5 June 1998

Press Release


Background Release Illicit Supply and Demand, Money-Laundering Amphetamine-type Stimulants among Critical Issues To Be Discussed

The first international agreement solely directed at examining the problems that arise from individual drug abuse will be considered next week by representatives of more than 150 States at a special session of the General Assembly devoted to countering the world drug problem. The special session, to be convened from 8 to 10 June, will also mark the first time that demand reduction is assigned the same level of importance as other components of narcotic control.

The Assembly's twentieth special session, also known as the "Drug Summit", will assess the international drug problem and develop a forward- looking strategy for the twenty-first century, centred around the basic principle of a balanced approach between supply and demand reduction. According to the Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi, the Assembly will focus on six crucial issues: demand reduction; elimination of illicit crops and alternative development; amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS); precursor chemicals; money-laundering; and judicial cooperation.

The Assembly is expected to adopt a political declaration by which Member States would commit themselves to significant and measurable results in reduction of illicit supply and demand for drugs by the year 2008. The draft political declaration 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.

A declaration on demand reduction is also scheduled to be adopted at the special session. It outlines guiding principles to aid governments to set up new or enhanced demand-reduction programmes by 2003. The declaration also contains standards to guide governments in setting up effective prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes and calls for the provision of adequate resources for such programmes.

In addition, the Assembly is expected to adopt a series of measures to enhance international cooperation to counter the world drug problem. Those

include action plans to combat ATS and their precursors and to promote international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development. Other measures refer to controlling precursors, promoting judicial cooperation and countering money-laundering.

According to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), annual illicit drug consumption is likely to involve 3 to 4 per cent of the world's population. Heroin and cocaine -- the most dangerous drugs of abuse from the health perspective -- are abused by 8 million and 13 million people, respectively, but cannabis is the most widely abused substance with 140 million consumers. Because drug abuse transverses geographic and socio- economic boundaries, demand reduction requires links between policy-makers and populations that are susceptible to drug use, as well as the combined efforts of States, civil society organizations, health professional and community leaders. Demand reduction efforts must also address new trends, such as "fashionable" drugs that form part of a youth subculture, and the decreasing age of first use.

The UNDCP also estimates that while the illicit cultivation of cannabis is widespread across the world, coca leaf and opium poppy cultivation cover only about 4,500 square kilometres, or roughly half the area of Puerto Rico. Almost 90 per cent of illicit opium and heroin originate in South-West and South-East Asia. Most of the farmers involved live below the poverty line and would switch to other sources of income, given suitable alternatives. Alternative crop development entails a holistic approach in which socio- economic determinants are addressed, as well as crop substitution. Despite some successes, most producing areas are located in countries lacking the funds to support alternative development programmes.

Although relatively new, ATS are the most abused synthetic drug manufactured secretly. Originally recognized as a group of psychoactive substances prescribed to treat many different conditions, ATS are currently consumed by more than 30 million people worldwide. ATS substances most frequently abused and sold illicitly include methamphetamine, amphetamine, ecstasy (MDMA) and methacathinone. ATS substances are easy to manufacture, and combine high profit margins for producers with low prices for consumers. The draft action plan before the special session recommends action against manufacture, trafficking and abuse of ATS and their precursors in five key areas: raising awareness; reducing demand; providing accurate information; limiting supply; and strengthening the control systems for ATS.

In recent years, the diversion of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs has become a significant factor in the global drug problem. Many of these substances have legal uses, which confounds the effort to prevent their spread. It is the precursors, rather than the end-products, that were trafficked inter-regionally. Yet many governments lack the resources or capacity to determine whether shipments of precursor chemicals

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are for legal or illegal purposes, and so large quantities are still being diverted for illicit use. At the special session, Member States will be asked to further strengthen the control of precursors. States will be asked to improve the monitoring of international trade in precursors, develop data- gathering mechanisms on their licit manufacture, and promote technical assistance programmes.

Another issue on the session's agenda is money-laundering, which threatened the stability of financial trading systems. More than $1 billion in funds are laundered worldwide through safe banking havens every day, yet only about 30 per cent of countries have effective laws to deter the practice. Laundering occurs in three phases. Funds enter the financial system during the initial "placement" stage, at which time activities are most easily detected. A series of transactions, called "layering", then provides smokescreens to hide the money's origin. During "integration", funds are fully assimilated into the legal economy and can be used for any purpose.

At the special session, Member States will be urged to counter money- laundering by implementing the relevant provisions of the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. That Convention requires States, among others, to declare money- laundering a punishable offence and to adopt measures to identify and freeze or confiscate proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs.

