The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today urged States to intensify prevention strategies as part of a comprehensive response to drug demand, supply and trafficking.
“At present, the balance between our work on the supply and demand sides stays firmly in favour of the supply side. We must restore the balance,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov told the opening in Vienna of the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy,” he added. “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system.”
He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness.
The Commission is the central UN policy-making body dealing with illicit drugs. Its current session brings together ministers and anti-drug officials from its 53 member States to consider issues such as the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes and preventing the diversion of chemicals for the manufacture of illicit drugs.
Mr. Fedotov highlighted regional initiatives being spearheaded by UNODC in the context of shared responsibility among drug-consuming and drug-producer nations to combat the security threats posed by illicit drug flows.
UNODC has launched a Regional Programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to help create a broad international coalition to combat opiate trafficking, opium poppy cultivation and production.
Networks such as the Triangular Initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre are being strengthened, according to a news release issued by UNODC. The Office will soon launch a new Regional Programme for South-Eastern Europe, which will focus on the “Balkan Route” of heroin.
Mr. Fedotov noted that, as important as these initiatives are, tackling supply only was not the solution.
“Let me be clear: there can be no reduction in drug supply, without a reduction in drug demand, more should be done to address demand,” he said.