Monday, 18 January 2021

UN in your language


What does the UN do?

CocaineThe end of the first century of drug control (it all started in Shanghai in 1909) coincided with the closing of the UNGASS decade (launched in 1998 by a General Assembly Special Session on Drugs). These anniversaries stimulated reflection on the effectiveness, and the limitations, of drug policy. The review resulted in the reaffirmation that illicit drugs continue to pose a health danger to humanity. That’s why drugs are, and should remain, controlled. With this sanction in mind, Member States confirmed unequivocal support for the UN Conventions that have established the world drug control system.


UN Secretary-General: Drug addiction a disease, not a crime

UN Secretary-General: Drug addiction a disease, not a crimeUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for treatment and councelling for drug addicts. “Drug-dependent people should not be treated with discrimination; they should be treated by medical experts and counsellors. Drug addiction is a disease, not a crime,” Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the 2011 World Drug Report at UN Headquarters in New York 23 June.


World Drug Report: Consumption of synthetic and prescription drugs rises

2011 World Drug Report

While global markets for cocaine, heroin and cannabis declined or remained stable, the production and abuse of prescription opioid drugs and new synthetic drugs rose, according to the World Drug Report 2011 ( Illicit cultivation of opium poppy and coca bush remained limited to a few countries. Although there was a sharp decline in opium production and a modest reduction in coca cultivation, overall, the manufacture of heroin and cocaine was still significant. 



Drug trafficking, once viewed largely as a social and criminal problem, has transformed in recent years into a major threat to the health and security of people and regions. The $61 billion annual market for Afghan opiates is funding insurgency, international terrorism and wider destabilization. In West Africa, the $85 billion global cocaine trade is exacerbating addiction and money-laundering while fueling political instability and threats to security. Every $1 billion of pure cocaine trafficked through West Africa earns more than ten times as much when sold on the streets in Europe.

Because the threat is so urgent, I recently established a Task Force to develop a UN system-wide strategy to coordinate and strengthen our responses to illicit drugs and organized crime by building them into all UN peacekeeping, peacebuilding, security, development and disarmament activities. In this way, the United Nations can integrate the fight against drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime into the global security and development agenda.

This year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is an opportunity to highlight the importance of addressing these twin threats through the rule of law and the provision of health services. Our commemoration coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

This Convention and the other major international drug control treaties do more than help us in the fight against drug trafficking; they protect vulnerable people through a wide range of activities to which States parties commit themselves, including education and prevention, treatment of drug dependence, care and rehabilitation for drug users, and social support.

These measures are critical, because drug use, at its core, is a health issue. Drug dependence is a disease, not a crime. The real criminals are the drug traffickers.

But the supply side is only half of the equation. Unless we reduce demand for illicit drugs, we can never fully tackle cultivation, production or trafficking.

Governments have a responsibility to counteract both drug trafficking and drug abuse, but communities can also make a major contribution. Families, schools, civil society and religious organizations can do their part to rid their communities of drugs. Businesses can help provide legitimate livelihoods. The media can raise awareness about the dangers of narcotics.

We can succeed if we reinforce our commitment to the basic principles of health and human rights, shared responsibilty, a balanced approach to reducing supply and demand, and universal access to prevention, treatment and support. This will foster communities free of drug-related crime and violence, individuals free of drug dependence who can contribute to our common future, and a safer world for all.


Key UN Conventions and resources


Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol

Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971

United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988



    • Around 210 million people, or 4.8 per cent of the population aged 15-64, took illicit substances at least once in 2010.
    • Cannabis users comprised the largest number of illicit drug users in 2010 (129-190 million people).
    • The cocaine production is decreasing, due to less production in Colombia in 2010. The United States remains the biggest marked for cocaine, although consumption has decreased dramatically.
    • In 2007 and 2008, cocaine was used by some 16 to 17 million people worldwide.
    • 74 percent of the opium production world wide took place in Afghanistan in 2010. The production was at 3,600 tons.
    • In 2008, global heroin seizures reached a record level of 73.7 metric tons.
    • There is evidence for the existence of opium poppy in Europe as long ago as 4,200 B.C. and even earlier.
    • There are indications that cannabis was used as early as 4000 B.C. in Central Asia and north-westernChina, with written evidence going back to 2700 B.C. in the pharmacopeia of emperor Chen-Nong

The first international conference to discuss the world’s narcotics problem was convened in February 1909 in Shanghai. This forum became known as the Opium Commission and it laid the groundwork for the elaboration of the first international drug treaty, the International Opium Convention of The Hague (1912).131