Private industry has major role in fighting drug trafficking, UN drug chief says

Private industry has major role in fighting drug trafficking, UN drug chief says

Antonio M. Costa
Private industry has a major role to play in fighting drug trafficking by supporting sustainable development in regions devastated by narcotics economies and preventing the movement of precursor chemicals, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"In failed States, or regions dominated by crime lords and drug traffickers, local people inevitably become willing or unwilling accomplices to criminal pursuits," UNODC Executive Director Maria Costa told the Global Partners Symposium yesterday in Vienna, bringing together UNODC, pharmaceutical companies and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

"Farmers grow drug crops because they have no other choice. Drug crops exhaust the land and wreak havoc on the environment. When we manage to push traffickers out and dismantle the criminal economy, one problem disappears but another takes its place: what do these people do now?" he asked.

"How do they make a living? How do we restore the health of the environment? The private sector has to find new ways to guarantee sustainable development in these regions."

He called on private industry to "pull its best-laid plans off the drawing board and set them loose in the real world," noting that pharmaceutical companies could play a special role in preventing the trafficking of precursor chemicals.

"The problem is that the export of these precursors is not illegal. The same chemicals used to process opium or manufacture synthetic drugs are also components of legitimate medications," he said. "So tracking chemicals en route to clandestine drug labs is very difficult. But it's not impossible, especially when UNODC has partners with the expertise and the resources that Novartis/Sandoz and other pharmaceutical companies possess."

Sandoz, the generics division of Novartis, is among the sponsors of the symposium, which was designed to advance the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of slashing many of the world's ills such as poverty and hunger by 2015, to support corporate social responsibility in private sector companies and to improve the quality of life in developing nations.

Some examples of corporate social responsibility include the use of cost-saving technologies to standardize quality and price of generic drugs, and entrepreneurial innovation to eliminate poverty around the world.

Mr. Costa and UNIDO Director-General Carlos Magariños signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve their abilities to fight drug trafficking and improve development in some of the world's poorest nations.

Afghanistan, Colombia, Laos, Morocco and Nigeria are all plagued with underdeveloped private sector enterprise, rampant drug trafficking, or both and will be the first to benefit from the new agreement.

"To alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development, industrial development, drug control and crime prevention should complement each other," Mr. Magariños said. "Ensuring economic growth is as important as enhancing human security. We will make the necessary human and financial resources available immediately to operationalize this agreement."