UN MINISTERIAL MEETING FOCUSES ON LINKS BETWEEN DRUG TRAFFICKING
AND OTHER FORMS OF ORGANIZED CRIME
(Reissued as received.)
VIENNA, 17 April (UN Information Service) -- The clear nexus between drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, such as money laundering and illicit arms trafficking, as well as terrorism, featured prominently in discussions this morning, as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs continued its two-day ministerial segment.
The Commission, the central policy-making body within the United Nations system dealing with drug-related matters, analyses the world drug situation and develops proposals to strengthen the international drug control system.
The two-day high-level segment provided Member States an opportunity for a mid-term review of the progress achieved in meeting the goals and targets for the year 2008 set out in the Political Declaration, adopted in 1998 by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, devoted to countering the world drug problem together. At the “Drug Summit”, over 150 Governments committed themselves to achieving significant and measurable reductions of the illicit supply and demand for drugs by the year 2008.
Maria Rauch-Kallat, Federal Minister for Health and Women’s Issues of Austria, said that in an ever-globalizing world, the “dark elements” of society used loopholes in legislation and law enforcement more effectively. When the 1998 Political Declaration expressed deep concern about the links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime, no one could have imagined the atrocious reality of 11 September 2001.
Namibia’s Minister of Home Affairs, Jerry Ekandjo, noted that each year, transnational criminal groups illegally moved some one million illegal immigrants worldwide, yielding in excess of about US$ 3.5 billion. The drug business alone had a turnover of about US$ 500 billion per year in the late 1990s, of which close to 20 per cent had been laundered and used as legal investment. In all, some US$ 600 billion in ill-gotten money was laundered in the world every year.
The representative of Afghanistan said that criminal activities associated with drug trafficking and terrorism, financed by illicit drug money, increased the threat to local and global stability and security. Two decades of war had turned that country into a fertile environment for an explosion in illicit opium cultivation and illicit drug production. Opium
poppy cultivation provided the chance of relatively secure and substantial cash income, especially to the poor farmers.
Recognizing that the drug trade fed organized crime, Canada had launched its Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre, its representative said. Known as FINTRAC, its role was to collect, analyse and disclose financial information and intelligence on suspected money-laundering and terrorist financing activities.
Statements were also made this morning by high-level government officials of Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, India, Russian Federation, South Africa, Thailand, Canada, Namibia, Denmark, Sweden, United States, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Morocco, Myanmar, Singapore, Ghana, Slovakia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Cameroon, Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, Armenia and Mauritius.
The representatives of Panama and Paraguay also spoke, as did the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The Commission will meet at 3:15 p.m. to conclude its ministerial segment.
The forty-sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs met this morning to continue its ministerial segment. The two-day high‑level meeting provides Member States an opportunity for a mid‑term review of the progress achieved in meeting the goals and targets for the year 2008 set out in the Political Declaration, adopted in 1998 by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, devoted to countering the world drug problem together. (For further background, see press release UNIS/NAR/787 issued on 16 April.)
CONSTANTINA AKKELIDOU, Minister of Health of Cyprus, said that the extent of drug use, though not as serious as in the European Union countries, had increased considerably during the last seven years. That was an indication of the need for prevention strategies and particularly drug demand reduction policies. To tackle the problem, his Government had enacted the Law on the Prevention of the Use and Spread of Narcotic Drugs and Other Addictive Drugs.
Under that Law, the Cyprus Anti-Drugs Council, which constituted the supreme body responsible for the monitoring, coordination and evaluation of all anti-drug activities, both in the public and private sector, was established. Among the main functions of the Council were the elaboration of a National Anti-Drugs Strategy and Action Plan in accordance with the EU Drug Strategy and Action Plan and the United Nations Conventions, and providing the necessary resources for the treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug abusers.
Cyprus, she said, was used for a number of years as a meeting place for drug traffickers and as a transit point for narcotics from the Eastern-producing countries to the Western consuming countries. It had never been a drug producing country, with the exception of cannabis, where a small-scale increase had recently been noted in the illegal cultivation of plants for local consumption. Cyprus had ratified a number of international conventions on drug-related issues and had also concluded bilateral agreements with 13 countries concerning cooperation on security, including provisions for combating drug abuse and trafficking.
DRAGAN MEKTIC, Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that his country, a small State, had been born out of conflict. Following tragic events, Bosnia and Herzegovina was in the process of transition and stabilization. During the war, new forms of organized crime and corruption had emerged, representing a huge obstacle to development and democratic society. Money had come out of legal circulation and reached organized criminal groups. The country had seen increased drug trafficking. Youth were most often the victims of drug abuse.
