8 June 1998

Press Release


Opens Twentieth Special Session of General Assembly Devoted to Countering the World Drug Problem Together

Following is the text of the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the opening of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly devoted to countering the world drug problem together:

A very warm welcome to you all. I am delighted to see so many heads of State and government, ministers and senior officials in this great hall today.

You have come to New York because you know that we have reached a crossroads in the challenge to reduce production, trafficking and use of illegal drugs.

The proliferation of drugs over the past 30 years is an example of the previously unimaginable becoming reality very quickly. A tragic reality. It is my hope that when historians study the work of humankind in the field of drug control, they will write about the next few days as the point where this trend was reversed. It is my hope that they will record this as the time when the international community found common ground in the mission to create momentum towards a drug-free world in the twenty-first century.

The proposed Political Declaration before you is the product of months of hard work and effort. It is rare -- indeed almost unprecedented in United Nations history -- for consensus to be reached on substantive as well as political issues months in advance of a special session.

The groundbreaking Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Demand Reduction creates a balanced approach which, for the first time, addresses the responsibility of nations where consumption is a problem as well as that of nations where production is a problem. The Preparatory Body in Vienna has also put forward action plans on a series of important subjects: stemming the flow of stimulants and their precursors; judicial cooperation; combating money laundering; and collaborating on eradication and alternative development.

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In each case, a target date must be met. By the year 2008, Member States should have made real progress in eliminating or reducing significantly crops of opium poppy, coca and cannabis. The growing trend in abuse and production of psychotropic substances must be reversed. Special attention should be devoted to the rising tide of illegal synthetic drugs and their precursors.

These are not easy challenges to meet. There will always be those who are ready to throw in the towel. But we must never give in to the human toll illegal drugs are taking on our societies. There are 21 million victims around the world who abuse cocaine and heroin, and 30 million who abuse amphetamine-type stimulants. We cannot ease their suffering, or that of their loved ones, unless we fight this.

Last year, I designated Vienna as the centre of the United Nations fight against "uncivil society" -- those who use the benefits of globalization to traffic in illegal drugs, launder money, engage in terrorism and traffic in human beings.

Under the leadership of Under-Secretary-General Pino Arlacchi, the United Nations International Drug Control Programme has risen to the challenge. It has shaped a balanced and global strategy to implement the decisions that you will adopt during these crucial three days. This new vision represents a quantum leap from the piecemeal and pilot projects of the past three decades.

Drug trafficking has become a multi-billion dollar industry, leaving no country untouched. The International Monetary Fund estimates that 2 to 5 per cent of the world's Gross Domestic Product comes from laundered money. I strongly support the target date of 2003 for Member States to enact appropriate national legislation covering money laundering. Indeed, this is long overdue.

Tout comme le trafic de drogue, la toxicomanie ne connait pas de frontieres. Elle frappe sans distinction de classe, de sexe, de religion ou de race. Source de fractures sociales, elle engendre la criminalite, la corruption et la violence. Elle greve lourdement les services sociaux et favorise la propagation du Sida.

Trop de jeunes voient leur vie detruite par la drogue. Le desir de faire de nouvelles experiences est le propre de la jeunesse et c'est cette curiosite que les trafiquants de drogue exploitent sans scrupules. Nous devons faire comprendre aux jeunes que la drogue n'a rien de prestigieux, qu'elle n'est pas un passeport pour une vie meilleure. Pour s'en convaincre, il suffit de regarder n'importe quel toxicomane.

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Young people need their leaders to take action, together, to counter the production, trafficking and abuse of illegal drugs. Their future is in our hands. Over more than 30 years in the United Nations system, I have learned that when we pull together from all corners of the world to try to solve a problem, we will almost always succeed. Let this be one of those occasions. We will make mistakes along the way, and we will suffer disappointments. But let us not cease trying. It is time for every nation to say "no" to drugs. It is time for all nations to say "yes" to the challenge of working towards a drug-free world. Thank you.

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