New York

10 February 2016

Secretary-General's Remarks at Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for General Assembly Special Session on World Drug Problem

I welcome this opportunity to speak to you ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem, to be held from 19 to 21 April this year.

This year, we begin the important work of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This will require collective partnership and solid commitment.

We will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without the bold and courageous assistance of civil society. 

This applies equally to addressing the world drug problem.

Around the world, illicit drugs promote violence, impede sustainable development, endanger communities and undermine people’s health.  

This global challenge is interconnected with corruption, terrorism and illicit flows of money.

Those who traffic in illegal drugs may also be involved in human trafficking, kidnapping, firearms smuggling, murder and numerous other crimes.

But the world drug problem is also a health problem, linked to overdoses, the ravages of addiction and the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

Such high costs are not simply paid by those who use drugs, but by their friends and families, and by overwhelmed health systems.

UNGASS 2016 provides an opportunity for the international community to enter into an informed and wide-ranging discussion on drug policy in all its aspects.

It can help in the development of objectives, based on human rights and concern for the health and welfare of people, that will support the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  

The Special Session can also reaffirm the central principle that no country can confront these issues alone.

Shared responsibility can ensure the delivery of balanced and comprehensive drug policies with a renewed focus on human rights and public health, including prevention, treatment and care.

We can also go further.

I encourage nations and civil society to hold the broadest possible debate at UNGASS 2016 and to weigh every option.

These include alternatives to prison or punishment for appropriate minor offences; greater access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain and suffering; and promoting alternative livelihoods for vulnerable farmers and their families.

In all our work, which is based on the international drug conventions, the human rights of people, especially the vulnerable and their communities, must come first. 

UNODC is uniquely placed to assist this process through its work on both the supply and demand sides of this issue.

Further, as a cross-cutting issue, the balanced implementation of the drug conventions regime requires the continued involvement of the UN system, particularly in the areas of human rights, health and development.

Addressing the global problem of illicit drugs is an important element of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. 

I am grateful for the contribution being made by civil society, and I count on you to continue to add your experienced voice to these important debates.

Thank you for your leadership and support.