He said strengthening of international cooperation was of primary importance in the fight against drugs. In that regard, national institutions must be strengthened in order to effectively fight drug smuggling and trafficking. Governments had to understand the significance of the problem and take an unambiguous and effective position on the issue. As anti-drug work was often carried out in a dangerous environment, professionals must be fully equipped and trained to deal with all aspects of the drug problem. Only highly developed, decisive and effective national institutions could contribute to a strong international cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.
Ineffective national institutions would likely threaten the drug control process, he added. Effective national institutions were part of strengthening international cooperation. Developing and harmonizing national legislation to fight drugs was also important. In the process of international cooperation, each country was important. Clear objectives were necessary. Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in all forms of international and regional cooperation in the fight against organized crime.
JEAN-FRANCOIS MATTEI, Minister of Health, Family and the Handicapped of France, said that the battle against drugs constituted a challenge for public health and required the mobilization of various actors in the international community. He applauded the integrated approach of the United Nations to combat that scourge, linking supply reduction with demand reduction and fostering international cooperation. With those elements, the international community was on the right path.
Five years after the special session, the progress achieved was obvious, he noted. Most States had established strategies for combating drugs, integrating demand reduction, prevention, treatment rehabilitation and reintegration, and involving partnerships with civil society, with a special emphasis on high-risk groups. It was necessary to be vigilant regarding new consumption, which required new action. The harmful impact of cannabis was well-established.
Meanwhile, he continued, new synthetic drugs had consequences on health, which must be studied. It was also necessary to revisit the difficulties with implementing harm reduction strategies. There was a lack of appropriate structures and institutions. Regional and international exchanges must be prioritized. In that context, France had organized a ministerial-level conference, to be held on 21 and 22 May in Paris.
GINGEE N. RAMACHANDRAN, Minister of State for Finance of India, agreed that notwithstanding encouraging progress since 1998, the goals of the General Assembly’s Special Session were still distant. The challenges ahead could only be met if Member State stayed on course and redoubled their efforts to implement their commitments. The United Nations Drug Control Programme enjoyed broad consensus and was devoid of controversy. Increased technical assistance and the provision of additional financial resources for developing countries in the fight against drugs was essential. India had been a victim of cross-border terrorism funded partly by drug trafficking for the past twenty years.
He said India was fully committed to the Political Declaration and had taken significant steps to implement the goals and targets to address the world drug problem. India’s geographical location between two major opium-producing regions in South-West and South-East Asia made it vulnerable to drug trafficking and abuse. India also had special responsibilities as a traditional producer of licit opiates to meet the world’s requirements of opiate raw materials for medical and scientific needs.
There was no large-scale illicit cultivation of opium, poppy or cannabis in India, he said. Whenever illicit cultivation or wild growth was detected, prompt action was taken. Regarding licit opium cultivation and its processing in India, it was tightly controlled with no possibility of diversion to illicit channels, he said. He was concerned, however, with the proliferation of licit cultivation of opium poppy and the building up of huge stocks. The international community was committed to safeguarding the interests of traditional growers of licit opium and a strong monitoring mechanism should be established to ensure compliance with those obligations. Regarding Afghanistan, the Transitional Authorities required massive international aid to detect and destroy poppy cultivation.
ANATOLY E. SAFONOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that in the past five years, the international community had achieved some progress in addressing the drug problem and international cooperation had been enhanced.
He welcomed the measures taken by the Afghanistan Transitional Authorities to implement the decrees prohibiting the illicit cultivation of opium, as well as its obligation to eradicate opium production in the country by 2013. However, the drug flow from that country was increasing on a dangerous scale. That was confirmed by the estimates provided in the report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which contained the opium poppy review in Afghanistan for 2002, as well as in the report of the International Narcotics Control Board for the same period.
While he appreciated the efforts made by donors in accordance with the decisions of the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan to counter the drug problem as part of the general plan of rehabilitation and reconstruction of that country, those efforts were aimed mainly at addressing the narcotics threat in Afghanistan itself. Measures being taken were essentially of a long-term nature and did not produce immediate results. Taking into account the spread of Afghan drugs, the international community had to undertake efforts to prevent their export from Afghanistan. It was important to expose the entire criminal chain of narcotics supply and to view the narcotics traffic as closely related to transnational organized crime and international terrorism.
ZOLA SIDNEY THEMBA SKWEYIYA, Minister of Social Development of South Africa, said sectoral areas within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a comprehensive development initiative within the African Union, were components into which drug control and crime prevention could be integrated. Cannabis remained the most disturbing substance of abuse on the African Continent. To address this complex problem South Africa was following broad social development programmes, including poverty eradication, job creation, education, housing and health.
South Africa was in a position to implement measures to combat drug offences, he said. Special legislation had been developed regarding mutual legal assistance, extradition, extended jurisdiction and international cooperation. Money-laundering harmed a country’s reputation and its people. Due to increased activities by authorities in developed countries, crime syndicates were shifting their activities to less regulated emerging markets, such as South Africa, that were in the process of liberalizing their markets.
