8 June 1998


8 June 1998

Press Release


19980608 Hennadiy Udovenko (Ukraine) Notes Diminished Ideological Divide Provides for Cooperation between Producing and Consuming Nations

Following are the opening remarks of the President of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, on 8 June:

It is a great honour and privilege for me to be elected President of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly devoted to countering the world drug problem together. I am very grateful to all Member States for the support of my candidature and I look forward to working together with you on accomplishing the main task of this session -- the development of a forward-looking strategy for the twenty-first century. For me personally, the opportunity to preside over this forum is especially significant, since I have vivid memories of the previous special session on this problem. As the representative of Ukraine to the United Nations at that time, I was proud that my country came up then with the initiative to proclaim the United Nations Decade against Drug Abuse.

Looking back at that special session eight years ago, we can see that the alarm sounded then proved to be remarkably prophetic, as the drug problem has steadily become a major concern of an ever-growing number of countries. The illegal drug trade has reached staggering proportions and, together with organized crime, it now poses a deadly threat to the world in the next century. With an estimated worth of more than $400 billion a year, the trade in narcotics is one of the most profitable underground businesses, larger than the oil and gas trade or the chemicals and pharmaceuticals business, and twice as big as the motor vehicle industry. The amount of money involved in drug trafficking is assuming such proportions that it is now capable of tainting or destabilizing global financial markets. Even more dangerous, drugs are tearing apart societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as AIDS, and killing youth -- the most vulnerable part and the future of our societies. The drug problem, in other words, has become a global phenomenon and no nation can feel secure from this menace.

On the other hand, recent years have been marked with other trends which gave the international community an unprecedented opportunity to make real progress towards achieving the ultimate goal of a drug-free world. At the turn of the millennium, the ideological divides have diminished to provide a more cooperative climate for dealing with global issues, including the blurring of previous policy differences between producing and consuming nations. At the same time, years of drug control activities have identified the know-how and technologies that promise success. Both of those tendencies have brought a strong commitment on the part of the United Nations membership to combat the illicit drug trafficking in a balanced way, striving to reduce supply and demand simultaneously.

These encouraging signs, however, should in no way lead to complacency or reduced vigilance. An issue of enormous complexity, the drug problem cannot be wished away by good intentions and the international community must be prepared for a long and gruelling fight. To be successful, it would need clarity of vision to formulate overarching policies and strategies, as much as it would have to be result oriented, pragmatic and innovative in its day-to-day drug control activities.

In this regard, I am particularly pleased with the results of the preparatory process leading up to this special session. True to the current reformist spirit at the Organization, Member States broke with some of the past traditions of handling global problems at such forums. They opted for a more condensed format, with a clear intention not only to give a global overview of all aspects of the drug problems, assess the worldwide drug situation or review the existing control regime, but also to forge an effective drug control strategy and clearly define target dates for achieving its goals. I would especially like to commend the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, Alvaro de Mendonca e Moura, for his vigour, enthusiasm, foresight and flexibility in performing his duties and steering the preparatory process towards its successful outcome.

Three main draft documents which have evolved as a result of several rounds of negotiations provide a solid framework for improving the international community's performance in key areas of international drug control: the draft political declaration, the draft declaration on the guiding principles of drug demand reduction and the draft action plan on international cooperation on the eradication of illicit drug crops and alternative development. Demonstrating political commitment to fighting all aspects of the drug problem at both the national and international levels, their provisions represent a clear reference for a new global strategy which received full endorsement during the preparatory process.

A crucial aspect of this new strategy lies in refocusing the efforts of the international community on people rather than just on the drugs

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themselves, which requires a shift from the "firefighter" approach to a more genuinely global and long-term view. Therefore, it is quite natural that the goal of reducing drug demand was defined as a key element of that strategy, together with eradication of illicit drug crops and promotion of alternative development.

This special session has tremendous potential for becoming another milestone in tackling the drug problem. It has before it a set of substantive, far-reaching and action-oriented documents. But we will certainly have failed in the eyes of the world if we do not work as hard on implementing these declarations and intentions as we did on drafting them. Even the most clearly defined tasks with a strict timeline of target dates will remain unfulfilled if they are not followed up by concrete actions. To bring them about, we need to create a new international partnership, based on the principle of shared responsibility. We must also strengthen the international drug control machinery and find innovative ways to fulfil, both at the national and international levels, the new ambitious commitments we are about to take upon ourselves.

In this context it is hard to overestimate the importance of the already existing international tools: the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the International Narcotic Control Board, the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the system of international legal instruments. The role of the UNDCP, which has already made great strides under the leadership of its Executive Director, Pino Arlacchi, should be further enhanced, turning it into a recognized centre of competence and an international point of reference on drug control. Strengthening the legal framework to improve the application of drug control laws is essential for the success in the global fight against illicit drugs. Without effective intergovernmental cooperation in such areas as extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings, virtually none of the international treaty provisions against drug trafficking can be implemented. Promoting government adherence to and implementation of international legal instruments in this sphere, together with the adoption of enabling legislation, should be another important objective of follow-up activities.

Speaking about international efforts to combat drug abuse, one should not overlook the vital role of civil society. Forging a new partnership with non-governmental organizations, the private sector, labour unions, local communities and individual families is a prerequisite of long-term success.

Our session is taking place against the background of ongoing reforms of the world body as it prepares itself to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. This special session of the General Assembly is thus providing the international community with a unique chance to demonstrate once again that the United Nations is a dynamic and vibrant organism, capable of

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dealing with the tasks of major global concern. It can show the world that despite the forbidding complexity of the issues involved and often divergent national interests of its Member States, the United Nations can be truly united in the face of a common threat and can work with determination, creativity and effectiveness for the common good. I have no doubt that the results of this session will bear out this optimism and I wish you great success in this endeavour.

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For information media. Not an official record.