HUMAN RIGHTS AND SCOURGE OF DRUGS, DRIFTING OF YOUTH, ROLE OF FAMILY AS STABILIZING FORCE AMONG ISSUES DISCUSSED AT SPECIAL SESSION19980609
It is fitting that the General Assembly's special session devoted to countering the world drug problem together is being held on the fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cameroon's representative said this evening as the Assembly continued its three-day special session.
The right to life, the most fundamental right, is threatened by drugs which jeopardize the freedom and development of young people, thus threatening the foundations of society, he said. The scourge of drugs yields disastrous consequences on the health of young people, the well-being of the family, the spread of crime, and the disruption of economies by financial flows of obscure origins. He called for assistance to developing countries to create programmes to rehabilitate street children and young criminals, and to assist farmers in developing substitution crops for international markets.
Kuwait's Chairman of the Committee for the Prevention of Narcotic Drugs said that drug abuse affects young people who are prone to falling into its traps. The drifting of youth is a sign of a spiritual void that afflicts humanity. Kuwait hoped that the special session's proceedings would highlight the significant role of the family which is a stabilizing force in a turbulent world.
The location of the United Arab Emirates had made it vulnerable to the scourge of drugs, the Commander and Director-General of the Police Aviation Corps at the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates said. Since drugs are so prevalent among youth, the Government had taken many preventive strategies. Specialized studies had shown that organized crime targets the poor and the unemployed to bring them into its ranks. The United Arab Emirates, therefore, works hard to find employment for all of its people, he added.
South Africa's Minister for Safety and Security said his country, having accomplished political transformation, is now striving to achieve a better life for all its citizens. Drug trafficking results in large segments of the population being excluded from the system of law, and keeps pockets of
General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
marginalized groups vulnerable to and dependent on illegal forces. While relying on finite resources to attend to the needs of its people, South Africa would increase its contribution to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), he announced.
Also addressing the Assembly this evening were the Minister of Health of Greece; the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Gabon; the Minister for the Interior and Security of Guinea; Nigeria's Attorney General and Minister of Justice; and the representatives of Cyprus, Uganda, Belgium and Malawi.
The Assembly will resume the general debate of its special session on the drug problem at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 June.
Special Session Work Programme
The General Assembly met this evening to continue the general debate of its special session devoted to countering the world drug problem together. (For background information, see Press Release GA/9410 of 5 June.)
COSTAS GEITONAS, Minister of Health and Welfare, Greece: The fundamental prerequisite for a successful fight against drugs is that all nations should assume their proper responsibility. States must also provide the United Nations with the necessary means to carry out the mandate entrusted to it. In addition, the world drug problem cannot be successfully tackled without the eradication of socio-economic ills, such as poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination, xenophobia, social exclusion.
Greece suffers from an increase in the illicit trafficking and abuse of narcotic drugs mainly due to its geographical position in south-eastern Europe, and its extended coastline and almost 3,000 islands. The Government has introduced legislation for combating drugs and related crimes, such as money-laundering, diversion of chemical precursors, and the manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
The Greek Government also gives high priority to the implementation of a drug-prevention policy. It has established an organization, which among other responsibilities, is charged with the dissemination of information, raising of public awareness, and promotion of preventive activities. Greece has also established treatment programmes aimed at detoxification and harm reduction for drug addicts. The social rehabilitation of former addicts is also a main priority. Measures have been taken to encourage, through subsidies, the public and private sector to employ former addicts.
CASIMIR OYÉ MBA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Gabon: Combating drugs means laying the groundwork for peace, stability and human progress to reign. It also guarantees respect for the rule of law and human rights, and prevents terrorism and criminal behaviour. Combating drugs guarantees the physical and moral health of the youth and their efficient integration into the life of their societies. It is pleasing today that the United Nations has opted for real solutions to the scourge of drugs on a world scale. In June 1989, Gabon held its first seminar on drugs. In December 1990, Libreville was the venue for the first seminar by the countries of the Economic Community of the Central African States on drug problems of the subregion.