Despite progress made in reducing demand for drugs, the drug market amongst South Africa’s young people was increasing, he said. Since 1998, South Africa had engaged in many drug prevention projects, such as “Ke Moja”, translated, “No thanks, I’m fine”, that target youth. With the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Pretoria, South Africa was in the process of improving the level of service delivery at drug treatment centres. South Africa was also concerned about the increasing link between drug use and abuse and HIV/AIDS, and most of its efforts focused on preventing risk-taking behaviour. South Africa would continue to establish mechanisms to fulfil the objectives set by the special session.
PHONGTHEP THEPKANJANA, Minister of Justice of Thailand, said that his Government regarded narcotics control as its top priority, and had declared a war on drugs, particularly on illicit manufacturing, trafficking and abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and their precursors. A holistic approach concentrating on both demand and supply was adopted to overcome the threats from ATS to save the society from its disastrous consequences.
A national campaign had also been formulated, he said, to address the drug problem, integrating the following pillars: the prevention of potential drug users and addicts from getting involved with drugs; the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers to decrease drug demand; and the suppression of drug producers, traffickers and smugglers, as well as precursors used for production, to reduce supply.
He said that international cooperation was the key to combating the global drug problem. A good balance between the legal framework and preventive measures could ensure effective cooperation between States at the bilateral, regional and international levels. No country was immune from the scourge of drugs. The international community, together, must strengthen cooperation among law enforcement authorities, improve laws in each county to get rid of the existing loopholes and effectively control precursors. That was urgently needed to contain and finally eliminate the threat of ATS, as envisaged in the Political Declaration. He also urged the ODC to assist States to counter that problem by closely monitoring and keeping under review the global drug situation, and linkages between drug trafficking and transnational criminal activities.
INGRID HALL (Canada) said that in her country, the socio-economic costs related to drug abuse were staggering. Those included health, lost productivity, property losses and criminal justice costs. However, simply identifying the costs was not enough. It was necessary to measure the negative impact of drug abuse and identify where and how costs were avoidable. That allowed for the implementation of programmes, which mitigated the negative effects of drug abuse, the optimization of strategic investment in drug policy programmes and activities, and measurement of progress over time.
Over the years, the traffic in illicit drugs had grown at an alarming pace all over the world, and Canada had not escaped its effects, she said. The clear nexus between drug trafficking and money-laundering, illicit arms trafficking and organized crime signalled the need for a strategy to counter the supply and demand of illicit drugs.
Canada’s drug strategy, she said, focused on both supply and demand reduction. It had undertaken activities on the international, pan-American and national levels. At the national level, it had put in place measures which enabled it to better monitor and control the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs. And because it recognized that the drug trade fed organize crime, it had launched the Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. Known as FINTRAC, its role was to collect, analyse and disclose financial information and intelligence on suspected money laundering and terrorist financing activities.
JERRY EKANDJO, Minister of Home Affairs of Namibia, highlighting the critical importance of regional and international cooperation, said his national drug control strategy could only be as strong as its links with neighbouring States and the rest of the world. Social and economic globalization had brought about the globalization of crime. Each year, transnational crime groups were involved in transporting illegal immigrants worldwide, a business worth over US$ 3.5 billion. The drugs business alone had a turnover of about US$ 500 billion annually in the late nineties, of which about 20 per cent had been laundered. In all, some US$ 600 billion in illegal money was laundered globally every year.
As regional and global economic integration intensified, the gathering of criminal intelligence from the global community would become more critical, he said. Inter-regional and international networks would have to be supported so they could interact more directly. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime should provide more technical assistance to deserving States in that regard. Developing countries were increasingly affected by the gamut of drug problems, he said. Regarding cannabis, Namibia joined with others in expressing concern about the adoption of lenient cannabis use policies. Such policies were counterproductive to developing countries’ efforts, especially in Africa. Drug-related problems exacerbated poverty and eroded the basic conditions for sustainable human development. Therefore the participation of Governments, civil society and the media in strategies to combat illicit drug trafficking was critically important.
LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN, Minister for the Interior and Health of Denmark, said that it was clear that a balanced approach combining supply and demand reduction measures, encompassing prevention and treatment, actually worked. At the same time, there were still some major problems to be solved. For example, the problem of reaching hard core drug addicts, who did not seem to benefit from medical and non-medical treatment, and the social services they were offered. Increasingly, quick solutions were being offered for such complex problems. Some of the proposed measures even collided with a key provision of international drug control treaties, namely that States were obliged to limit the use of narcotics exclusively to medical and scientific purposes.
