Press Releases

          GA/SHC/3780
    11 October 2004

    Hearing Call for Strengthened International Partnerships, Third Committee Begins Discussion of Crime Prevention, Drug Control

    UN Programme Executive Director says Globalization of Crime Rivals that of Trade, Communications

    NEW YORK, 8 October (UN Headquarters) -- The transnational nature of organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism demanded increased international cooperation and strengthened partnerships, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,  told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) as it began its consideration of issues related to crime prevention and international drug control.

    “What we are witnessing is the globalization of crime”, said Mr. Costa, noting that this phenomenon now rivalled the globalization of trade and communications.  The opening of borders and increased mobility of technologies had brought about benefits to the world economy, but they had also been exploited by criminal organizations, he said.  Organized crime, illegal trafficking, corruption and terrorism had compromised national borders that had once been depended on to contain those threats.

    Given the continuing challenges the world faced in combating the global threats of crime and terrorism, making the leap from analysis to action was a very urgent task, he told delegations.  For its part, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime had restructured operations to emphasize an integrated approach to combating drugs and crime and to focus on building coalitions and renewing partnerships.  A number of new programmes had been launched, including a container programme in major seaports that have been used as hubs for illicit trafficking.  His Office had also identified action priorities for improved border control against heroin trafficking in Central Asia and Russia.

    In a discussion following his presentation, the representatives of Senegal, Netherlands, Yemen, China, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Cuba, India, Venezuela, Azerbaijan and Austria asked Mr. Costa to expand upon a number of issues, including among others, measures to combat the spread of corruption, trafficking in drugs and human beings, terrorism and the spread of HIV/AIDS linked to intravenous drug use.  Other issues raised concerned the repatriation of illicitly expatriated funds, funding of international terrorism through trafficking in drugs and awareness-raising on those issues.

    In a statement opening the Committee’s general discussion, the Minister of Justice of Thailand, Phongthep Thepkanjana, said his Government hoped that the Eleventh UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be hosted by his country would provide the impetus for a major effort to enact change through the  creation of comprehensive national responses to crime prevention, as well as improved cooperation between governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

    The Minister to the Office of the President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Soubanh Srithirath, said that international assistance for alternative development initiatives had been insufficient.  Opium was produced in some of the poorest regions, and more than two thirds of the 47 poorest districts in his country had produced opium.  Alternative development assistance in these areas would also serve as assistance for poverty eradication.

    The representative of Afghanistan pointed out that the needs of the war-stricken, drought-affected farmers of Afghanistan should be distinguished from the greed of drug mafias who profited the most from the lucrative business of drug trafficking.  Decades of war and conflict had left his country with some of the highest rates of rural poverty in its history, and long-term assistance was needed to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan.  He said the opium production problem had worsened, mainly as a result of the destruction of the economic and agricultural structure of the country and the collapse of state institutions after more than two decades of foreign aggression and conflict.  The drug problem in Afghanistan was a global problem, he stressed, and not one that could be tackled solely by the Afghan Government.

    Echoing Mr. Costa’s message, the representative of Pakistan expressed his Government’s concerns that organized crime was exploiting the advances in communications technologies and relaxed border controls that were designed to foster legitimate trade.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for Pakistan to deal with criminal activity that took place beyond its borders yet adversely affected its interests.  He urged greater international cooperation in combating the transnational dimension of crime.

    Also making general statements today were the representatives of China, Zambia, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Myanmar, United States and Mexico.

    The Third Committee will reconvene on Monday, 11 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to crime prevention and international drug control.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its general discussion on crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.  It had before it a number of reports of the Secretary-General, including a report on the African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/59/175), which contains proposals to strengthen the Institute’s programmes and focuses on its major activities -- general direction and management, research and policy development, training, information and documentation, advisory services to governments, and international cooperation and joint activities.  Noting the Institute’s continued financial difficulties, which arose from the lack of an effective response by Member States to their financial obligations, the report also outlines initiatives aimed at ensuring more stable and sustainable funding for the Institute.  It also covers activities aimed at encouraging its member States to adhere to existing international crime prevention and criminal justice instruments.