Due to the international nature of many drug offenses, as well as today's open borders and global markets, international agreements against drug trafficking cannot be implemented without increased judicial cooperation. Yet such cooperation is often impeded by tensions over sovereignty and discrepancies between legal systems. Strengthened cooperation can expedite prosecutorial and investigative techniques, including "controlled delivery", by which illicit substances are allowed to pass through States' territory to facilitate the arrest of high-level traffickers. In addition to controlled delivery, the Assembly will consider other main areas of judicial cooperation including, extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of criminal proceedings, and illicit traffic by sea.

The high-level general debate will be held in plenary meetings, with the participation of more than 150 States, including 22 heads of State and eight heads of government. The President of the United States, William J. Clinton, is scheduled to begin the general debate, which will also hear addresses by the Presidents of Brazil, France and Mexico, among others.

An ad hoc Committee of the Whole will meet to finalize the negotiation of the texts that will be adopted by the Assembly on the last day of the special session. Representatives of United Nations programmes and agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are invited to address the Committee of the Whole.

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The criteria for identifying NGOs which will address the session was established by a decision adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on 20 March. Among the criteria are inclusion in the programme directory of the UNDCP, participation in the implementation of a project or activity funded by the UNDCP, and accreditation to meetings of the preparatory body for the special session.

The draft final outcome is contained in the report of the Commission on its second session (document A/S-20/4), which met from 16 to 21 March in Vienna, as the preparatory body for the special session. The Commission is the United Nations principal policy-making body on drug control, and its second session was attended by representatives of 130 governments and 20 NGOs.

Also during the special session, the Assembly will review adherence to and implementation of international drug control treaties. Those include, in addition to the 1988 Convention, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

In a review of the international drug control regime, the Assembly will consider the report of the expert group convened to review the UNDCP and to strengthen the United Nations machinery for international drug control (document A/S-20/2). The 13-member expert group stressed that the effectiveness of the UNDCP should be enhanced through institutional changes and improvements in its funding arrangements in order for it to fully address its mandate and responsibilities. It also assessed the operations and functioning of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

In addition, the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) has issued a joint statement to the special session (document A/S-20/3). In that statement, the ACC asserts its determination to strengthen its effectiveness in overcoming the impediments to sustainable social and economic development that drug abuse entails. It also reaffirms its commitment to collaborate closely with the UNDCP.

Previous special sessions of the Assembly were held on major issues of concern to the international community, such as the Organization's financial situation (1963), issues related to development and the new international economic order (1974, 1975), disarmament (1978, 1982 and 1988), apartheid (1989) and international economic cooperation, particularly the revitalization of economic growth and development of developing countries (1990).

A number of side events are scheduled to be held in conjunction with the special session, including symposiums on such topics as: attacking the profits of crime on money-laundering; cutting the supply lines on judicial cooperation; children, youth and drug abuse; drugs and productivity; drug abuse and HIV/AIDS; and drugs and development. There will also be a workshop

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on media coverage of the global drug problem, featuring journalists, academics and community activists.

The provisional agenda for the special session is contained in document S/S-20/1.

Highlights of the proposed final documents before the special session follow.

Political Declaration

By the political declaration, Member States would commit themselves to achieving significant and measurable results in demand reduction by the year 2008. They would also commit themselves to establishing the year 2003 as a target date for new or enhanced drug demand-reduction strategies and programmes set up in collaboration with public health, social welfare and law enforcement authorities. In addition, they would decide to give attention to demand reduction by working with youth through education, information activities and other preventive measures.

Member States would also decide to devote attention to the emerging trends in the illicit manufacture, trafficking and consumption of synthetic drugs. They would call for the establishment or strengthening by the year 2003 of national legislation and programmes, giving effect to the action plan against illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse of ATS and their precursors, to be adopted at the special session.

Member States would further decide to devote attention to the measures for the control of precursors, to be adopted at the special session. They would further decide to establish the year 2008 as a target date for States to eliminate or significantly reduce the illicit manufacture, marketing and trafficking of psychotropic substances, including synthetic drugs, and the diversion of precursors.

In addition, they would undertake efforts against the laundering of money linked to drug trafficking and, in that context, emphasize the importance of strengthening international, regional and subregional cooperation. They would recommend that States that have not yet done so adopt by the year 2003 national money-laundering legislation and programmes in accordance with relevant provisions of the 1988 Convention.

