In Vienna, UN urges focus on ‘shared responsibility’ to combat illicit drugs

Opening of the 59th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Austria. Photo: UNIS Vienna

14 March 2016 – Ahead of a special session on drugs at the United Nations General Assembly, senior United Nations officials today focused on the people affected by drugs and the shared international responsibility in stopping the suffering caused by these illicit substances.

Addressing the start of the 59th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Austria, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, said the ongoing preparations “can help to take further crucial steps forward to promote a healthier, safer and more prosperous future for all”.

This session of the Commission brings together around 1,500 delegates representing Member States, inter-governmental organizations, and civil society for a global discussion on the world drug problem, according to a press release.

Today’s opening briefing takes place just one month before the UN General Assembly special session on the World Drug Problem. The focus of the Special Session, or UNGASS as it is known, will be on what actions Member States can take by 2019 to achieve the goals set forth in a policy document, “Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem”.

The draft outcome document for the UNGASS is expected to be written at the current CND session.

Worldwide, some 27 million people suffer from drug use disorders, including 12 million people who inject drugs, according to UNODC figures.

Despite these figures, about three-quarters of the world’s population lack access to controlled narcotic and psychotropic substances to relieve pain and suffering, including for terminal cancer and AIDS patients.

“The UNGASS process has helped to raise awareness of this continuing global health problem, and the need to put people first when developing responses,” Mr. Fedotov said.

He added that the UN agency is fully engaged in supporting countries through “balanced approaches, rooted in agreed frameworks and informed by UNODC's research, guidelines and extensive on-the-ground experience.”

Among other topics mentioned, Mr. Fedotov also discussed the unending proliferation of new psychoactive substances and the growing nexus between organized crime groups and violent extremists, including in parts of Africa and South Asia.

Also addressing the CND was President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft and Werner Sipp, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). In his briefing, Mr. Sipp urged Member States to use UNGASS as an opportunity “to renew your commitment to shared responsibility in addressing the world drug problem” and to reaffirm key principles, such as protecting and enhancing the health and welfare of mankind.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Drug treaties' aim is health, not 'war on drugs,' says UN expert report

Related Stories

In-depth Interviews