‘We Have Declared a War that Has Not Been Won,’ Speakers Say, Calling for People-Centred Response
Insufficient progress in combating the illegal drug trade called for a new global approach that moved beyond a heavy focus on prohibition and addressed consumption from a holistic public health perspective that placed individual human rights and well-being at its core, speakers said today in a General Assembly high-level debate devoted to the issue.
Today’s thematic event was held as part of preparations for the Assembly’s special 2016 session to review the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, adopted in Vienna in 2009. The day featured a plenary debate, which heard calls for a global approach that considered judicial, economic, social and cultural strategies, as well as two panel discussions on “Achievements and challenges by Member States in countering the world drug problem” and “The importance for Member States of implementing a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the world drug problem”.
In opening remarks, Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly, said no country or society was immune to the menace of the multi-billion dollar illicit drug “enterprise”. While countries had been “fighting back” with some success, resources could have been used more effectively for development-related initiatives. Collective action must focus on prevention and providing treatment and care to persons affected by drug addiction.
In addition to implementing the three drug control conventions, he said States must use the tools contained in United Nations instruments on corruption and transnational organized crime in efforts to combat drug trafficking, money-laundering, wildlife and forest crime and other illicit activities. Balancing supply and demand reduction strategies was also needed, as was awareness-raising of the impact of drug consumption on producers and transit countries.
“The war on drugs is, in fact, a painstaking, laborious, often thankless and seemingly unending” struggle, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said. Criminal networks that thrived on the drug trade undermined stable societies by feeding corruption and hampering democratic governance. Illicit drugs were also a major funding source for non-State armed groups.
At the international level, he said, the ever stronger links between transnational organized crime, terrorism and extremist violence constituted a “very serious” new threat. People who used drugs faced discrimination and stigmatization, while those involved in production included vulnerable groups in isolated and conflict areas, many of whom were exploited by crime syndicates. He advocated a “careful balancing” of elements of a global policy through a focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies.
Along similar lines, Arthayudh Srisamoot (Thailand), Chair of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, said the drug challenge required collective efforts by States, United Nations entities, regional organizations and all other stakeholders. The Commission, requested by the Assembly to embark on the preparations for the 2016 special session, had intensified its work through various initiatives, including thematic discussions, during which participants shared experiences in efforts to strengthen international action against the drug menace.
During the plenary debate, ministers and other senior officials said that 15 years after the first commitments were made to address the world drug problem, it was time to recognize that policies had not achieved the desired results. Suppression of the illegal drug economy was an inadequate response. Criminal networks that controlled production were continuously modifying their structures to circumvent authorities. Viewing the problem through the lens of origin, transit and destination countries was also outdated, some said, as the illicit market had adapted to State responses and laid bare the need for more flexible solutions.
“We have declared a war that has not been won,” said Yesid Reyes Alvarado, Minister for Justice and Law of Colombia, a challenge that required a more people-centred response. A new global focus should align policies with human rights commitments, guarantee the right to health from a public health perspective, promote the participation of United Nations agencies in pursuing transnational organized crime, and decriminalize consumption.
Broadly agreeing, Mark J. Goulding, Minister for Justice of Jamaica, said the narrowness of past approaches had undermined sustainable development, democratic processes and the rule of law in many countries. The need for a more holistic approach was now widely accepted — one that prioritized health and wellness, human rights, human development and safety, with the aim of reducing the negative effects on people’s lives.
Pointing out that a focus on public health had emerged as part of a “paradigm shift” in the 1990s, Miguel Angel Osorio, Secretary of the Interior of Mexico, said it was now time to ensure that actions also focused on the well-being of communities. The solution lay in prevention, he said, stressing a need to reconsider the scope of regulatory regimes.
With that in mind, Luis E. Arreaga, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States, said the 2016 special session should lead to operational drug policy reforms accomplished within the framework of the three United Nations drug control conventions. He supported judicial and law enforcement cooperation, stressing that civil society groups, which were often the closest to the problems, should contribute to the 2016 process by offering their expertise on such issues as access to medicine, treatment and improvements to criminal justice programmes.
Also speaking in the high-level plenary debate were senior officials from Guatemala, Argentina, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States also spoke.
SAM KUTESA, President of the General Assembly, said the high-level thematic debate was being held in support of the preparatory process for the Assembly’s 2016 special session, which constituted a unique opportunity for an open discussion among Member States ahead of the 2019 target year for the implementation of commitments and targets set out in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.