Stressing the special importance of cooperation in alternative development, Member States would emphasize the need for eradication programmes and law enforcement measures to counter illicit cultivation, production, manufacture and trafficking, paying special attention to the protection of the environment. In that regard, Member States would commit themselves to working closely with the UNDCP to develop strategies in order to eliminate or significantly reduce

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the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008.

Member States would undertake to promote multilateral, regional, subregional and bilateral cooperation among judicial and law enforcement authorities to deal with criminal organizations involved in drug offences and related crimes. States would be encouraged to review and, where appropriate, to strengthen by the year 2003 the implementation of those measures.

Convinced that the world drug problem must be addressed in a multilateral setting, Member States would call upon States which have not already done so to become a party to and fully implement the three international drug control conventions. They would also renew their commitment to adopt national legislation and strategies to give effect to the provisions of those conventions.

Member States would call for the establishment or strengthening of regional or subregional mechanisms, with the assistance of the UNDCP and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Those mechanisms would share experiences and conclusions resulting from the implementation of national strategies and report to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Community leaders, NGOs and the media would be called upon to promote a society free of drug abuse, especially by emphasizing and facilitating alternatives to the consumption of illicit drugs.

Reaffirming their commitment to overcoming the world drug problem through domestic and international strategies, Member States would recognize that action against the world drug problem is a shared responsibility. That would require an integrated and balanced approach in full conformity with the United Nations Charter and international law, and with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs of States, and all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Member States would reaffirm their support for the United Nations and its drug-control organs, especially the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and resolve to strengthen the functioning and governance of those organs. They would undertake to ensure that women and men benefit equally from strategies directed against the world drug problem, through their involvement in all stages of programmes and policy-making. In addition, Member States would affirm their determination to provide the necessary resources for the treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug abusers.

Guiding Principles of Drug-Demand Reduction

The declaration on the guiding principles of drug-demand reduction contains four sections: the challenge, the commitment, the guiding principles and call for action. An appendix to the declaration includes supplementary reference material for governments considering national drug control strategies.

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In the section on the challenge, the draft document notes that the most effective approach to the drug problem encompassed supply control and demand reduction, with the application of the principle of shared responsibility. Programmes to reduce the demand for drugs should: be integrated to promote cooperation between all concerned; include a variety of interventions; promote health and social well-being among individuals, families and communities; and reduce the adverse consequences of drug abuse for the individual and for society as a whole.

Member States would pledge a sustained commitment to investing in demand reduction programmes. Those programmes would contribute towards reducing public health problems, improving individual health and well-being, promoting social and economic integration, reinforcing family systems and making communities safer. They would agree to promote interregional and international cooperation to control supply and reduce demand. Member States would also adopt the demand reduction measures provided for in the 1988 Convention, and might enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements or arrangements aimed at eliminating or reducing demand.

The declaration's guiding principles should guide the formulation of the demand reduction component of national and international drug control strategies. Those strategies should be in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. Demand reduction policies should: be sensitive to both culture and gender; contribute to developing and sustaining supportive environments; and provide for and encourage active and coordinated participation of individuals at the community level.

In its call for action, the draft states 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. A community-wide approach was crucial to the identification of viable solutions and the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes. Demand reduction efforts should be integrated into broader social welfare and health promotion policies and preventive education programmes. Such reduction programmes should also address the needs of the population in general, as well as those of specific population groups, with special attention paid to youth. Programmes should be accessible to those groups most at risk, taking into account differences in gender, culture and education.

Governments should consider providing -- either as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to punishment -- that drug-abusing offenders should undergo treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration. Member States should develop within the criminal justice system capacities for assisting drug abusers with education, treatment and rehabilitation services. In that overall context, close cooperation between criminal justice, health and social systems should be encouraged.

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Measures to Enhance International Cooperation

A draft resolution included in the report on measures to enhance international cooperation to counter the world drug problem contains an action plan against illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse of ATS and their precursors (Part A); measures to control precursors (Part B); measures to promote judicial cooperation (Part C); a text on countering money-laundering (Part D); and an action plan on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development (Part E).

The action plan concerning ATS contains the following five sections: raising awareness of the problem of ATS; reducing demand; providing accurate information; limiting the supply; and strengthening the control system for ATS and their precursors.

The plan calls for a number of actions to ensure that the international community gives higher priority to combating the problem, including making it a regular item on the agenda of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. In addition to efforts by States, the mobilization of the private sector and NGOs should be sought in achieving awareness of the problem of ATS. States are also asked to take a number of steps relating to the social, economic, health and cultural dimensions of abuse of ATS.