Since the proclamation by the Organization that 1991-2000 was the United Nations Decade against Drug Abuse, the fight has intensified. The Gabonese
General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
authorities spare no effort and that includes helping non-governmental organizations and other administrations in the fight against drugs. Preventive, punitive and treatment measures are all now part of Gabon's legislation, and a department to treat drug addicts has been opened in the Melen Psychiatric Hospital in Libreville. Gabon is committed to implementing realistic policies to combat drugs. It has also created an anti-drug office, a toxicology office, and an institute to combat drug addiction.
GOURESSY CONDÉ, Minister of the Interior and Security, Guinea: Drugs are today at the centre of the international community's concern. Addressing the problem demands deeper thought. Guinea welcomes States taking concrete action to destroy networks for trafficking and consumption. The scourge of drugs affects all segments of societies, promotes crime and delinquency. In response, a preventive educational programme to be incorporated into schools has been initiated in Guinea, in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Government of Guinea has ratified international conventions and implemented policies against drugs. It has organized conferences to heighten public awareness, which was now the centre of the national strategy.
Multilateral and bilateral cooperation has led to several initiatives, including the creation of an inter-ministerial committee which coordinates the country's activities in accordance with the United Nations priorities of prevention, repression, treatment and social rehabilitation. Guinea's Central Office against Drugs coordinates repression services. The Government is determined to engage in all strategies to eradicate drugs. To prevent recycling of drugs and profits that have been seized, Guinea created a national committee to destroy drugs that have been seized. However, the country's efforts have been thwarted by insufficient numbers of qualified personnel and equipment. To make its national policy more dynamic, greater support from the international community is needed. The Government of Guinea is determined to fight drugs together with the rest of the international community.
ABDULLAHI IBRAHIM, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Nigeria: Since the adoption of the 1988 Convention, Nigeria established two national agencies to fight drugs and regulate the manufacture and importation of illicit substances. Additional national initiatives have ensured measurable success in the country's drug control efforts. The two principal drug enforcement agencies have effectively curtailed the drug menace in the areas of trafficking and abuse. Those efforts have been commended by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its reports of the last three years.
To consolidate those gains, Nigeria has put forth a coherent demand reduction strategy. The Government has realized that it is safer and cheaper to sustain a drug-free society than to address the treatment and rehabilitation
General Assembly Plenary - 4 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
of drug addicts. The strategy is implemented through several broad-based programmes of guidance and counselling, public enlightenment, social welfare and rehabilitation, drug education in schools, and research and data collection. On another front, Nigeria has continuously explored existing subregional, regional and global collaborative efforts towards controlling illicit drugs.
The cultivation of cannabis is widespread in Africa, and it is the most widely abused illicit drug in the continent. The cultivation and abuse of cannabis is affecting African States in the areas of public health and economic and social stability. There has also been an increase in the intercontinental trafficking of cannabis and other illicit drugs. In view of the global problem of cannabis abuse, there should be a greater commitment to eradication of the plant wherever it is cultivated. Therefore, the United Nations International Drug Control Programme's (UNDCP) plan of action for the eradication of narcotic crops should include activities for the elimination of cannabis plants.
KHALIFA AL-SHAALI, Commander and Director-General of the Police Aviation Corps, Ministry of the Interior, United Arab Emirates: The location of his country has made it vulnerable to the scourge of drugs. Since drugs are so prevalent among youth, the United Arab Emirates has taken many preventive strategies. Specialized studies have shown the Government that organized crime targets the poor and the unemployed to bring them into its ranks. The United Arab Emirates, therefore, works hard to find employment for all of its people. The efficiency of the security organs has also been enhanced and they have been given fringe elements combined with state-of-the-art technology to ensure success.
The programmes of the United Arab Emirates have come to fruition. There have been substantial seizures of heroin, hashish, and narcotic pills coupled with numerous arrests. The preventive organs have also promulgated legislation to deal with the phenomenon of illicit drugs. Banking measures have also been put in place to prevent money-laundering. Control has been exercised over the production and distribution of chemicals used in the production of illicit drugs. The United Arab Emirates has signed, adhered to and participated in all relevant conventions and treaties regarding drugs and fully supports the efforts of the international community to combat drugs, enhance judicial cooperation, combat psychotropic substances and prevent money-laundering.