The outcome declaration of the thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Doha in April, underlined the international community’s collective resolve to intensify efforts to address the world drug problem based on the principle of common and shared responsibility. The “Doha Declaration” also elaborated on the need for a comprehensive and balanced approach to supply and demand reduction strategies. No country or society was immune to the menace of the multi-billion dollar illicit drug “enterprise”, he said, stressing the need to place people at the centre of all efforts.
While countries had been “fighting back” with some success, resources could have been more effectively used for development-related initiatives. Collective action must focus on prevention and providing treatment and care to persons affected by drug addiction. In addition to fully implementing the three drug control conventions, the international community must effectively use other tools, including those contained in United Nations instruments on corruption and transnational organized crime, in ongoing efforts to combat drug trafficking, money-laundering, wildlife and forest crime and other illicit activities. Balancing supply and demand reduction strategies was also needed, he said. Further, raising awareness of the impact of drug consumption on producers and transit countries and implementing alternative development strategies were among additional necessary steps. In closing, he hoped the debate would serve as a valuable contribution for the 2016 special session.
JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General, said today’s event offered an important opportunity to take stock on the road towards the General Assembly’s special session in 2016, when States would consolidate approaches and integrate a range of perspectives on drug issues. The drug trade threatened peace and security at national, regional and international levels, he said.
At the national level, criminal networks that thrived on the drug trade fed corruption and obstructed democratic governance. Illicit drugs were also a major funding source for non-State armed groups, undermining hard-won progress on peace and development, respect for human rights and the rule of law. At the international level, the ever stronger links between transnational organized crime, terrorism and extremist violence constituted a “very serious” new threat. From West Africa to Central Asia, trafficking had jeopardized peacebuilding, which was why tackling that scourge had been included in the mandates of United Nations peace operations in countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Afghanistan.
Moreover, he said, people who used drugs faced special barriers, including health hazards, psychological strains, discrimination and stigmatization. Those involved in production often included vulnerable groups in isolated and conflict-affected areas, many of whom were exploited by crime syndicates. Preventing drug use, treating dependence, providing health care and supporting alternative livelihoods were essential aspects of a balanced drug control approach.
“The war on drugs is, in fact, a painstaking, laborious, often thankless and seemingly unending” struggle, he said. Going forward, countries that had integrated public health into drug control work had achieved better effects and social benefits and had improved the rule of law and security. As such, the priority must be on promoting health-based responses that offered care for drug users. Access to controlled substances for medical purposes must be ensured and policies must be adopted to prevent the spread of hepatitis, HIV and tuberculosis. Also needed were measures to prevent drug use among young people without criminalizing them.
At the international level, he advocated a “careful balancing” of elements of a global policy through a focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies. Such a multisectoral approach should drive evidence-based work and draw on robust analysis and research. At next year’s review, States must set the course for national and international policies that respected human rights and strengthened societal cohesion.
ARTHAYUDH SRISAMOOT (Thailand), Chair of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, said the drug challenge was a global one that required collective efforts on the part of Member States, United Nations entities, regional organizations and all other stakeholders. The Commission, requested by the Assembly to embark on the preparations for the 2016 special session, had intensified its work through a variety of initiatives, including thematic discussions on specific topics. The discussions allowed participants to share experiences in an effort to strengthen international action against the drug menace. A youth forum and scientific consultations were held in parallel to formal discussions, he said, stressing that the Commission intended to provide all stakeholders with a platform. The journey towards a successful special session continued and today’s deliberations would provide constructive contributions to guide the path ahead.
YESID REYES ALVARADO, Minister for Justice and Law of Colombia, said criminals controlled drug production, continuously modifying structures to circumvent authorities, and drug policies had not achieved their intended results. “We have declared a war that has not been won,” he stressed, a challenge that required a more people-centred response. For its part, Colombia had dismantled drug production and trafficking structures, preventing cocaine and other drugs from reaching their destinations. Viewing the problem through a lens of origin, transit and destination countries was an artificial construct, as the capacity of the illicit market to adapt to State responses had shown the need for more flexible solutions. Suppression of the illegal drug economy was an insufficient response, he said, urging a focus on dismantling networks and addressing consumption from a public health perspective that recognized users’ rights. Drug policies should also consider that State actions could lead to negative results beyond their borders. A new focus should include aligning policies with human rights commitments, guaranteeing the right to health from a public health perspective, promoting the participation of United Nations agencies to pursue transnational organized crime and decriminalizing consumption.
