23 June 2016

Policy Decisions on Narcotics Must Be Based on Reliable Data, Information, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses at Launch of ‘World Drug Report 2016’

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks on the World Drug Report 2016, in New York today:

I am pleased to be here together with colleagues from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna and New York at this launch of the 2016 World Drug Report.  We are glad to welcome you to this briefing on a very important subject of common global concern.  I am particularly glad this report is being launched simultaneously in Vienna, New York and Geneva.

UNODC’s annual report provides a comprehensive and meticulous review of the cultivation, production and consumption of illicit drugs around the world.  The report is particularly important this year as it is the first such assessment to be produced since the General Assembly held its very important special session on the world drug problem in April.

In its Outcome Document, Member States made a strong call for data collection and for policies based on scientific evidence.  The World Drug Report is such a valuable contribution in this regard.  This is also the first report released after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  I am pleased that it includes a section focused on the relationship between the world drug problem and all aspects of sustainable development.

As we all know, the production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs hamper global security, sustainable development and human rights — the three pillars of the United Nations.  Drug trafficking and organized criminal networks undermine institutions and the rule of law by fuelling violence and feeding corruption.  In some countries, profits from drug trafficking are used to finance terrorist or illegal armed groups.

The world drug problem also has a profoundly negative impact on health, as well as on economic and social cohesion in our societies, as many of you know from your own countries.  It affects all nations and all sectors of society.  We are all aware of the harmful and pervasive consequences that the world drug problem has for individuals, their families and their communities.  Women, girls and young people are especially vulnerable.  Tragically, they often suffer greater drug-related stigmatization, mental health disorders and violence and abuse.

To be effective, and respectful of human rights, policy decisions related to drugs need to be based on reliable data and information.  The World Drug Report is an important resource for understanding where we stand in our efforts to address the illicit drugs problem.  It can also help us deliver support and assistance to people suffering the consequences of drug abuse, including HIV and hepatitis.

The report’s findings make it clear that we should continue to be seriously concerned; the number of drug-related deaths has not decreased.  More than 200,000 people between 15 and 64 years old die every year due to drug abuse.  Approximately 12 million people inject drugs.  Among them, 1.6 million are living with HIV, and 6 million are living with hepatitis C.

The use of heroin and cocaine has increased, making these drugs a growing matter of public health concern.  The report supports some of the important conclusions reached by Member States during the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS).

For example, the report demonstrates how prisons are depressing and high-risk environments for drug abuse in many countries.  Treatment and care for drug-using offenders have substantially increased recovery and reduced recidivism.  Long prison sentences by themselves rarely lead to cure or recovery.

Drug policies not only have an impact on the promotion of healthy lives and well-being, as expressed in Sustainable Development Goal 3, but on virtually all aspects of development.  Effective drug policies can reduce inequalities, help efforts to end poverty, prevent environmental degradation and preserve natural resources.

Drug policies are also important for the achievement of the targets under Goal 16 on peaceful societies and effective institutions.  Violence, corruption and illicit financial flows are often related to drug trafficking and organized criminal networks.

The report acknowledges that most health consequences of drug use are preventable, not least through the provision of scientific and evidence-based drug dependence treatment.  It also makes the case for human rights-compliant criminal justice systems in strengthening the rule of law.  There have never been, and never will be, simple solutions to the global drug problem.

I commend the effort of all those involved in the preparation of the World Drug Report, particularly Under-Secretary-General [Yuri] Fedotov and his team, and invite Governments, civil society organizations and academia to make active use of this information.

As I stated during UNGASS 2016, the global challenges posed by the world drug problem require global responses which are at the same time effective, compassionate and humane.  We must integrate security and public safety concerns with health, human rights and development requirements.  To achieve this, we need information and research as a basis for positive action.  The World Drug Report is an important contribution to our common efforts to take such positive action, improving lives for millions of people around the world.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.