    The report notes that the problem of crime in Africa is complicated by several characteristics unique to the region, including high levels of illiteracy, civil conflicts, natural disasters, and poverty. It adds that the incidence of crime on the continent is further complicated by the fact that Africa is a vast area open to the activities of organized criminal groups and is a region where transnational organized crime operates. It urges the Institute to focus its efforts on continuing to develop its expertise related to crime issues affecting the African region, particularly in the areas of prevention of transnational organized crime, arms and human trafficking, combating terrorism, criminal justice reform, and promotion of the rule of law.

    There was also a report on strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance in preventing and combating terrorism (document A/59/187), which reviews the status of technical assistance activities of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the Division for Treaty Affairs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and includes an update on efforts made to initiate joint activities with other relevant players.  The report notes that the main focus of activities has been on the provision of legal advisory services to requesting States on the incorporation into national legislation of provisions contained in the 12 universal anti-terrorism conventions and protocols and fostering international cooperation and strengthening national capacity in promoting anti-terrorism measures.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is called upon to broaden the assistance provided to prosecutors, judges and other law- enforcement practitioners to put to good use the legal instruments that the international community has developed to strengthen international cooperation.

    The report on Strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/59/205) highlights main developments in the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme during the period under review, including the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and two of its protocols and the negotiation and adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  It also reviews the expansion of the technical cooperation capacity of the Programme in providing assistance to States to enhance their capacity to respond more effectively to transnational crime, trafficking in human beings, corruption and terrorism, and to reinforce their institutional machinery for the maintenance of the rule of law.

    The report on International Cooperation against the World Drug Problem (document A/59/188) provides an overview of the implementation of mandates relating to drug control, including the Commission on Narcotic Drug’s follow-up to the twentieth special session of the General Assembly and the Action Plan against Illicit Manufacture, Trafficking and Abuse of Amphetamine-type Stimulants and Their Precursors, as well as action for demand reduction, judicial and law-enforcement cooperation, countering money-laundering and illicit crop eradication and alternative development.

    Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General related to the High-Level Political Conference for the Purpose of Signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/59/77), Preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/59/123-E/2004/90), Preventing and Combating Corrupt Practices and Transfer of Funds of Illicit Origin and Returning Such Assets to the Countries of Origin (document A/59/203), and International Cooperation in the Fight against Transnational Organized Crime:  Assistance to States in Capacity-Building with a View to Facilitating the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto (document A/59/204).

    Statement by Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime

    ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stressed the importance of global cooperation to combat organized crime, drugs, corruption, trafficking in illegal goods and terrorism, which had undermined development, security and justice and threatened the survival of societies as well as the mission of the United Nations.  Organized crime, illegal trafficking, corruption and terrorism had become major global problems, compromising the national borders that had once been depended on to contain those threats.  While the benefits of globalization were significant, the opening of borders and the increased mobility of technologies had also been exploited by criminal organizations.  As a result, the globalization of crime now rivalled the globalization of trade, finance and communications.  Dirty money flowed undetected in legitimate banking systems and the international marketplace, financing terror and sustaining the lifestyles of drug lords and criminal bosses.  Development could not be sustained, and justice could not prevail if terrorists were permitted to “kidnap” national politics and the wealth of nations was siphoned off by fraud, bribery and corruption.  Young people around the world were especially vulnerable and were in jeopardy of losing their identities, their lives and their futures by international criminal organizations that preyed on them.

    He noted that corruption in all its forms was costing legitimate businesses one trillion dollars per year.  Fraud and corruption, in both the commercial and public spheres, were undermining development and breaking the bond of trust between citizens and governments. The attack on national revenues made it impossible for the most vulnerable members of society to obtain basic services, such as clean water, decent housing, adequate food supplies, and access to health care.  Drug trafficking preyed on millions of people, affecting suppliers on one side and addicts on other.  Moreover, even in this twenty-first century, slavery was alive and well.  This year alone one million people, many of them women and children, would be exploited by criminal gangs who made their living from forced prostitution, child pornography and sweatshops.  Unlike terrorism, human trafficking was a silent crime, not covered by the media, yet the damage incurred from human trafficking was no worse than the damage inflicted by drug trafficking, arms smuggling or terrorism.