What was needed, he said, was a broader and more coherent alternative to those problematic measures. The alternative consisted of sustained efforts to retain and develop the existing activities qualitatively and quantitatively. The object was to prevent the increase in new drug addicts, help current drug addicts and to fight drug-related crime. Action must be taken on a broad front, as social problems, drug abuse and drug-related crime were inextricably linked. The work must be done jointly by central, regional and local authorities, in close cooperation with the individual, the family, schools and private institutions.
MORGAN JOHANSSON, Minister of Public Health and Social Services of Sweden, said cannabis was the most widely and frequently abused illicit drug in the world. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates, some 147 million people used the drug annually and its use was rising, especially among youth. An increase in the availability of particularly potent versions of cannabis had occurred. Yet recent evidence showed that cannabis was more harmful than some had claimed, having long-term psychological or physiological effects.
Increasing use of cannabis among young people worldwide was not solvable through a loosening of existing regulations and drug control instruments, he said. Making cannabis more available would not solve the problem. Those arguing for evidence-based and a restrictive approach were sometimes accused of undertaking a sort of moral crusade. But the most important need was to listen to field experts, not focus on the morality issue.
He strongly disagreed with those who claimed that international drug control treaties were creating more problems than they solved. Governments must pursue a restrictive but balanced policy based on humanity, he said. Three core, closely interrelated, drug policy elements existed: prevention, law enforcement and treatment. Regarding the fight against drugs, it required efforts to promote sustainable development in a broad sense, including social inclusion, alternative development and reduction of poverty. The emerging policies towards a more liberal attitude on cannabis not only violated United Nations conventions, but also constituted a lack of respect regarding the idea of shared responsibility and international solidarity.
PAULA DOBRIANSKY, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs of the United States, said that confronting the scourge of drugs required a global effort. It required recognizing the link between financing terrorism and narcotics trafficking, between drug abuse and economic and social decline, between drug cultivation and damage to the environment, and between drug abuse and health problems, including HIV/AIDS.
Two months ago, she said, the United States had unveiled President Bush’s new National Drug Control Strategy for 2003. Made up of three core principles directly supportive of the commitments adopted at the 1998 special session, the strategy called for stopping drug use before it started, healing America’s drug users, and dismantling the business of the drug trade. In the key area of drug demand reduction, the United States had already seen encouraging declines of drug use among young people.
Her Government understood that prevention efforts must also be complemented with drug treatment, she noted. In that light, President Bush had recently announced a three-year, US$ 600 million commitment, to treating the addicted. That initiative would allow treatment providers, religious and other community organizations, workplaces, and schools to help drug users receive the treatment and support services that were best suited to their individual needs. “We should not, indeed we must not, abandon addicts to a lifetime of addiction to dangerous and debilitating drugs.”
JORGE ENRIQUE HALPHEN (Panama) said his country had always been convinced of the gravity of the drug problem and the need to achieve better results. The high-level of participation and quality of documents adopted at the special session testified to the need for shared efforts to reduce the supply and demand of illicit drugs. Only through coordinated actions by governments and civil society could the drug problem be tackled in all its forms and manifestations. Shared responsibility and a comprehensive approach were needed to deal with the scourge of drugs. Since 1999, the Panamanian Drug Monitoring Centre had been meeting to discuss the issue. The Centre’s web site had proven effective.
In line with the commitments outlined by the 1998 Political Declaration, he said Panama had ratified bilateral agreements with twelve States on the issue of money-laundering. Panama’s domestic legislation incorporated the provisions of international drug conventions. Panama had adopted new laws to fight money‑laundering. New legal provisions allowed for the sharing of information on suspect activities with law enforcement authorities. Aware that the drug problem went beyond Panama’s borders, Panama had joined various international initiatives on the question. Panama was also a signatory to regional legal instruments on issues such as money-laundering. Drug trafficking and organized crime were constant threats to society and no country could combat the phenomenon on its own.
AHMED SAMAK, Deputy Minister, director, Department of Drug Prevention, Ministry of the Interior of Egypt, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to implementing the three international drug control conventions. Egypt attached great interest to the question of combating drug supply. Throughout the year, Egypt had campaigns aimed at tackling narco-agriculture, and promoting alternative development to encourage those farmers who had willingly stopped the cultivation of illicit drugs. Egypt also had strict legal control over ephedrine, which had been used in the past for illicit drug production. His Government had also promulgated a law to combat money-laundering, and had issued a presidential decree to establish a unit to look into ill-gained funds.
Egypt was active in the area of international cooperation, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean, he said. It had signed a letter with the United Nations Drug Control Programme concerning training. His country was ready, willing and able to cooperate with all countries, international organizations and institutions to combat the drug problem. Regarding cannabis, he asked all countries to listen to what had been decided within the United Nations Drug Control Programme concerning cannabis in order to comply fully with international drug control treaties.
