Thank you for inviting me to the New York launch of the World Drug Report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
This annual report provides one of the most comprehensive reviews of global trends in the production and cultivation of illicit drugs.
Through detailed analysis and careful research, the report is laying the foundation for the world’s response to a problem that undermines societies and the health of millions of people across the world.
The challenges are immense.
The links between transnational organized crime, terrorism and armed violence are growing, with wide-ranging negative effects on security, governance and development, not to speak about the devastating effect on people and communities.
Drug trafficking is a key factor in fuelling violence and instability in many parts of the world.
West Africa, for example, is a transit hub for cocaine and heroin destined for the European markets. This has hindered the region in its efforts to restore peace and security.
Several terrorist groups sustain their activities through funds levied from illicit economic activities, including drug trade.
This year’s World Drug Report also contains a detailed chapter on alternative development.
Cultivating illicit drug crops is often linked to poverty. Alternative development can change lives, and in doing so promote greater economic and social opportunities.
But alternative development cannot take place in isolation from good governance, as well as well-functioning markets, land titles, infrastructure and wider strategies for agriculture.
Indeed, the importance of rule of law to development was supported by the Open Working Group on sustainable development, in particular through its proposed goal 16. Embracing alternative development within the framework of our wider development efforts can help counter criminal networks which take advantage of countries showing fragility and vulnerability.
Governments, civil society and the United Nations must be united not only in our ways to tackle the vicious grip of crime, but also to lift people out of poverty.
Just as important, we must create the institutions to assist these efforts. I want to underline the importance of promoting the rule of law and fair criminal justice systems. These are significant parts of the overall efforts towards sustainable development offering fundamental rights, equity, protection and security.
We must also protect vulnerable groups and marginalized communities. Disproportionate penalties and long prison sentences for minor drug offences negatively affect human development and can destroy the future of young people.
The rights of prisoners must not be ignored, especially the rights and needs of women in prison.
The criminalisation of children will also not help confront drug use and dependence. States should explore alternative measures, and aim to minimize children’s involvement with the criminal justice system.
We must also be honest and brave in accepting that some drug and sentencing policies may need to be reviewed.
The basic drug conventions must be implemented in full accordance with foundational human rights treaties and norms. This includes the non-application of the death penalty.
We must also promote health-based responses offering care for those with drug-use disorders.
Our priority should be to prevent the use of drugs and to protect children and adolescents from the impact of drugs on their families and communities.
People with drug-use disorders and blood-borne diseases should be provided with treatment, harm reduction and other health services. They should not be penalized, and they should have the same right to treatment as other patients.
Prevention, treatment, health care and social protection are all part of an integrated and balanced drug control approach. We must not limit access to essential controlled substances for legitimate medical purposes.
Policies must also be adopted to prevent the spread of hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases. Discrimination can undermine harm reduction and treatment practices, particularly in prisons.
All of these issues can and must be discussed at the very important forthcoming UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem in April 2016.
This will be an opportunity to identify practical solutions which respect human rights and empower the people affected.
The United Nations advocates a careful re-balancing of the international policy on controlled drugs.
We should increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies benefitting societies as a whole.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On this International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, let us continue to ensure that our strategies are calibrated to protect the health of people, to confront the criminals who do untold harm, and to ensure sustainable development and a life of dignity for all.
I thank all those involved in this year’s World Drug Report, and commend its contents to a wide global, national and local audience.
I thank you for your attention.