    Turning to terrorism, he said terrorism knew no bounds, targeting all nationalities, respecting no religions, striking across borders, and targeting civilians and private individuals.  Terrorism had divided the people of world, had undergone mutations and had become a much more complex phenomenon.

    Given the continuing challenges the world faced in combating the global threats of crime and terrorism, making the leap from analysis to action was a very urgent task, he said.  The three drug control conventions, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in its protocols, and the Convention against Corruption, had offered blueprints for action and guidelines for realizing solutions.  Nations had an obligation to reconstruct civil societies to make them less vulnerable to criminal exploitation and terrorism.

    The staff of the UNODC was committed to fighting organized crime in all its manifestations.  Over the last two years his Office had restructured operations and streamlined processes.  Those reforms had included an emphasis on an integrated approach to combating drugs and crime and a re-examination of the critical role of prevention strategies designed to address these threats.

    The annual crop surveys his Office had conducted on coca, opium poppy and cannabis showed that there had been notable improvements in drug trends worldwide, he continued.  The global opium poppy and heroin supply market had remained stable, and there had been a decline of production in South-East Asia and the Andean nations.  Unfortunately, however, Afghanistan was still a source of major concern as the drug trends there were still very worrisome.  He called on every country to support the Afghan Government’s commitment to eliminating opium poppy cultivation.  Addiction to opioids remained the most serious drug problem in the world.  Research also indicated that production of amphetamine-type stimulants was up across the globe and more people from a wider demographic groups were buying these substances.

    With the arsenal of legal instruments at its disposal, UNODC legal experts were helping countries interested in accelerating the ratification process of the Conventions against crime, corruption and terrorism, he said.  UNODC global programmes and country projects ranged from legislative assistance to

    capacity-building and its operations were making a difference all over the world.  A number of new programmes had been launched, including a container programme in major seaports, which were often used as hubs for illicit trafficking.  His Office had also identified action priorities for improved border control measures against heroin trafficking in Central Asia and Russia.

    The UNODC was operating with a $100 million budget and 500 dedicated staff to aggressively reposition its work in support of the global agenda for peace, security and development he concluded.  The objective of its new focus on outcome and building coalitions was to strengthen partnerships and to become a catalyst for the change needed to build a world where peace, security, and justice were no longer the exception, but the rule.

    Discussion

    In a discussion subsequent to his presentation, the representatives of Senegal, Netherlands, Yemen, China, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Cuba, India, Venezuela, Azerbaijan and Austria asked Mr. Costa to expand upon a number of issues, including, among others, measures to combat the spread of corruption, trafficking in drugs and human beings, terrorism and the spread of HIV/AIDS linked to intravenous drug use.  Other issues raised concerned the repatriation of illicitly expatriated funds, funding of international terrorism through trafficking in drugs and awareness-raising on those issues.

    The scourge of corruption required a great deal of attention, said Mr. Costa, agreeing with one questioner, but the Convention against Corruption had provided for strong tools with which to fight back.  For the first time, the international community had been empowered to repatriate funds that had been illegally expatriated as a result of illegal behaviour and corrupt practices.  In the past, principles of banking secrecy had been used as obstacles to repatriation efforts, but the Convention had made clear that banking secrecy could no longer be used as an instrument to prevent the identification and repatriation of such assets.

    Estimating that the Convention against Corruption would garner enough ratifications in the next 12 to 15 months to enter into force, he stressed that his office had not remained idle in the time before the entry into force.  Instead, work had begun to put together a series of initiatives aimed at implementing elements of the Convention that could be developed before its entry into force, such as capacity-building and prevention.

    To combat corruption, awareness-raising campaigns were always helpful, but were limited in the extent of their reach, he added.  Moreover, as corruption was a state of mind in many societies, affecting not just the behaviour of officials, but also those in the private sector, the UNODC had begun working with civil society groups to contain the consequences of drug trafficking and criminal behaviours.