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said the 1998 special session had contributed greatly to strengthening international cooperation in fighting against the ever-increasing drugs problem. However, it remained a serious danger to the health, security and prosperity of all humanity. Azerbaijan’s climate and location made it attractive to international drug trafficking networks. Searching for new smuggling routes, international drug syndicates tried to use the country’s territory as a transit point from Asia to Europe.
In 2000, a new National Programme on combating the proliferation of drug addiction and trafficking was adopted by Azerbaijan’s President, he said. The programme covered all work dimensions in the drug control field. In 1999, Azerbaijan passed a law on illicit drug trafficking, psychotropic substances and precursors. As a result of such measures, more than 500 tons of illegally cultivated and wild narcotic crops were destroyed last year.
His Government gave much importance to international cooperation to combat the drug problem, he continued. In a short period of time, Azerbaijan had acceded to numerous United Nations conventions. In 2000, Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding between the Central Asian States on drug control cooperation. The potential for cooperation between his Government and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was great. One possible step could be the establishment of a regional office in Baku.
Regarding the fight against terrorism, as a member of the antiterrorism coalition, Azerbaijan shared the international community’s concerns regarding terrorist organizations’ involvement in drug trafficking.
RAFIC HADDAD, Chief of Staff, Internal Security Forces of Lebanon, said that his country had a zero-tolerance policy with regard to drugs and had adopted a clear stance on the issue, as defined by its Health Minister. Lebanon now had a national plan to fight the scourge, which was based on three pillars -- reducing supply, demand reduction and treatment.
On supply reduction, in 2002, Lebanon had destroyed all hashish crops - some 120 million square meters -- as well as 10 million square meters of cocaine crops. Cultivation of those crops had re-emerged in 2002 due to a farming crisis and the vulnerable situation of farmers in Lebanon. The authorities had also seized a large number of drugs, reduced drug trafficking
and cooperated with Interpol. In addition, large quantities of cocaine, some 40 kilos, had been seized at Beirut airport.
On demand reduction, he said the Government had public awareness programmes, courses, conferences and workshops in universities and schools, as well as information dissemination by the media, and civil society efforts. Regarding treatment, Lebanon had new legislation, which defined a drug addict as a person suffering from a disease and not as a criminal. Thus, such a person had the choice of going to hospital for treatment rather than face prison. Given the close relationship between money-laundering and drugs, as well as other forms of transnational organized crime, in 2001 the Government had adopted a law to punish money-laundering as a crime. It was necessary to increase cooperation to reduce the scourge of drugs. Since Lebanon had not received aid from donors, it had not been able to implement its plans completely.
FOUAD HAMADI, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Health of Morocco, said the fight against the drug phenomenon was not only based on ethnics, but also on the necessity of protecting society against the dangers of drug consumption. Joint global action was required. Morocco’s efforts in the area of supply reduction had been successful. New specialized units to fight illicit trafficking had been set up in Morocco’s customs offices with luggage scanning machines and other detection instruments. Psychotropic substances, a constant worry of Government authorities, affected the health of Morocco’s youth and were a major concern. Urgent measures were needed to combat the new scourge. The movement of chemical precursors was subject to well-coordinated control, and Morocco cooperated with international organizations in that area.
Regarding money-laundering, under Moroccan law, the confiscation of property and equipment used in illicit drug trafficking was possible, he said. Drug treatment for addicts was a priority. Awareness at all levels was essential. Morocco felt it was only through bilateral and multilateral action that the problem of drugs could be effectively combated. Cooperation, particularly in the area of information exchange had been intensified and security services had direct contact with liaison offices in Europe. Positions on all sides must be harmonized. Morocco supported the efforts of the United Nations and called for additional resources for its drug control efforts.
OSCAR CABELLO (Paraguay) said that all countries were producers, consumers and intermediaries with regard to drugs. Also, not everyone had the same amount of resources to tackle the drug problem. The differences between various types of narcotic drugs in international and national norms, based on scientific information believed to be indisputable, tended to be confusing. For example, some drugs were considered light or heavy, when a given product considered less harmful could have a greater impact. The distinctions between such drugs were increasingly becoming unclear.
He noted that some countries benefited from large aid programmes while others did not receive any assistance. That brought to the forefront the principle of shared responsibility. The problem of drugs in most countries was directly linked to the issue of poverty. It was well known that drug trafficking or drug production did not alleviate poverty, but only increased the wealth of a few. The link between drugs and other forms of crime and terrorism was a problem that was complex and required a flexible and coordinated response. Efforts in that regard must involve law enforcement, but prevention measures were even more effective and economical. Particularly effective were those that involved people directly.
Paraguay was directly involved in the struggle against drugs, he said. However, as a transit country, it was excluded from international aid. There was clearly an unfair playing field. The area of cannabis cultivation had doubled in his country. It was necessary to strengthen solidarity by, among other things, facilitating access to markets for alternative development products.