SIDNEY MUFAMADI, Minister for Safety and Security, South Africa: The special summit was of historic importance to South Africa since it occurred at a time when the country, having accomplished political transformation, now has the will to achieve a better life for all, including the creation of a drug- free environment. Although organized crime is still inchoate in South Africa, the country's reintegration into the global village has increased the likelihood
General Assembly Plenary - 5 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
that local criminals will link up with the transnational dimension of organized crime. Legitimate means of global trade, such as telecommunications and finance have been turned into tools for achieving illegal profits. Traffickers are causing drugs to flow between countries within the southern African region and beyond, drawing South Africa into the complex web of transit points through which illicit profits flow. About 300 South African nationals are in custody or are serving sentences for drug-related offences in Latin America, Europe and other African countries.
In the four and a half years of its existence, the new South Africa has worked hard to give practical meaning to all the international instruments to combat the drug problem. The country is updating its legislation to bring it into line with international norms. The notion of dividing countries or regions into producing or consuming zones is not grounded in reality. The problem of drugs requires a package of balanced measures, as proposed by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. For that reason, South Africa fully supports the texts before the Assembly.
Drug trafficking keeps large segments of the population outside the system of law. Pockets of marginalized groups become vulnerable to and dependent on illegal forces. This problem seems to be more acute in incipient democracies than in established democracies. South Africa welcomes the commitment expressed by several donor countries to increase their contributions to the UNDCP. While relying on finite resources to attend to the basic needs of its people, South Africa has decided to increase its contribution to the UNDCP.
MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon): In this year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is fitting that the General Assembly is holding the special session against drugs. The right to life -- the most fundamental right -- is threatened by drugs which jeopardize the freedom and development of young people, thus threatening the foundations of society. The scourge of drugs yields disastrous consequences on the health of young people, the well-being of the family, the spread of crime, and the disruption of economies by financial flows of obscure origins. There is clear need for global and concerted action to attack both the causes and the effects of drugs, going beyond repression and increasingly dealing with prevention. What are the benefits of going after drug dealers if producers are allowed to prosper, if sprawling fictitious companies are allowed to keep ill-gotten gains? he asked.
Success depends on the international community's determination. Cameroon, which has acceded to various international instruments, supports the efforts of the United Nations and believes they must be intensified. Developing countries, since they are particularly vulnerable, need increased assistance, in particular for training and education programmes to generate income and employment for young people. There is need for programmes to rehabilitate street children and
General Assembly Plenary - 6 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
young criminals, and to assist farmers in developing substitution crops for international markets. By frontal attacks in those areas, real results will be achieved in the struggle against narcotic drugs. Cameroon tends to protect its youth and has taken measures to prevent the use of drugs. In addition, the country's legislative arsenal harshly punishes money-laundering, as well as drug production and trafficking. Cameroon fully supports the texts recommended to the Assembly for its approval.
SOTIRIOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus): The efforts of the international community will not lead to the desired results unless it faces up to the root causes of the drug problem. Poverty and socio-economic imbalances, unemployment, lack of opportunities in education, and the alienation of cities must be urgently addressed. Effective action is also necessary to reduce the production of crops, and crop substitution should be actively assisted, together with programmes of rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug addicts.
Although currently relatively drug-free, Cyprus considers drugs a mortal danger, and is actively pursuing a policy of customs controls, in cooperation with other European countries, in order to thwart attempts to use Cyprus for transshipments of drugs to Europe. Cyprus has also received international recognition for its efforts to counter money-laundering. The example of Cyprus proves that with determination and cooperation, a flourishing offshore centre could be at the forefront of international efforts for combating the international drugs trade. Unfortunately, the island of Cyprus is divided, and serious activities are taking place on the part of the island that is not under the control of the Government of Cyprus.
ABDUL RAHMAN ABDULLA AL AWADHI, Chairman of the Committee for the Prevention of Narcotic Drugs, Kuwait: Drug abuse poses a serious threat to mankind and affects younger people who are prone to falling into its traps. The drifting of youth is a sign of a spiritual void that afflicts humanity. It is Kuwait's hope that these proceedings would highlight the significant role of the family, which is a primary force in a turbulent world. Narcotic drugs have become a global plague that threatens the future generations of humankind. At the same time, the problem impedes social and economic development. It is extremely important that national drug control policies should be implemented by all sectors of society, using all national resources such as the family and the financial sector. International cooperation must also be effective and comprehensive, especially in the area of information and expertise sharing.