MARK J. GOULDING, Minister for Justice of Jamaica, said that the geographic location of the Caribbean region and its porous borders made it ripe for long-terms use as a transhipment point for drugs. Coordination fell under the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, within the region’s Crime and Security Strategy. Nevertheless, security measures were often insufficient to deal with the more sophisticated ploys used by drug traffickers. “We are seized with the importance of suppressing illegal international drug trafficking and the illegal export of drugs […] as we grapple with the corrosive implications of narco-trafficking for governance, law and order, health and socioeconomic development,” he said. The narrowness of past approaches had undermined sustainable development, democratic processes and the rule of law in many countries. The need for a more holistic approach was now widely accepted, one that prioritized such elements as health and wellness, human rights, human development, and safety, with the aim of reducing the negative effects on people’s lives and on vulnerable populations. His delegation sought several outcomes from the Assembly’s special session, including the creation of an expert advisory group to review the United Nations drug policy control architecture.
MIGUEL ÁNGEL OSORIO, Secretary of the Interior of Mexico, said insufficient progress on combating the drug problem called for an evaluation of the current strategy and an analysis on what adjustments were required. The global phenomenon had multiple causes that required a perspective of common and shared responsibility. Since the end of the 1990s, there had been a major paradigm shift acknowledging that a global strategy must focus the same attention on the demand for illicit drugs as production and trafficking by adopting a public health approach. It was now essential to engage in a further effort to ensure that actions were also focused on the well-being of communities. Mexico had experienced the impact of the drug problem, including a breakdown of social ties and victimization, and was open to discussing better alternatives for dealing with the issue while it was targeting the root causes of violence and crime. The fundamental solution lay in prevention, he said, stressing a need to reconsider the scope of regulatory regimes by proposing solutions that provided a deterrent and incorporated a focus on the well-being of the individual and society, in alignment with relevant international instruments, including those concerning human rights.
RODRIGO VIELMANN, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, underscored the shared responsibility to implement global conventions, which should be interpreted with broad and balanced approaches. After half a century, the world had seen that the “prohibition model” had not achieved the desired results, allowing traffickers to perpetrate related criminal activities that had led to human rights abuses. Indeed, the sole focus on prohibition was insufficient. As a transit country, Guatemala had seen how synthetic drugs had spread, hampering its efforts to strengthen national institutions. Its link with arms trafficking and money laundering was another challenge. “We must find a response to this geopolitical and economic reality,” he said, noting that Guatemala had set up a national committee for drug policy reform, part of a broader process to better respond to national needs. Stressing the importance of sovereignty, he said Governments must implement policies that responded best to their country’s needs, which would differ from one country to another. Responses would vary, but efforts could be pooled through United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to ensure balanced results.
JUAN CARLOS MOLINA, Secretary of State, Secretariat for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and Fight against Drug Trafficking of Argentina, associating with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressed the need for an honest and sincere evaluation of the global policies on drugs. Joint action was needed to tackle the issue, including broadened participation in the search for the root causes and solutions. More than 15 years had passed since the last special session, which called for stringent measures. However, the situation had worsened. There should be greater focus on countries that consumed drugs, where the illicit gains were being made, and how such money was being used to finance terrorism and other global threats. Drug trafficking involved lives, dreams, finances, schools, neighbourhoods, sadness, death and other essential aspects of daily existence. The region should speak in a united voice in defence of the inalienable dignity of human life. The international community must seize the opportunity provided by the special session next year by addressing those and related questions.
RODRIGO VELEZ, National Secretary of the Council on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control of Ecuador, said his country had changed the language on drugs by emphasizing the dimensions of human rights and dignity. That vision was rooted in the recognition that the war on drugs had failed. The drug policies of the United Nations must be changed profoundly from a model based on reducing supply and demand to one based on decriminalization, proportionality and social cohesion. The issue of money laundering could not be divorced from the debate, especially since most of the illicit activities found their way to developed States. A multidisciplinary international committee should be established to consider new initiatives based on national experiences and needs.