Accurate information on ATS, the draft goes on, has now become accessible to a large population through modern technology. The text advocates the positive use of information technology, such as the Internet, for educational and training purposes. States should use technology to disseminate information on adverse health, social and economic consequences of abuse of ATS.

According to the action plan, the principal supply control strategies are to target trafficking, stop illicit manufacture and prevent diversion of laboratory equipment and precursor chemicals. The close cooperation of industry was required in preventing the diversion of ATS from legal international trade into illicit channels.

Part B of the draft resolution -- addressing the control of precursors -- contains the following three sections: measures to prevent the illicit manufacture, import, export, trafficking and distribution of precursors used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; towards more universal international cooperation in precursor control; and substitute chemicals.

States should establish a legislative basis that allows them to monitor the movement of precursors, the draft document states. In order to establish effective control systems, States need to identify national authorities and their specific roles and to share that information with other States. The rapid and timely exchange of information between importing and exporting States allows

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States to verify the legitimacy of individual transactions in order to prevent the diversion of precursors. States, in cooperation with international and regional bodies and the private sector, should also improve their mechanisms and procedures for monitoring trade in precursors.

According to the draft text, information on the normal patterns of legitimate trade and on the licit uses of, and requirements for, precursors is necessary to monitor the movement of precursors. The inability to collect such data may indicate that the framework and systems for adequate control are not in place, and that competencies in the field of precursor control have not been clearly defined. Traffickers have exploited, as points of diversion, States that have inadequate precursor control systems. More uniform action is required by all States to limit the availability to traffickers of the precursors required for illicit drug manufacture and to ensure that diversion attempts are identified.

Traffickers have also obtained chemicals that may be used as substitutes for those that are more closely monitored under the provisions of the 1988 Convention. In addition, they have used new methods for processing which require substances currently not listed in the 1988 Convention. To counter those developments, States should cooperate with the INCB in the preparation of a limited international special surveillance list of substances currently not listed in the 1988 Convention. They should also apply monitoring measures, in cooperation with the chemical industry, to prevent the diversion from licit channels to illicit traffic of substances included on the special surveillance list.

Part C of the document -- addressing the measures to promote judicial cooperation -- recommends that States take action in the following seven areas: extradition; mutual legal assistance; transfer of proceedings; other forms of cooperation and training; controlled delivery; illicit traffic by sea; and complementary measures.

States are asked to simplify procedures for extradition in domestic legislation and considering extradition of their nationals for serious drug offences. Regarding mutual legal assistance, the draft document recommends that States designate an authority to make and to execute requests for mutual legal assistance. The use of communication technologies, such as the Internet and facsimile machines, should be maximized.

The text recommends that States make available information on their experiences in the transfer of proceedings to other interested States. States should also consider entering into agreements with other States that have similar legal systems to transfer or receive proceedings in criminal matters. They should also develop or expand programmes for the exchange of law enforcement personnel.

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In addition, the draft recommends that States ensure that their legislation, procedures and practices allow for the use of the technique of controlled delivery at both the domestic and international levels. They should also ensure that national legislation meets the legal requirements of the 1988 Convention.

By Part D, on countering money-laundering, the Assembly would urge all States to implement the provisions against money-laundering contained in the 1988 Convention and the other relevant international instruments. In that context, States would be urged to establish a legislative framework to criminalize the laundering of money in order to provide for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of that crime. States were also urged to establish a financial and regulatory regime to deny criminals access to national and international financial systems.

The action plan on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and on alternative development, Part E, contains the following six sections: the need for a balanced approach to confront high levels of illicit cultivation; strengthening of international cooperation for alternative development; improved and innovative approaches to alternative development; enhancing monitoring, evaluation and information-sharing; the need for law enforcement in controlling illicit crops; and follow-up.

The plan advises States in which illicit cultivation of drug crops exists to develop national strategies for the reduction and elimination of illicit crops, including measurable goals and objectives. States should also implement national plans for alternative development, creating institutions and a suitable legal, economic and social framework. The international community and the United Nations system, in particular the UNDCP, should provide financial and technical assistance for alternative development. The United Nations system and financial institutions should also cooperate in supporting rural development for regions and populations affected by illicit crop cultivation.

International cooperation in devising improved and innovative approaches to alternative development should be adapted to the specific conditions prevalent in a given project region, the draft states. States should cooperate to avoid displacement of illicit cultivation from one area, region or country to another. States with problems of illicit drug crop cultivation are also asked to ensure that alternative development programmes are complemented by law enforcement measures.

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