    Corruption was also deeply linked to illicit activities such as trafficking in drugs and human beings, which were also linked to terrorism, he noted.  Drug trafficking generated a significant amount of resources worldwide and fostered collusion between government officials, the private sector and criminal elements.  The narco-trade had long been a source of funding for criminals and terrorists; one study showed that, over the past 30 years, almost every terrorist group had been partially or totally funded by narco-money.  More recently, a good deal of the insurgency in Afghanistan had been funded by opium/heroin exports moving from central Afghanistan out through Pakistan and Central Asia.

    Continuing on the subject of drug trafficking in Central Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, he said the framework outlined in the Paris Pact had been designed to strengthen drug control in Central Asia and curb opium trafficking in Afghanistan -- not an easy exercise.  Traffickers had opened new routes into Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  Increased cultivation and production had also provided traffickers with greater resources.  However, the Paris Pact did provide for the examination of each aspect of the issue, piece-by-piece, and the UNODC was working to that end.

    The rising rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Central Asia as a result of intravenous drug use was also a source of concern, he said.  To combat that phenomenon, the Russian Federation had extended an invitation to his Office to participate at a seminar for CIS States on efforts to break the link between drug addiction and HIV/AIDS.

    Responding to questions about changes in law enforcement practices on the demand side of the drug equation, he stressed that drug legalization and legalization of trafficking had not been practiced anywhere in the world. There was, however, a progressive trend toward decriminalizing drug use.  Drug addicts should not be seen as criminals, but as people requiring help in the form of treatment and reintegration. The neglect of previous years was now being redressed, with countries turning to humane treatment of addicts based on the understanding that international drug Conventions must yet be respected.

    The shared responsibility of addressing both the supply- and demand-side of the drug control equation was strongly maintained by the UNODC, he added.  Thirty years ago, the accepted view had been that drugs were produced by developing countries and consumed by rich countries.  Now it was recognized that both rich and poor countries both produced and consumed narcotics.  The United Nations supported the concept of shared responsibility and worked within its framework.

    Another aspect to drug control that must be stressed more strongly, he continued, was that alternative development did not just mean providing the seeds to farmers for crop replacement, but must also incorporate development of a whole support network for those farmers.  They must be trained in a new type of activity and encouraged to develop a community, to become members of cooperatives that created solidarity in the approach to new activities.  Added value must be created, including through the establishment of small processing facilities that would enable the farmers to retain some of the wealth, which usually accrued higher up the food chain.  There was also a need to create new markets, including domestic markets, for the new products of these farmers.

    Returning to the concept of the intertwined nature of trafficking in drugs, terrorism and corruption, Mr. Costa reassured another delegate that the UNODC was aware of the danger posed by weak and imploding States, which could serve as “black holes” of criminal activity.  Examining the 22 to 25 examples of regional or national implosions, one saw that the first people to take advantage of the chaos had been criminals, especially if natural resources were present to be cultivated or exploited.  Regarding the specific region mentioned, he said a fact-finding mission had been sent to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to address the problem of terrorism, crime and trafficking in people, arms and drugs.  The UNODC recognized that too little government was as bad as too much government.

    On terrorism, he explained the relationship between his Office and the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), recalling that there was a clear division of labour between the two bodies.  The CTC worked on identifying areas in which counter-terrorism work was needed, while his Office provided technical assistance to countries as needed.  This division of labour could be maintained, including throughout the process of reforming the CTC, as long as the UNODC’s counter-terrorism directorate was empowered to identify institutions around the world that could discharge its mandate most effectively.  It would be impossible to accomplish everything from Vienna; instead, the Office’s focus should be on helping governments to build national instruments to counteract terrorism, and to address issues such as money-laundering and the sharing of information.

    The UNODC was not a law-enforcement agency, he stressed.  Although it did cooperate with Interpol, the Office really worked in parallel to Interpol, helping to establish drug agencies around the world.  Borders served as impediments to law-enforcement officers, not to criminals.  The UNODC was working to develop regional intelligence-sharing offices that would mimic at the regional level that which Interpol was accomplishing at the international level.

    Responding to a question as to why the UNODC involvement in Africa had been limited, he said that the prevalence of drug use and trafficking and terrorism had been limited in Africa in comparison to other parts of the world.  However, it would be wrong to conclude that there was no need to act in Africa.  Instead, the UNODC had decided to focus on preventative action and was currently planning a resource-pledging event to address drugs, crime and terrorism as major impediments to economic development in Africa.

