Hans Lundborg Hans Lundborg

Speech of Ambassador Hans Lundborg, Chairman, UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
ECAD 13th Annual Mayors Conference
June 1-2, 2006


Lord Mayor of Vilnius,
H. E. The President of Iceland,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here to address you in my capacity as Chairman of the United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This Commission is, along with the International Narcotics Control Board, the custodian of the UN’s multilateral control system for drugs – the UN Drug Conventions.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is also the governing body of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
The UN drug control system
The UN Drug Conventions, which together form the world’s multilateral drug control system, are a very valuable piece of political capital. This control system has developed and evolved over nearly a hundred years. It is therefore one of the oldest forms of multilateral cooperation in the world and indeed pre-dates the UN by half a century.
The system began in 1909 as an international meeting called the Shanghai Opium Commission. This was called to address China’s opium problem. It was an international conference in recognition of the fact that both the origins and the consequences of China’s opium problem went well beyond China – opium was being supplied to China by other countries; it was being trafficked through other countries; the opium consumption habit was spreading beyond China.
The Shanghai Commission resulted in the first opium Convention of 1912. From these origins, the system began to grow. The drugs it covered were extended, from opium, to cocaine, to cannabis and eventually to synthetic psychoactive drugs.
The form of control was expanded, from controlling trade, to limiting production, and from stopping trafficking to reducing demand.
The custodian of all these multilateral agreements was the predecessor of the UN – the League of Nations. When the UN was constituted after the Second World War, it became the custodian of the multilateral treaties.
In 1961, all the different treaties on drugs were rationalized and put under one convention – the so-called Single Convention.
In 1971, a new Convention was created to cover the psychotropic substances such as amphetamine and methamphetamine. In 1988, another Convention, this one to tackle the worsening problem of drug trafficking, was added to the multilateral system. When we speak of the UN Drug Control Conventions today, we mean the three I have just described: the 1961 Single Convention, the 1971 Psychotropic Convention and the 1988 Convention Against Trafficking.

The first principle of drug control is the protection of public healthdrugs must be made available for medical and scientific purposes, and must not be available to illicit markets.
Many people do not understand this dual role of the UN Drug Conventions: they regulate the production and trade of both legitimate medical drugs as well as illicit drugs. More than half of all prescription drugs worldwide are controlled under either the 1961 or the 1971 Conventions.
This shows a unique dimension of the multilateral system: it has a mandatory character. Once a country ratifies an international convention, it implicitly agrees to measure its national policy against an international standard. Thus, if a country is a signatory to the Single Convention, it must ensure that the drugs controlled under that Convention – for example, cannabis – are also controlled in its national legislation.

The UN Drug Conventions enjoy almost universal adherence, and practically all Member States of the UN have signed them. That is the strength of the system.
The weakness of the system is that many Member States do not have the capacity, or the resources, to implement the norms and laws that they put on their statute books.
It is often said that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. So it is with any multi-lateral system. If even one Member State breaks ranks – either because it wants to act unilaterally or because it has no capacity to implement – then the whole system is compromised.
This is where the technical assistance functions of the UN come in. It can help its Member States to build their capacity to implement the Drug Conventions: to control supply, arrest traffickers, reduce demand, initiate treatment for abuse and rehabilitate addicts.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime thus has a normative function – to maintain the Conventions and an operational function – to assist Member States in implementing the Conventions.
It also has a third, equally important knowledge function: it must be the repository of objective and reliable information on the size of the drug problem and how it is evolving over time.

