26 June 2012
Press Conference

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

Press Conference on launch of ‘2012 World Drug Report’

 


While illicit drug consumption had stabilized among developed and middle-income countries, it had risen among developing countries — especially in West Asia and West Africa — where trafficking routes were generating local demand, and an integrated, balanced response was the only way to address such threats, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told journalists at a Headquarters press conference today.


His remarks dovetailed with the launch of the 2012 World Drug Report during today’s General Assembly thematic debate on drugs and crime as a threat to development. (See Press Release GA/11257)  The report provides an overview of recent trends and the current situation in terms of production, trafficking, consumption and the consequences of illicit drug use for treatment, drug-related diseases and drug-related deaths.  He said this year’s 100‑page report was considerably shorter than last year’s edition and much easier to read.  It also contained more statistical data.


Highlighting some of the report’s findings, Mr. Fedotov said an estimated 238 million people — or 5 per cent of the global population — used illicit drugs at least once a year.  Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran had the highest prevalence of opium use, while West Africa had more than 2 million cocaine users.  Global opium production had soared to 7,000 tons in 2011, versus 2010, when plant disease had destroyed half the crops.


He said that worrisome trends included the increased use of deadly drugs — like desomorphine or “krokodil” — which had replaced a heroine shortage in parts of Eastern Europe and carried more deadly health consequences than any other drug.  In addition, the report found an increased use of psycho-active substances that lay outside international drug control conventions.  They had the same effects as illicit drugs such as cocaine, and were sold as “bath salts” or “plant food”.


To confront the challenges, drug demand must be reduced, he said, and efforts must be based on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health, and grounded in respect for human rights.  Today’s General Assembly debate demonstrated that such cross-cutting issues were gaining prominence on the United Nations agenda.


Taking questions, first on Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Fedotov said most UNODC activities had been suspended following a coup in the country.  During a visit last year, he had met with the then Prime Minister, who today was detained in prison.  That development had made the situation worse.  He regretted that that had happened, as Guinea-Bissau was among the “most problematic” countries in West Africa in terms of the openness of its borders to illicit drugs from Central America to West Africa and Europe.  He looked forward to finalizing a threat assessment report on West Africa.  “We need more data”, he said.  Politically speaking, the situation in Guinea-Bissau was “a concern”.


To a question on violence in Mexico and Central America, he said overall cocaine production was decreasing.  Unfortunately, it was happening slowly, and had not yet altered the situation in Central America, where countries were suffering because of the violence generated by drug trafficking and related organized crime.  UNODC was supporting countries in that region, and had, among others, strengthened its office in Panama City.  UNODC also was completing a threat assessment report on the region, which he hoped to launch in New York in September.  In Mexico, UNODC was upgrading its presence to the level of “partnership”, reflecting a new cooperative effort in that important country.  UNODC looked forward to supporting Mexico and could use its experience to help other Central American countries.


Taking a question on Myanmar’s opium cultivation, he said UNODC had assisted the Secretary-General’s mission to that country.  Myanmar was “number two” in terms of global opium cultivation and production.  In 2010, when there had been a sharp decline of opium production in Afghanistan, Myanmar’s share of that production had grown immediately.  While the “Golden Triangle” produced only about 10 per cent of the world’s opium, the issue must be seriously addressed.  UNODC was revisiting its South-East Asia plans and Mr. Fedotov said he was planning another mission to the region in the coming months to discuss how to promote alternative livelihoods.


Joining Mr. Fedotov, Thomas Pietschmann, Research Officer in the UNODC Studies and Threat Analysis Section, added that since 2006, Myanmar had seen an increase in opium cultivation and production.


To a question on UNODC’s interaction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan, Mr. Fedotov said that NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were an important presence in that country.  UNODC had a strong presence in Kabul and other places, and had to interact with many actors.  NATO was not involved in drug eradication. The Afghan Government was leading that work and UNODC was supporting its efforts.


Asked to rate the success of the “war on drugs” in Central America, Mr. Fedotov said violence related to illicit drugs could be handled only through a comprehensive approach.  The situation required more international solidarity.  UNODC activities in Central America were underfunded.  “We need more investment” he said, for infrastructure and alternative livelihood programmes.  More cooperation was also needed among Central American law enforcement agencies.


Mr.Pietschmannadded that in the 1990s, most of the violence had been in Colombia, where 80 to 100 people per 100,000 were dying.  Today, the situation in Colombia was still above the world average, but had improved dramatically, which was not the case in Mexico.  But even amid a massive up tic in violence since 2006, there were signs that the trend might not continue.


To a question on Uruguay’s move to legalize the production and use of marijuana, Mr. Fedotov said he had not seen the official confirmation of that decision.  He had seen press reports, but not an executive order or act of Parliament to put the decision into practice.  Should that happen, it would violate the Single Convention, to which Uruguay was a party.  The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was planning a mission to Uruguay to discuss the implications.


As for trends in Eastern Europe, Mr. Pietschmannsaid that in 2010 there had been a shortage of heroine, which had proven problematic in that it prompted people to turn to desomorphine — a codeine-based substance — that could be injected.  It was a particular problem in the Russian Federation.  Generally, drug use in Eastern


Europe was lower than in Western Europe.  There were some exceptions, notably in the Czech Republic, where drug use was high.


Asked about increased crime in Venezuela, Mr. Pietschmann said there was a link between crime and drug trafficking in that country.  The good news was that the relative importance of Venezuela as a transhipment location in 2011 had declined.  Prior to that, 40 per cent of the cocaine entering the European market had been transhipped through that country.  That shift was due, in part, to the fact that more production was taking place in Peru and Bolivia, and less in Colombia.  Thus, less Colombian cocaine was entering Europe and more was coming from Peru and Bolivia, entering the continent either directly or via Brazil and Argentina.  There had been a number of cases where South African airports were being used to traffic drugs to other parts of Africa and Europe, via Brazil.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record