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UN official sees 'signs of progress' in global efforts against illicit drugs

UN official sees 'signs of progress' in global efforts against illicit drugs

World governments and local communities have achieved promising results in the fight against illicit drugs by introducing innovative crop development strategies that give farmers an alternative to cultivating poppy and coca plants, the United Nations top anti-drug official said today.

As the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs opened its forty-sixth session in Vienna today, Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), introduced a mid-term progress report which examines whether the international community is on track to reduce illicit drug production, trafficking and abuse.

The Commission is the central UN policy-making body dealing with drug-related issues. This year's session, set to run through 17 April, will feature a ministerial segment, marking the first five-year milestone for Member States to review their achievements and the commitments made in 1998 at the twentieth special session of the General Assembly on the international drug problem. During that summit in New York, more than 150 countries promised to achieve significant and measurable results to reduce the illicit supply and demand for drugs by 2008.

Introducing his report to the Commission today, Mr. Costa said that in recent years, efforts to reduce abuse of illicit drugs have shown signs of progress. Based on reports from governments - and for this year's session, 117 governments have submitted responses to an UNODC biennial questionnaire - the action plans and measures adopted in 1998 served as a catalyst for action in implementation of the international drug control treaties.

Mr. Costa said that, in recent years, a large number of governments have incorporated demand reduction into their strategies to deal with drugs, and have also launched information campaigns on drugs. "Now they see their national efforts integrated in - and supported by - the global strategy against illicit drugs," he said.

Citing "encouraging progress towards still distant goals," Mr. Costa emphasized the positive experiences in four major elements of the international drug policy - overall drug control policies, demand reduction, supply reduction and international cooperation. Here, he urged governments to work together in the fight against drugs, warning, "Otherwise, problems are only pushed around, from one country to another, in a zero-sum game."

During its deliberations, the Commission will also discuss new challenges encountered in recent years, including the dramatic increase in injecting drug use-related HIV/AIDS cases - especially along drug trafficking routes - as well as the worldwide spread of synthetic drugs.