The UN of course, needs money to fulfil these three functions. Regular contributions of Member States are only enough to pay for the normative functions to be fulfilled. The operational and knowledge functions have to be financed from other sources. A number of advanced, developed countries therefore pay voluntary contributions to the UN to fulfil its technical assistance and knowledge-building functions.
A lot of our recent work on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, since we are the governing body of UNODC, is to help the UNODC to develop a strategy that would focus and prioritise its operational and knowledge-building programmes.
The normative side needs focus as well. Over the years, Member States have diverged in the way they implement the Conventions. In order to re-define the consensus on drug control, a special session of the UN General Assembly was convened in 1998. It agreed upon specific targets, tools and benchmarks covering the whole spectrum of drug control: demand reduction, synthetic drugs, precursors, judicial cooperation, alternative development, money laundering. A lot of progress has been made. In 2008, the international community will have to come together again to assess what exactly we have achieved and decide where we go from there.

Global challenges and responses
What are the main challenges we face today, on the global level? We can look at them within the categories of the four main groups of illicit drugs:
Opium production at the global level is stable. It is declining in South-East Asia – the so-called Golden Triangle. The main problem is Afghanistan, which produced nearly 90% of the world’s illicit opium in 2005. This could get worse in 2006 and one country’s problem could undermine gains made in several other parts of the world. The international community is putting a lot of effort and resources into helping the Government of Afghanistan tackle the problem: providing alternatives to opium farmers, strengthening the judicial system; rebuilding the rule of law in a country shattered by three decades of war.
The area under coca cultivation is stable, but cocaine production may be going up because of better yields. Cocaine consumption is going down in the United States but there is a worrying trend: it is increasing in Europe. You have probably seen some of the impact of this in your cities. We must tackle this, even on the European and local levels (more on the latter). Cocaine seizures are also going up. This is both good and bad news: good because it means better enforcement actions; bad because it shows that traffickers will take more risks to move their deadly material.
Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS)
The amphetamine problem appears to be stable. Methamphetamine appears to be spreading beyond its traditional markets in North America and South-East Asia. Ecstasy seems to be stable in the older markets (Europe and North America) but spreading into developing countries.
We need to keep up supply control measures which, for ATS, mean primarily precursor control. We also need to continue prevention and treatment for stimulant abuse.
Cannabis is produced and consumed practically everywhere, in most countries of the world. About 160 million people use it (UNODC 2005 Annual Prevalence Estimates). Production, trafficking and consumption of cannabis are all increasing. The product that is available to consumers is becoming more potent. The health effects are more negative. In areas as diverse as North America, Europe and Africa, cannabis is beginning to figure as a drug for which people seek treatment and rehabilitation. For all of this, the approach of Governments is inconsistent and divergent. According to the Single Convention, cannabis is controlled at the same level as heroin and cocaine. In practice, several Governments de-prioritize or de-emphasize it. This sends confusing messages to the public which, in a globalized world, can no longer be seen in specific national contexts.
We will have to pay more attention to cannabis and re-focus the international consensus to deal with it.

Thinking globally and acting locally
How can we link these large, global and somewhat abstract issues to your concerns at the local level of your respective cities?
I would suggest three examples of ways in which we can ‘think globally and act locally’.

  1. Monitor your local illicit markets. There is often a lot of anecdotal information about these markets, or it is lodged in the isolated knowledge of experts and service providers. If it is systematized, and widely diffused in your city administrations, it will enable you to tailor your programmes to respond to unique local needs.
  2. Prevention and education programmes are always good, but hard to tailor and even harder to measure for impact. There is, however, a growing literature on evaluations of prevention, as well as good practices in prevention. Get your local experts and service providers to study this literature and feed in through into programme design.
    One concrete example is how to engage parents more actively in prevention. We know from research and from practice that if we succeed to engage parents in creating different types of networks we get a more effective prevention.
  3. We have to close the gap between the global and local level. Cities are cooperating and support governments and governments cooperate and support the UN and the global level. But I think it is too little of direct contact between the local and global level.
    We have to develop methods on how a concrete cooperation can be developed. Neither the UN nor the local and country level can combat drug problem isolated in an efficient way. We must cooperate. It is a world challenge where we are dependent on each other.
    I see this meeting as a step in the right direction as I got the privilege and possibility to address you in your important conference. Let us continue to cooperate!

Thank you for your attention!

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