TIN HLAING, Minister for Home Affairs and Chairman of the Central Committee on Drug Abuse Control of Myanmar, said a strategy to develop the infrastructure of border areas to phase out poppy cultivation had gradually paid off with the establishment of an Opium Free Zone in 1997 in the Mong La area, Eastern Shan State. In 2003, the Kokang Special Region declared that it had ceased poppy cultivation. The Wa Special Region had guaranteed that it would totally stop cultivation by 2005.
In 1999, his Government had launched an ambitious 15-year plan to totally eradicate drugs by 2014, he said. Part of that project was a pilot programme entitled, “New Destiny” to set up seed banks and free distribution of substitute drop seeds to poppy farmers before the poppy season. Project sites were identified in high-density cultivation areas of the Shan State. Educational campaigns, crop substitution, livestock breeding, income-cottage industries had also been introduced by the Government in project sites. A total of some 165,965 kilograms of poppy seeds had been burnt and destroyed on nine different occasions. There had been a drastic reduction in the cultivation and production of opium in Myanmar.
A marked decline in the amount of opium and heroin seized within the country had also occurred in recent years, he said. The escalating problem of amphetamine-type stimulants, however, had urged Myanmar to coordinate with its neighbours as the problem was entirely different from opium-based drugs and poppy cultivation. Myanmar had no chemical industry and did not manufacture precursor chemicals to produce synthetic drugs. He urged the United Nations to strengthen its leadership in the fight against drugs and transnational crime, and called on Member States to lend assistance to the less developed countries.
VIJAKUMAR SETHURAJ, Acting Director, Central Narcotic Bureau of Singapore, said that his country took a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to tackle the drug problem, consisting of strict laws, vigorous enforcement, proactive preventive drug education, and rehabilitation. The Central Narcotics Bureau, the lead agency responsible for drug control, conducted regular raids against drug abusers and traffickers. Traffickers were also denied their ill-gotten gains obtained through the illicit drug trade. The Bureau also worked closely with its counterparts in neighbouring countries to exchange information and conduct joint operations.
Singapore was also active in preventive education, and had stepped up efforts on publicizing the dangers of abusing synthetic drugs, he said. A host of preventive education initiatives including talks, competitions, and other mass outreach activities had been organized to communicate the anti-drug message. The National Council Against Drug Abuse also conducted annual media campaigns to raise anti-drug awareness among the general public. The Council worked in partnership with the private sector, schools and the community at large to push the anti-drug message, particularly where it concerned youth. The Council also provided financial support to voluntary welfare organizations and self-help groups interested in assisting in the anti-drug fight or in drug rehabilitation.
Singapore’s total and integrated approach had been effective in tackling the drug problem, he said. The number of drug abusers had been steadily declining over the years.
KWADWO AFFRAM ASIEDU, Deputy Minister for the Interior of Ghana, said his Government had taken certain measures to contain the scourge of cannabis cultivation and its export, money-laundering, as well as the effects of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. Regarding cannabis cultivation, his Government had adopted an “Alternative Development Programme”. The village of Essam, noted for its large-scale cannabis cultivation, had been selected for the programme, as had other sites. This programme would be expanded.
Ghana had launched an onslaught against the threat of money-laundering, he said. The Ghana Narcotics Control Board had been able to confiscate some US$ 220 million from travellers coming from source countries. Ghana was concerned about certain Western States’ position regarding declassifying cannabis, which they claimed was potent in the cure of cancer. Such measures would render the efforts of countries such as Ghana to curb the cultivation of cannabis ineffective since it would encourage its cultivation and export. Ghana urged such countries to rethink their position on declassification.
He also appealed to the international community to support efforts to halt the use of African countries as transit routes for the trafficking of hard illicit substances. While his Government was determined to combat drug trafficking, it was constrained by lack of requisite financing and the international community’s support was needed to win the drug war.
PÁL CSÁKY, Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, said that drug abuse had become a problem affecting all countries. With its National Programme for the Fight against Drugs and the establishment of the Board of Ministers for Drug Dependencies and Drug Control, Slovakia had been able to implement the commitments undertaken at the special session. Several efforts in the fight against drugs had been successfully implemented in his country.
Among them, more stringent measures were used against illicit drug production and trafficking in the framework of the Penal Code. Also, illicit drugs were seized more frequently and in ever bigger quantities, and several criminal groups specializing in drug smuggling were uncovered. Recent data suggested changes in the drug scene in Slovakia. The peak of the heroin epidemic was over, or at least stabilized, and a new wave of synthetic drugs would need a new approach, mainly in the prevention field.