LUIS E. ARREAGA, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States, said the special session should lead to tangible operational drug policy reforms accomplished within the framework of the three United Nations drug control conventions. Indeed, the special session was an opportunity to translate science into effective policies, he said, advocating evidence-based treatment interventions. Best practices in criminal justice reform could also be shared. Recently, the United States had focused on the unintended consequences of drug abuse policies, including prison overcrowding. “We cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of the drug problem,” he said, citing reforms in the United States to encourage alternatives where appropriate. Third, he supported judicial and law enforcement cooperation, citing the complex challenges of chemical diversion as one area that could benefit from that. Civil society could contribute expertise to the special session process, including on such issues as access to medicine, treatment and improvements to criminal justice programmes.
FIDIAS ARISTY PAYANO, President of the National Council for Drugs of the Dominican Republic, said that although his country did not face the problem of drug cartels, it had long been dealing with transhipments, which posed growing threats to its social stability. In tackling the complex problem, international agreement often seemed elusive. That, however, should not justify inaction, especially given the disproportionate effects of the scourge on the young and society’s most productive segments. Furthermore, solutions that produced different outcomes in developed and developing countries should be avoided, he said, stressing the need to raise awareness through education. Policies must focus on the dignity of the human being and fully respect international conventions which were in force. The attention paid to security had been to the detriment of public health, a situation that must be changed through the participation of all sectors of society.
JOSÉ MIGUEL INSULZA, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, said drug trafficking, cultivation and sale were realities in his region. “We need a regional approach,” he said, noting the advent of the inter-American convention for drug control three decades ago, which included strategies to meet State needs, based on health, prevention and alternatives to incarceration. At the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Heads of State had addressed two issues: increased drug consumption — which had led many to question the view of “producer and consumer” countries — and the connection between drugs and finance. Against that backdrop, he said the approach to combating drugs could no longer be purely repressive. He urged examining the problem of drug use in connection with its decriminalization for personal use. On financing criminality, he said each stakeholder earned a lot of money, which, for the most part, remained in the countries where drugs were used — developed countries. A new approach must be based on science. Health systems must be strengthened to include social rehabilitation, alternatives to incarceration and reform of sentencing systems.
The morning panel, on achievements and challenges by Member States in countering the world drug problem, was co-chaired by María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia, and Álvaro Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal. The panellists were: Ruth Dreifuss, Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and former President of Switzerland; Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan; Milton Romani, Secretary of the National Drug Board of Uruguay; and Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan.
Introducing the panel, Ms. VÉLEZ said no country was being spared the serious problem of drugs and its interlinkages, which gave the United Nations a heavy agenda. While there were no easy answers and the effort would require much time and resources, there was no alternative to concerted action.
Mr. MENDONÇA E MOURA stressed the need to take stock of achievements, and lack thereof, since the last special session of the General Assembly on drugs in 1998. Innovations had been introduced in the realization that drug addiction must not be criminalized. Greater emphasis had been placed on treatment and education, while it was acknowledged that not all responses were effective or even legitimate. While no direct correlation could be established between decriminalization and improvements in indicators, the shift in emphasis did provide an opportunity to consider a wide range of policy options based on solid scientific evidence and human rights protection.
Ms. DREIFUSS said the failure of the international drug control regime necessitated a change of approach. The inadequacies were first felt at the local level and had had now spread. The militarization of the anti-drug effort needed to give way to comprehensive and multidimensional public policies. Before that, the international community should revisit the objectives set out in the three international conventions and discover the abysmal failure witnessed on the ground.
It was troubling to note the formidable growth in the numbers of inmates was in large part due to convictions under drug laws, she said, and expressed satisfaction at the growing role of a multiplicity of stakeholders in efforts to devise a coherent and effective response. Reorientation of measures in different countries and contexts had provided enough evidence in support of a new and concerted global approach to fighting drugs.
Mr. TANIN said that the drug problem in Afghanistan was fuelled by almost 40 years of instability, war, conflict and violence, and was exacerbated today by the interrelated challenges of terrorism, armed activities, criminality, insecurity, corruption and poverty. The scourge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan impoverished thousands of farmers who became indebted to drug traffickers, money lenders and criminals. “Unless we eradicate the cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs in our country, our hard-fought efforts for the consolidation of peace, security and development will be in vain,” he said.
Since the establishment of the country’s counter-narcotics strategy in 2003, Afghanistan had achieved a number of major successes, he said. Nevertheless, there was an increase last year in the consumption and production of illicit drugs. The Government had prioritized its counter-narcotics efforts as a cross-cutting element in its reform agenda; Afghanistan’s emphasis on regional cooperation and connectivity was also paramount. Finally, eliminating the threat of drugs required genuine, comprehensive global and regional strategies to implement both drug supply reduction and, crucially, drug demand measures.