    Asked to compare the amount spent globally on law enforcement as opposed to reducing demand for narcotics, he said he did not know exactly how many billions of dollars had been spent fighting the supply-side of the question, but noted that much more had been spent on repression and law enforcement than on demand control.  His Office wished to draw attention to the need to augment therapy for users and, perhaps, downsize the amount spent on law enforcement.

    Regarding the use of military operations in combating narcotics production, he noted that he had advocated one intervention in Afghanistan by which the Coalition forces had intercepted and destroyed a convoy of heroin traffickers.  The Government of Afghanistan did not have the capacity to address the issue itself and should be devoting its resources to helping farmers pursue alternative production.

    Statements

    PHONGTHEP THEPKANJANA, Minister of Justice of Thailand, said his country had undertaken major criminal justice reforms in recent years in accordance with resolutions of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council.  His Government had extended the invitation to host the Eleventh United Nations Congress because it believed in the opportunity that such global events offered to all countries to join forces against crime in all its forms.

    He said the Eleventh Congress would be convened at a time when rapid developments and changes in the world had created an environment that was conducive to the unimpeded flow across borders not only of “public goods” but also of “public evils”.  Organized crime had become more transnational in nature.  The increased use of modern technology had enabled criminals to launder money, commit large-scale fraud, attack computer systems and evade justice systems.  New forms of criminal behaviour had emerged, and traditional ones had changed.

    With the involvement of all Member States, Thailand hoped that the Congress would provide the impetus for a major effort to enact change through the creation of comprehensive national responses to crime prevention, as well as improved cooperation between governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

    SOUBANH SRITHIRATH, Minister to the Office of the President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Chairman of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision, said that, since its adoption in 2000, the national programme strategy “The Balanced Approach to Opium Elimination in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” had achieved significant results.  Between 1998 and 2004, more than 75 per cent of areas under opium poppy cultivation in his country had been eliminated.  Taking into account the needs of 28,000 domestic opium addicts, the quantity of opium produced in Laos in 2004 was, therefore, of little international significance.  Essentially, many tonnes of opiates had been prevented from entering illicit international markets, which translated into significant savings on law enforcement in countries where opium was trafficked.  Moreover, the cost of ensuring the sustainability of opium elimination through provision of assistance for alternative livelihoods was relatively small, in comparison to former law-enforcement outlays.

    However, international assistance for alternative development initiatives had been insufficient, he said, which had made pacing opium elimination initiatives with those for alternative development problematic.  Opium was produced in some of the poorest regions, located in isolated mountainous regions and mostly populated by ethnic groups.  More than two third of the 47 poorest districts in his country had produced opium; alternative development assistance in these areas would also serve as assistance for poverty eradication.

    Another issue of concern was the rapid spread of Amphetamine-Type Stimulant (ATS) abuse, especially among the urban and rural young, he stressed.  Law enforcement records showed that his country had been used as a major transit route for the trafficking of ATS and heroin from a neighbouring country.  Thus, a national drug demand reduction strategy had been adopted in 2003, which incorporated community-based approaches in prevention, as well as treatment and rehabilitation.  Also, although the rate of HIV/AIDS and injecting drug use remained low nationally, his country was surrounded by high-prevalence countries. Time was of the essence in implementing comprehensive initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and use of injecting drugs.

    To address the challenges posed by drugs, poverty and crime, it was important to strengthen old partnerships and forge new ones, he declared.  Much more assistance was needed to achieve Government targets.  The international donor community should urgently provide support for technical assistance, as well as the funding of alternative development interventions.

    XIE BOHUA (China) said his Government had always attached great importance to crime prevention and anti-corruption.  It had adopted legislative, judicial and law enforcement measures to combat corruption. An anti-corruption framework, with the legislative, judicial and executive departments working in tandem, was now in place and involved the participation of civil society and citizens.  China was ready to further strengthen international cooperation and looked forward to the entry into force of the UN Convention against Corruption.

    Turning to the global effort to combat drug trafficking, he said the international situation on drug control was far from optimistic.  The production of and trade in narcotic drugs continued a spiral climb, and novel drugs had multiplied.  In order to resolve the problem effectively, all countries must adhere to the principle of international solidarity and shared responsibilities.  Developed countries should take measures to reduce demand for narcotics and to assist developing countries in the areas of financial resources and technology.