Cooperation within the framework of European structures was focused on the Council of Europe, especially on the Pompidou Group, he said. Also, Slovakia was fully committed to the implementation of tasks in cooperation with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. On the sub-regional level, several projects, within the Memorandum of Understanding of the Visegrad countries, Slovenia and the United Nations Drug Control Programme, had been finalized.
TRPE STOJANOVSKI, Assistant to the Minister for International Cooperation and European Integration, Ministry of Interior of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said the drug phenomenon threatened all spheres of everyday life. The opening of State borders and the free movement of goods had contributed to the development of organized crime. Narco-crime had allowed criminal groups to organize themselves using sophisticated means and weapons.
The Balkan region, he said, was an important transit area between East and West. Conflicts in the region had resulted in social breakdown and a weakening of political and legal structures. His country was not immune from certain forms of international crime, including illegal drug smuggling.
Because drug abuse was a very specific global phenomenon, an efficient prevention model had to be identified, he said. That model should encompass action by police, healthcare, customs and social services authorities. Aware that the fight against drugs could not be implemented only by State bodies, his Government had also cooperated with non-governmental bodies, which had significantly contributed to better public awareness of the complexity of the drug problem.
FARID AMIN (Afghanistan) said that two decades of war had turned the country into a fertile environment for an explosion in both illicit opium cultivation and illicit drug production. Criminal activities associated with drug trafficking and terrorism financed by illegal drug money increased the threat to local and global stability and security.
Under such conditions of high uncertainty, he continued, opium poppy cultivation provided the chance of a relatively secure and substantial cash income, especially to the poor farmers. The decision of farmers to grow opium had been made mainly to minimize their short-term risks. In addition, opium cultivation and harvesting, being labour-intensive, provided poor labourers, internally-displaced persons and returning refugees significant opportunities to gain additional incomes.
While Afghanistan was making every effort to regain its position as a peaceful and prosperous member of the international community, devoid of an illicit opium poppy economy, the government was looking forward to receiving continuous support and advice from the international community, in order to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in the National Drug Control Strategy.
HANSJŐRG FRICK, Minister for Public Health and Social Affairs of Liechtenstein, said his country did not want to criminalize young people, or force them into illegal practices because they consumed certain indexed drugs. Prosecution was not the right path for Liechtenstein. The greater the pressure of prosecution, the lower the access for preventive measures. An integration strategy allowed addicts to achieve low-risk consumption.
Liechtenstein had had no drug-related death for years, he said. The consumption of so-called hard drugs was not widespread among young people, as the great majority preferred a healthy lifestyle. Prevention projects were conducted among all age groups. Apprenticeship positions were available to all young persons. Unemployment was non-existent. Many young people were integrated into organized activities, such as cultural organizations and health clubs. Their legal protection had also been expanded in recent years. Tobacco consumption, however, posed a significant health problem. The Government had been focused on legal drug consumption and risky behaviour patterns endangering adolescents’ health.
Regarding money-laundering, he said the priority was making money-laundering a criminal offence, which was indispensable for prosecuting alleged offenders. Prevention was even more important. More progress must be achieved in establishing regulatory regimes. Liechtenstein had provided technical assistance for the worldwide establishment of effective regimes against money-laundering.
ALIM HAYATOU, Secretary of State for Public Health of Cameroon, said his country faced the ever increasing phenomenon of illicit drug production and trafficking. In 2002, Cameroon registered the first official request for cannabis production for medical purposes and export. Cameroon was used as an export hub to Europe by trafficking networks from neighbouring countries. A 2002 study on the drugs situation in Cameroon showed that 20 was the average age of users and cannabis, cocaine and anti-depressants were some of the most consumed drugs. Also, people in rural areas were the most exposed to drug use.
The struggle against drugs had prompted his country to ratify all three United Nations conventions, he said. At the regional level, his country subscribed to the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the Organization of African Unity in Yaoundéin 1996. Following the General Assembly special session, Cameroon undertook a number of actions to fight the scourge of drugs, including the creation of a national documentation centre and treatment centre in 2000. In 2002, it had created a special unit in the police department. Such measures had allowed Cameroon to significantly reduce drug use among young people.
However, he added, lack of resources had not allowed the country to achieve all its objectives. The struggle against drugs in developing countries should consider social, economic and cultural factors. If the international community did not urgently support the actions undertaken against drugs, the efforts of countries, such as his, would be futile.
LANCELOT SELMAN, Chairman of the National Drug Council of Trinidad and Tobago, said that in the Caribbean corridor, the main drugs chosen by traffickers and consumers were marijuana and cocaine. The introduction of synthetic drugs and heroin had also been identified. High unemployment levels and other socio-economic conditions rendered illegal drug production and trafficking an attractive occupation. Alternative development was certainly an option for countering the drug supply.
