23 June 2011
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference to Launch ‘World Drug Report 2011’


While global markets for cocaine, heroin and cannabis had declined or remained stable over the last year, the production and abuse of prescription opioid and new synthetic drugs had risen, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).


“The global drug threat has not diminished,” said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, at a Headquarters press conference where he was accompanied by Thomas Pietschmann, a UNODC researcher and one of the report’s authors.  Instead, World Drug Report 2011 found that the production and consumption of certain drugs had shifted, said Mr. Fedotov, citing rising production of cocaine in Peru and opium in Myanmar.  The mortality rate from drug consumption was still “terrifying” at about 200,000 deaths annually, he added.


He said that, while the global area under coca cultivation had shrunk by 19 per cent between 2007 and 2010, with the corresponding potential cocaine production falling by one sixth, the drop reflected a significant decrease in Colombia’s cocaine production.  That declining production was now “at par” with Peru’s growing cocaine industry, he added in response to a question.  He stressed, however, that the “extremely complicated” yield figures were still being researched.  “It’s very challenging to have statistics on cocaine,” he said, attributing the difficulty in part to wide variation in production facilities and equipment.


Mr. Fedotov added that the Report was not intended to “give marks” to any particular country, but instead to paint an overall picture of the global situation.


He went on to point out that in the reporting period, the production, trafficking and consumption of amphetamine-style stimulants had surged in several relatively new markets.  There had been an increase in highly addictive methamphetamine in North America following several years of decline, and the drug was sweeping across East Asia, he said.  As in past years, the production of cannabis was widespread, notably across Africa and the Americas.  “Cannabis remains by far the most widely produced and used drug in the world,” Mr. Fedotov said.  The Report found that the production of hashish, or cannabis resin, was still concentrated in Morocco and Afghanistan, and cannabis was a far more profitable crop for Afghanistan than opium had been in 2010.


The bulk of global opium production still took place in Afghanistan, Mr. Fedotov said, noting, however, that there had been a striking increase in Myanmar’s production — an increase of about 20 per cent since 2009.  The report also found that the decline in global opium production, noted by researchers since 2009, was unlikely to continue.


Mr. Fedotov said that, in light of the scope and shape of the current global drug trade, his Office was working to spotlight the principle of “shared responsibility” in its programmes.  There was an obvious need for a comprehensive strategy to build national, regional and international efforts, he added, citing several regional mechanisms spearheaded by UNODC to confront the problem of Afghan opium.  They included the Paris Pact, the Triangular Initiative and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Seminar.


Asked about political instability and drug trafficking in Central Asia, Mr. Fedotov recounted a 2010 meeting with the President Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan, during which she had requested UNODC support to combat the illicit drug trade threatening national security.  In response, the Office had helped to re-establish the country’s national drug control agency in only a few months, and established a new agency in the capital, Bishkek, with financial support from the Russian Federation and other donors.  To implement a more comprehensive approach, UNODC was now working to link those initiatives with reforms in other sectors, such as business and governance, he said, adding that a new regional programme covering Afghanistan and neighbouring countries — including Kyrgyzstan — was slated to launch by the end of 2011.


Responding to a question about emerging drug markets, Mr. Fedotov said the industry had shown significant “innovation and creativity” in marketing to new regions and consumers.  There was a growing concern that West Africa —long a transit point for illicit substances including cocaine and heroin — could become a new hotspot of drug addiction, he said, noting also that the branding of cocaine across Europe and parts of North America as a “benign” substance had also contributed to the drug’s success.  World Drug Report 2011 found that the United States remained the largest cocaine market, though consumption had declined sharply in recent years.


In response to a question about the significance of launching the survey at Headquarters for the first time, Mr. Thomas said it demonstrated the Organization’s commitment to mainstreaming drug and crime control into all its programmes — including those relating to policy, security, health and human rights — all of which were affected by the illicit drug trade.  “It shows that the UN takes this issue quite seriously.”


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For information media • not an official record