Mr. ROMANI stressed the need for a comprehensive and balanced drug policy in line with international human rights instruments. The failure of the existing “war on drugs” required the international community to open up to new solutions by asking harsh questions on such issues as the death penalty, mandatory incarceration and inflexible interpretation of conventions.
He said there had been valuable initiatives taken in recent years towards an inclusive and wide-ranging dialogue. Such efforts could help the international community devise solutions that sanctified human dignity and put people at the centre of policies and practices. Uruguay had taken sovereign decisions based on its constitutional precepts to protect public health and regulate production and use of cannabis. The country no longer criminalized drug possession for personal use and adopted a community- and technology-based approach to ensure medical use. Beyond that, the criminal justice system had become operational.
Mr. ABDRAKHMANOV said that addressing the world drug problem needed to place individuals and societies at the centre of all policy directives with a common and shared responsibility for an integrated, balanced and multifaceted comprehensive approach. All undertakings should be guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law, human rights and State sovereignty and territorial integrity. The thrust needed to go beyond law enforcement to also address health care, education, culture and social protection.
He said Kazakhstan offered numerous best practices and lessons learned due to its geographic location. For example, about a third of all heroin produced was transported to Europe via the Balkan route, while a quarter was trafficked to Central Asia and the Russian Federation. The so-called “southern route” via the Near and Middle East and Africa was also expanding. Afghanistan remained the primary focus for his country, he said, adding that investing in its development would pay dividends. Kazakhstan therefore provided more than $70 million for a wide range of support from food security and facility construction to special market conditions for petroleum export to education, including for Afghan women and girls. His country also engaged in several counter-narcotic initiatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
When the floor opened for discussion, participants made interventions, comments and suggestions on a range of issues pertaining to the drug challenge. The representative of Spain said the three United Nations conventions underpinned his country`s drug policy, which was aimed at saving lives and reintegrating people into society.
The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of CELAC, said a Special Declaration of the group in January recognized that the world drug problem had implications for public health, public safety and the well-being of humanity. It also undermined the rule of law, democratic institutions, and political stability and affected development. The challenge, therefore, must be addressed in line with the principle of common and shared responsibility.
The representative of the European Union Delegation stressed the need to take stock of gains made so far in order to develop better ways of addressing the challenge. United Nations conventions and international human rights instruments should guide a comprehensive plan of action, she said, adding that the prevention of deaths and other ills should be an essential element.
This afternoon, the Assembly held a second panel discussion, titled “The importance for Member States of implementing a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the world drug problem”. Co-chaired by Andrej Logar (Slovenia) and Mohamed Khaled Khiari (Tunisia), it featured: Györgyi Martin Zanathy, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to the International Organisations in Vienna; Ahmadu Giade, Chair and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigeria; Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations; Dispanadda Diskul, Chief Development Officer, Doi Tung Development Project/Mae Fah Luang Foundation, Thailand; and Sandy Mteirek, Advocacy Coordinator at Skoun, Lebanese Addictions Center, Lebanon.
Opening the dialogue, Mr. KHIARI recalled that in past meetings, Member States had stressed that the world drug problem required a multidimensional and shared approach. Speaking briefly in his national capacity, he said that Tunisia had implemented a new project to combat illicit drugs. A new draft law included preventive and punitive measures, and called for treatment for those affected. The Government was also working with judges in order to bring drug traffickers to justice.
Introducing the panellists, Mr. LOGAR said that cooperation at different levels was critical to combating the world drug problem. He posed a number of questions for the panellists: what approaches were being followed to ensure a multidimensional approach; what coordination mechanisms were in place at the national level; what kind of cooperation, if any, existed between Government and other stakeholders; and what lessons could be shared amongst them.
Responding, Ms. MARTIN ZANATHY said that the European Union’s drug strategy focused on drug supply and demand reduction, international cooperation and monitoring and evaluation. It also tackled new and emerging challenges, including poly-drug use, shifting user groups, and the diversion of precursors, among others. The European Union took a balanced and humane approach to the drug problem, which was the fruit of investing in long-term scientific monitoring. For example, criminal justice reform in some countries had led to a reduction in overcrowding in prisons, and needle exchange programmes had reduced drug-related infections in some populations. Nevertheless, some countries continued to take an unbalanced approach to the drug problem with a strong focus on supply interruption without a solid demand-reduction framework.
