UN Moves to Confront World Drug Problem

(New York, 28 April 1998) World leaders meeting in New York from 8 to 10 June in a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly are expected to adopt a worldwide plan to substantially reduce drug demand and supply by the year 2008. The unprecedented strategy -- which involves governments, civil society and the private sector -- calls for stronger domestic laws and programmes by 2003 to deal with such issues as money laundering and synthetic drugs, increased drug prevention among youth and enhanced cooperation between nations to catch and prosecute drug traffickers.

"Drugs are tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as AIDS, and killing our youth and our future", warns UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "Today there are an estimated 190 million drug users around the world. No country is immune. And alone, no country can hope to stem the drug trade within its borders. The globalization of the drug trade requires an international response."

"The special session should be a turning point for the world to go forward with renewed energy on drug control", says Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP). "There are many reasons for optimism - a politically more cooperative international climate devoid of the East-West and North-South ideological divides, sophisticated technology such as satellite monitoring systems, and the accumulated knowledge of the international community in drug control activities", he says.

The UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem will focus on six crucial areas:

Demand reduction - Reducing demand for drugs is key to solving the global drug problem. A Declaration on reducing drug demand is to be adopted at the special session which outlines guiding principles to help governments set up effective drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes by 2003. The Declaration calls for stronger demand reduction efforts -- based on community participation and integration with social and public policies -- to produce significant results by 2008.

Elimination of illicit crops and alternative development - Over the last decade, alternative development programmes complemented by law enforcement measures have successfully reduced drug crops in several countries including Peru, Thailand and Pakistan. In order to expand success globally, the action plan to be adopted at the special session commits governments to work closely with UNDCP to develop strategies to eliminate or significantly reduce illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the opium poppy, and the cannabis plant by 2008.

Money laundering - The laundering of money derived from illicit drug trafficking and other serious crimes has expanded throughout the world and affects all nations. Yet it is estimated that only 30 per cent of countries have effective anti-money laundering laws in place. At the special session, governments are expected to discuss bank secrecy and offshore havens and agree to adopt national legislation by 2003 to counter money laundering.

Amphetamine-type stimulants - Some 30 million people consume amphetamine-type stimulants illegally, more than those using cocaine and heroin combined. Since global awareness and response to the problem is limited, the special session will consider an action plan against the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these increasingly popular synthetic drugs, which include "ecstasy" and methamphetamine. The action plan is to be implemented by 2003 in order to reduce supply and demand for these stimulants by 2008.

Judicial cooperation - Drug criminals take advantage of today's open borders and open markets, thriving where laws and institutions are weak. Without increased cooperation among judicial and law enforcement authorities, virtually none of the international treaty provisions against drug trafficking can be implemented, according to UNDCP. Member States are expected to adopt measures concerning extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings, controlled delivery, and illicit traffic by sea to be implemented by 2003.

Precursor chemicals - In recent years, the diversion of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs has become one of the most serious challenges of the global drug problem. To prevent it, countries have agreed to monitor domestic and international movements of certain chemicals. The General Assembly special session is expected to adopt measures to further strengthen the control of precursor chemicals to reduce their diversion by 2008.

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