Drug networks offered employment in a range of activities that revolved around trafficking as against crop cultivation, he said. Even those engaged in marijuana cultivation were not essentially farmers, but criminal entrepreneurs. The issue of poverty reduction and job creation, especially micro-enterprise development, was a major component of his country’s national planning.
A related issue to the drug supply was that of strengthening law enforcement capacity to interdict drugs entering or transiting the region, he said. For the island States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that included strengthening police, port and border security, as well as that of maritime interdiction capability.
MARIA RAUCH-KALLAT, Federal Minister for Health and Women’s Issues of Austria, said that taking stock at mid-term, the international community could claim to have achieved some positive results under United Nations Drug Control Programme leadership. Coca production in Latin American was decreasing, as was opium production in South-East Asia. A growing number of countries were aware of the necessity for an all-encompassing approach to the drug problem, and for the need to display balanced demand and supply reduction measures.
On the other hand, she continued, resumed opium poppy cultivation and opium and heroin production in Afghanistan was disturbing. It challenged the international community to cooperate with the United Nations Drug Control Programme, lead countries and the Afghanistan Transitional Authorities to tackle the threat swiftly and effectively. To that end, Austria had contributed 2 million Euros to United Nations Drug Control Programme projects for police and judicial institution-building in Afghanistan. Another alarming global phenomenon was the rapid spread of ATS abuse, increasingly by youth in recreational settings.
In an ever-globalizing world, society’s dark elements used loopholes in legislation and law enforcement more effectively, she noted. When the 1998 Political Declaration expressed “deep concern about the links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime”, nobody could imagine the terrible reality of 11 September 2001. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was the only global body tackling all those threats to stability and the rule of law in parallel.
TATUL HAKOBYAN, Deputy Minister of Health of Armenia, said that his country’s limited transportation infrastructure meant it had no important role in illicit drug trafficking. Located at the crossroads of the “Golden Crescent”, however, Armenia could potentially become a transit route for drug trafficking. So far, international criminal structures were not interested in Armenia.
While climatic conditions allowed for opium, cannabis and poppy cultivation, they were only for internal use, he said. Drug control agencies jointly conducted annual preventive measures for destruction and eradication of such crops. In 2002, a new law on narcotic and psychotropic drugs had been adopted to more effectively regulate legal and illegal drugs. Armenia closely cooperated in information-sharing with many countries, and would seek to expand that cooperation in the future.
Effective drug control measures included strict control at border checkpoints and other possible places of drug use and distribution, he said. Other measures included control by health institutions of controlled drug lists, collaboration between Governments and non-governmental organizations, and preventive measures for drug abuse. Armenia was committed to the efforts of the international community to combat drug abuse.
SAMIOULLAH LAUTHAN, Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizen Welfare and Reform Institutions of Mauritius, said that among the steps his country had taken in the fight against drugs was the enactment of a financial intelligence and money-laundering act and the establishment of a ministerial committee, which he chaired. Mauritius was satisfied that it was doing a lot to implement the special session’s commitments. The Government had no access to figures, but now had established the necessary tools to provide reliable data on adolescent drug intake. Combating drugs was a complex issue, requiring an integrated and multi-dimensional approach.
Regardless of what was done, some drugs would permeate into his country, he said. Therefore, it was necessary to combat drug trafficking. Education was another key pillar in his country’s anti-drug strategy as were social reintegration programmes. No region was immune to the drug scourge and no country could tackle it alone. He, therefore, called for a global approach. Mauritius had begun to include NGOs, schools and religious organizations in its anti-drug efforts. In a few years, it had been possible to develop a strong sense of ownership so that all the latter felt part of the overall strategy. He hoped everyone would be able to mobilize their families and societies to form a strong coalition to fight illicit drugs.
PETER PIOT, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said AIDS and drug use were intertwined. Interjecting drug use was responsible for some 30 to 90 per cent of the HIV epidemic. Drug use was also associated with heightened sexual transmission of HIV. The link between drug use and AIDS must become the core business both of national drug control agencies and of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, led by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Sorely lacking was the capacity to move beyond isolated examples to comprehensive worldwide practice.
One barrier was resources, he said. The cost of comprehensive HIV prevention and care in developing countries was some US$10 billion annually. Last year, national governments, donors and the United Nations system spent around US$ 3 billion. Resources were not the only barrier, however. The energy which continued to be spent in battles over language was another. The delivery of comprehensive HIV prevention to drug users on the ground was more important than whether the phrase “harm reduction” was used in a policy document.
The best responses were built on three pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction and minimising the health and social consequences of drug use. Cooperation with drug users yielded better results than prosecuting them. New experience with alternative punishment modalities suggested there was another way out of the drug use/prison/HIV spiral. Today, the need for large-scale programmes to tackle the spread of HIV among drug users was more urgent than ever. A substantial part of the global AIDS epidemic was in the Commission’s hands.