Stressing that no single methodology could provide the desired outcome for the many different aspects of the world drug programme, Mr. GIADE said that a multidimensional, cooperative strategy was needed. Besides its national drug control strategy, Nigeria was encouraging the establishment of state-run drug control programmes. Such a multi-tiered plan led to better information sharing. Modest progress had been made, but there was a need to strengthen the ability of the drug control programmes at all levels to access resources and make better use of modern technology. Underscoring the need for engagement based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, he said that Nigeria cooperated with a number of other countries. “It takes a network to combat a network,” he said, calling for further coordination among Member States.
Mr. MEZA-CUADRA said that the world drug problem required that States move forward together with a focus on the human being. Peru, as a country of production, transit and consumption, suffered significantly from the effects of the global scourge. Those greatest sufferers were the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. He agreed that in the past, more emphasis had been placed on security at the expense of human health. Peru’s strategy tackled both production and consumption and sought to bring drug producers into the legal economy. The implementation of the country’s national strategy to combat drugs had achieved a number of important results, including a reduction in coca crops, stronger social inclusion and a higher quality of life for rural-area residents.
Mr. DISKUL, sharing the perspective of a practitioner on the ground, said that Thailand had once been the largest opium producer in the world. When the Doi Tung Development Project began its work in that country, it had discovered significant poverty and lack of access to opportunity. It undertook to develop basic infrastructure to pave the way towards long-term development activities, and it addressed health and livelihoods in order to allow people to live dignified lives. Multi-stakeholder cooperation involving community, religious and grassroots leaders was a critical component of combatting drug problems, as was strong monitoring and evaluation. The success of any project depended on the buy-in and ownership of local partners. The private sector also had a significant role to play, and regional and international efforts were important complements to local initiatives.
“The current approach is not working and it is costing us lives,” said Ms. MTEIREK. In the battle against the world drug problem, she said, many countries around the world were sacrificing the rights to safety, justice and life. Civil society members in Lebanon had fought, and were still fighting, to push the Government to change its drug laws. Some drug policy reforms had been achieved, but for an approach to be truly multidimensional, it must include civil society; a unilateral approach would continue to fail.
When the floor opened for discussion, there was broad consensus among speakers that global efforts to combat the world drug problem in recent decades had not worked. “The war on drugs has been at best a stalemate and at worst a failure,” said the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community. A longstanding emphasis on law enforcement had not reduced drug consumption, he said, adding that a “revaluation” of the global strategy was needed with a view towards rebalancing supply-reduction and demand-reduction efforts.
Agreeing, the representative of France said that some progress had nevertheless been made over recent years. In many countries, more attention was being paid to the health-related aspects of the drug problem. That involved alternative penalties and rehabilitation programmes for drug users, who were now viewed as suffering from an illness.
A number of representatives emphasized that the world drug problem was inseparable from broader development issues. In that connection, the representative of Zimbabwe, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that drug trafficking and abuse was a major threat to prosperity in his region. Poverty and lack of education and bankable skills were linked to and compounded by the drug trade and drug use and affected youth in particular.
Also speaking were ministers and other high-level representatives of the Philippines, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Algeria, Japan, Canada, Qatar, United Republic of Tanzania, Austria, China, Australia, Egypt, Brazil, Tajikistan, Senegal, Switzerland, Morocco, India, Jamaica (on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries), Singapore, Iran, Costa Rica, South Africa, Turkey, United States, Chile, New Zealand, Israel, Cuba and Thailand.
Speaking after the panel discussion, KHALED SHAMAA, Chair of the Preparatory Board for the Special Session on the World Drug Problem and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Vienna, said that despite many achievements made in combating drugs, many challenges remained. As the nature of those challenges varied from country to country, the sharing of experiences and lessons learned would help towards developing effective solutions. The issues raised today inform the Board’s preparations, he said, stressing the need for a practical and operational approach, with special attention paid to developing countries.
Closing the session, Mr. KUTESA said discussions on how best to address the challenges posed by drug use, production and trafficking required openness and the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders. The lessons learned and the strategies and views exchanged during the debate would constitute a valuable input in the lead-up to the special session next year.
He said he was encouraged that all speakers expressed determination to support efforts to find practical solutions to the drug challenges facing communities. All stakeholders, including relevant United Nations entities, civil society and the scientific community, must fully contribute to the preparatory process for the special session.