    For its part, his Government stood firm in prohibiting drugs and had formulated an integrated national strategy on drug control, he said.  Education programmes provided by the Government had increased public awareness of the necessity of drug control, and the rise in drug addiction had slowed down.  The establishment of “drug-free” communities was well under way with noticeable results in the fight against drug-related crimes.  Internationally, China had participated actively in the various activities sponsored by the UN Drug Control Programme and other relevant international organizations.  It had also engaged in fruitful bilateral cooperation against drugs with other countries.

    BERNARD MPUNDU (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control continued to require the urgent and concerted action of the international community.  Over the past few years, there had been attempts to develop the correct frameworks and tools to deal effectively with the challenges of crime prevention and criminal justice and drug abuse through the elaboration of conventions such as that against transnational organized crime and its protocols on trafficking in people, migrants and firearms.

    The SADC remained aware of the adverse and destabilizing effects of corruption on the cultural, economic, social and political foundations of society, he stressed, and welcomed the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  Overall, the Community recognized that the signing, ratification and coming-into-effect of treaties were important steps, but that lack of implementation could lead to failure to achieve their objectives.

    The Community also noted, with appreciation, UNODC’s increase in assistance to Member States for implementation of the objectives of various treaties, he continued, and emphasized the importance of cooperation in legislative assistance and capacity-building.  The international community should support the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund in order to sustain the assistance provided to Member States.

    HÉLÈNE BAKKER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said crime posed a grave threat to the political, social and economic fabric of society, impairing sustainable development and poverty eradication, distorting social systems and undermining legitimate economic activity.  Countering that serious challenge -- in full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and in accordance with international human rights law -- was a high priority.  However, the underlying causes of crime -- poverty, marginalization and inequity

    -- must also be redressed.

    As international cooperation played a key role in combating international crime, she said the European Union welcomed the entry into force of the

    United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and hoped that the Protocol on Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms would follow suit.  Moreover, the Union agreed that corruption had a corrosive effect on democracy, development, the rule of law and economic activity, and it had participated actively in the negotiation of the Convention against Corruption.  Furthermore, as it attached great importance to international and regional cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, the European Union would continue to support and participate in the United Nations’ counter-terrorism activities.

    Tackling the world drug problem would require strong commitment at the national, regional and multilateral levels, she added.  Governmental and non-governmental cooperation for an integrated and balanced approach involving both supply and demand reduction was essential to counter drug production, trafficking and consumption of drugs.  Demand reduction, in all its aspects, must remain a priority.  Prevention of drug use, based on sound scientific evidence, was key and should be pursued by all available means.  The availability of treatment must also be improved, and specific activities aimed at reducing drug-related health and social consequences should be carried out.

    The spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases by injecting drug users was a source of concern, she continued.  It should be redressed through drug dependence treatment, outreach work, information on harm reduction, voluntary counselling and testing, treatment of sexually-transmitted infections, and interventions for at-risk populations.  To set up evidence-based programmes and to evaluate their effectiveness, the collection of accurate and comparable data was essential, and the UNODC should establish key indicators to improve measurability and understanding of the data concerning illicit drug use.

    Finally, she drew attention to the escalation in illicit supply of, trafficking in and diversion of synthetic drugs.  Also important was the need to improve judicial and law enforcement cooperation and to combat money-laundering.  Other priorities included illicit crop eradication, alternative development strategies and addressing the drug problem in a broader, sustainable development context.  That need was all too clearly exemplified in Afghanistan, where fostering peace and stability, reconstruction and counter-narcotic activities must all go hand-in-hand to enable sustainable progress in any of the above areas.

    KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said that while it was heartening news that the UNODC had found in its 2004 World Drug Report that the spread of drugs in the world had slowed down, the world could not remain complacent.  With 4.7 per cent of the most active and productive age group of the world’s population using drugs, the global drug problem was a major obstacle to development.  The international community needed to redouble its efforts to combat drugs.