Kuwait does not perceive the drug user as a criminal, but sees that person as a patient who needs treatment in a clinic. That person receives adequate care and is not branded as a criminal. After rehabilitation, however, if there is a recurrence, then criminal proceedings are taken. A national committee has also been set up in Kuwait which proposes plans for action,
General Assembly Plenary - 7 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
mobilizes the general public and evaluates the progress and success of plans. Kuwait believes in the importance of social action at the regional and national level. It is also aware of international actions in the fight against drugs and appreciates the efforts of the United Nations to combat the problem. The punishment for some drugs should not be less than the punishment for others because it may tempt the youth to try those instead of others. Kuwait is confident that all efforts at the special session will bear fruit if there is genuine political will.
MATIA MULUMBA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda): There is reason to be optimistic about the future, as today's international climate is politically more cooperative. This session should, therefore, be a turning point on drug control. There was a time when only rich industrialized countries spent large sums to strengthen border patrols, law enforcement, judicial and health care systems as a result of drug abuse. Today, the problem is worldwide. Solutions must be multidimensional and practical.
Strategies to combat drugs should focus on the symbiotic relationship between drugs, underdevelopment and poverty. The agricultural rural sector needs to be diversified so that farmers have alternative cash crops. Alternative development programmes should include: sustainable social and economic opportunities; links to national development planning to ensure sustainable political and economic integration of areas involved in illicit cultivation; and a community-participation approach. The adoption of piecemeal or short-term measures, whether they encompass military options or not, will do little to address the current situation.
ALEX REYN (Belgium): As had been said for the European Union yesterday, drugs are a plague that transcends borders. Today, there is increased agreement on the need to improve international cooperation against drugs. There is a growing convergence between the interests of developed and developing countries. There exists broad interdependence among Member States. The current era is one of joint responsibility, and the United Nations has greatly contributed to the more balanced approach being taken to the problem of drugs. The Organization is now faced with strengthening its activities to counter drugs. Belgium supports strengthening the Office of Crime Control and Drug Prevention in Vienna. The political declaration to be adopted by the Assembly is an excellent tool that addresses drug supply, trafficking and international organized crime and money- laundering. The strength of the session's texts resides with its benchmark dates, with which Member States must comply. Between now and 2003, States will have to strengthen national programmes and take effective steps to counter money- laundering. Belgium will not stint on efforts to promote alternative development.
Concrete action should be directed towards improving the status of the UNDCP and the INCB. The purpose of the special session is to implement the text of the conventions and to send world opinion the message that drugs and
General Assembly Plenary - 8 - Press Release GA/9419 Twentieth Special Session 9 June 1998 6th Meeting (Night)
addiction are not inevitable, and that States have decided at all levels to combat drugs. In Belgium, possession of illegal drugs is punishable by criminal law. The country has recently taken steps to adapt and make uniform its policy on drug use and sale. Together with strict policies, there is need for a more understanding attitude when addressing the problems of addiction. Imprisonment for drug users should be a last resort in addressing the problem of illicit drugs.
DAVID RUBADIRI (Malawi): Although critics have questioned the overall drug policies and interventions that have sometimes been pursued, the serious threat that drugs pose to the social fabric of our societies has long been widely acknowledged. Indeed, the bottom line is this: there is no society that has not been negatively impacted in one way or another by this menace. Malawi, a producer of cannabis, is no exception. Recent trends reveal an increase in consumption and in trafficking.
Malawi is party to all the important international instruments in this area, and drug legislation has recently been revised to provide for stiffer penalties for drug trafficking. At the institutional front, the police has a special unit that deals with drug issues. There is also an inter-ministerial committee that advises the Government on matters of policy. On the supply reduction side, the police has carried out crop-destruction operations. Public awareness and rehabilitation programmes are challenges that the Government, with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations, is trying to confront.
* *** *