the use of cocaine and amphetamines in higher levels of business and entertainment,
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inhaling substances in marginal urban groups, occasional festive consumption in every level of society, and sports use. These different types of consumption were usually overlooked, and an important opportunity for meeting drug abuse problems was missed. The importance of characterizing consumption was also to visualize the need to reach potential consumers. Prevention campaigns failed to recognize the process from zero consumption to experimental consumption, and to regular abuse. Compulsive consumption required treatment. Prevention should be aimed at people whose current use and lifestyle patterns could lead to compulsive consumption, and at people who were not yet users.
BERTRAND JUPPIN DE FONDAUMIERE, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, introduced the note of the Secretary-General on the review of the international drug control regime: strengthening United Nations machinery for drug control (document A/S-20/2). The report was of a meeting of group of experts held in Vienna from 22 to 24 April under the chairmanship of N.K. Singh of India. They would meet again later this month in Vienna and for a third time in New York next November before submitting their final report to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 1999. [For information on the report, see press Release GA/9414 of 8 June.]
Mr. SINGH, Chairman of the expert group, said its current report was a preliminary one. Its task, to devise a programme to combat the drug problem, was a daunting one. It had reviewed the contemporary drug situation, the legal framework for dealing with it, the financing required and the path ahead. The drug situation remained serious. New drugs were coming into being and new users were also appearing. The group of experts was considering the international framework required, taking account of the whole gamut of subjects on how to deal with the growing drug menace. Views expressed during the special session would be taken into account by the experts as they drew up their final recommendations.
The Ad Hoc Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of the document.
The Ad Hoc Committee then turned to a note by the Secretary-General (document A/S-20/3) transmitting a joint statement by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) to the twentieth special session. In the statement, the ACC encouraged the inclusion of alternative development measures in United Nations system programmes to promote sustainable development.
The Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of the document.
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LAMINE FOFANA (Senegal) said the group of experts was a very important group, having the critical mandate of looking at the future of the legal framework of the fight against drugs and the structure of UNDCP. However, Senegal had contacted the UNDCP in Vienna and the Secretary-General in New York to inform them that it felt the group had been set up in a somewhat summary way. The French-speaking region was not represented. Senegal had ideas about the UNDCP future. The country was even the host of the UNDCP office that covered 27 of the 53 States in its area. However, the representation it had made had been in vain. The institution had turned a deaf ear to Senegal's requests. He requested again that the composition of the group be revised.
HUGO SIBLESZ (Netherlands), said he had read with interest the progress report before the Committee today. As the report was preliminary, so would be his comments. The report presented a complete overview and a useful agenda of the tasks that lay ahead. There was still some work to be done on the analysis of the problems. Why, for example, had the drug problem deteriorated so much, and why had the means employed so far not yielded the desired results? As far as the institutional framework was concerned, the Netherlands supported the suggestion for greater coherence and coordination of the United Nations system. He was concerned to read in the report that the UNDCP provided funding for the drug control components of other United Nations agencies. That was a disturbing trend: other agencies should see drug control as a fundamental component of their own policies, and should fund them themselves accordingly.
JAMES SHAVER, of the World Customs Organization, said that his main objective today was to outline the contribution that customs could make in addressing the illicit trade in drugs. Eighty per cent of all seized illicit drugs, by weight, were seized in cross-border intervention. Customs played a major role in the detection of illicit drugs, precursors and the proceeds of such illicit activities. In nearly all countries, the role of customs was changing from revenue collection to protection, while also facilitating legitimate trade. It was important to empower customs authorities with the ability to pursue investigations beyond traditional areas, and there should be effective cooperation between customs and other law enforcement agencies -- national and international. He said the World Customs Organization would respond positively to all information-sharing initiatives, and he advocated an approach based on international partnership.
GEORGES ESTIEVENART, Executive Director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, said the consistent implementation of the guiding principles embodied in the declaration of the guiding principles of drug demand reduction would be helpful. His organization fully endorsed the guiding principles, particularly the section which stated, among other things,
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that demand reduction programmes should be based on a regular assessment of the nature and magnitude of drug use and abuse and drug-related problems in the population. Demand reduction strategies should be based on research and lessons learned. The guiding principles were useful for his organization, which was setting up an early warning system to detect the flow of new chemical substances. The system would be based on information collected in the field. The results would be essential for member States of the European Union. Political will and resources were required to combat the world drug problem. The Centre was carrying out joint programmes with several countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
ROLF W. BOEHNKE, Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities, said the Fund would be pleased to cooperate with the UNDCP in commodity development or alternative development in the context of drug control, particularly to reduce the supply of illicit drugs. Farmers of poor countries producing drugs must be given alternative sources of income. The Fund used the novel approach of commodity focus instead of the traditional country focus, the rational being to enhance the socio-economic development of the society as a whole. By the beginning of May, the Fund had approved 64 projects with a total cost of $192.3 million, of which it financed $83.5 million in loan. The Projects focused on commodity development.
N.K. SINGH (India), Rapporteur of the Committee, then introduced for adoption the draft report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole at the twentieth special session of the General Assembly, contained in document A/S- 20/AC.1/L.1. He said the report was largely procedural in nature, and that before its submission to the General Assembly plenary tomorrow, it would be updated to include the comments made in the meeting today.
The Committee unanimously adopted the draft report. It then unanimously authorized the Rapporteur to finalize the draft report for presentation to the Assembly plenary tomorrow.
At the conclusion of this morning's meeting, ALVARO DE MENDONCA E MOURA (Portugal), Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole, thanked everyone who had been involved in the work of the Committee, particularly his colleagues from the Bureau and the Secretariat, not just those who had come to New York, but also those who stayed behind in Vienna.
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