    He highlighted Myanmar’s success in bringing down the cultivation and production of opium, noting that, as stated in the World Drug Report 2004, his country had experienced a 24 per cent decline in opium production in 2003.  Those results had been realized through the Government’s 15-year Narcotics Elimination Plan that was begun in 1999.  Success had also been achieved through crop substitution programmes implemented over the past decade, development programmes providing alternative income for poppy growers, implementation of stringent money-laundering laws, seizure and destruction of drugs, anti-narcotic training programme and cooperation with regional and international counter-narcotics agencies.

    Turning to the global fight against human trafficking, he said Myanmar was cooperating bilaterally, regionally and internationally to tackle the problem.  It had acceded to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its two protocols and it was in the process of drafting national legislation on anti-human trafficking in accordance with the UN Convention.  Myanmar remained committed to cooperating with the international community in the fight against the twin scourge of narcotic drugs and trafficking in persons.

    JONATHAN FARRAR, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States, said the universal tendencies of organized criminal interests to corrupt political institutions and deny democratic accountability were inimical to long-term international security.  The increasingly visible alliances of convenience between organized crime and terrorist organizations constituted an immediate and urgent threat to the peace and safety of nations, and the global economy could not perform up to standard if organized criminal activity continued to siphon off hundreds of billions of dollars annually in higher social costs, lower productivity, lost legitimate revenues and outright victimization.

    The United States’ commitment to confronting these challenges extended beyond mere rhetoric, he said, to working with other States, the United Nations and other international organizations to develop the capacities of criminal justice and law-enforcement systems through a broad array of technical assistance programmes.  That assistance had totalled nearly $3 billion since 2002 and had contributed to helping reverse the vicious cycle of corruption and violence engendered by the international drug trade in Latin America and Afghanistan, among other areas.

    The United Nations had played a critical role in shepherding efforts to create a lasting international legal regime to combat all forms of transnational organized crime, he added, as exemplified by the landmark Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention against Corruption.  The United States remained committed to offering its technical and financial support to the UNODC as it worked to promote the signing and ratification of these two documents worldwide, as well as the organized crime Convention’s supplementary protocols on trafficking persons, smuggling of migrants and illicit trafficking in firearms.  There must continue to be focused discussion on how to develop the potential of these and other international legal instruments to promote greater international cooperation in preventing crime and developing more effective criminal justice institutions.

    MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) stressed the need for increased international cooperation to combat the transnational dimension of crime.  With crime transcending national boundaries and threatening regional and international security, efforts to combat crime required more than political resolve and implementation of policies at the national level.  What was needed was greater international cooperation.  Organized crime was exploiting advances in communication technology and relaxed border controls designed to foster legitimate trade.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for States to deal with criminal activity which took place beyond their borders yet adversely affected their interests.

    Terrorism, too, was a complex phenomenon with political and legal dimensions, he continued.  As a frontline State in the global fight against terrorism, Pakistan was an active partner in international efforts to combat this scourge.  While States needed to focus on strengthening their national capacities to prevent and combat acts of terrorism and undertake law-enforcement measures, it was also imperative for the international community to assist those lacking in capacity to gear their legal systems and law-enforcement structures towards meeting the requirements for international cooperation.

    Turning to the global fight against drug trafficking, he said Pakistan had been playing a leading role in sensitizing the international community to the drug problem in its region.  It had actively contributed to the international efforts to stop the outflow of drugs from Afghanistan and the inflow of precursor chemicals to prevent drug production.  He urged special attention to the rising tide of illicit production, trafficking and abuse of synthetic drugs and their precursors.

    JENNIFER FELLER (Mexico) said her country had allocated considerable resources to counteract the manufacturing and trafficking of drugs and to combat terrorism and trafficking in human beings.  Among the areas covered by Mexico’s efforts figured scientific research, training, treatment and monitoring trafficking from the air, sea and land.  However, only if national efforts were paralleled by international efforts, could Mexico be successful.  Given the magnitude of the challenge, the international community must work together to take forceful and coherent measures to achieve the anti-drug trafficking priorities set for 2008.

    In addition to public policies against production and for eradication, the international community must do more to combat small-scale drug use and production, trafficking and use of amphetamines, she warned.  Mexico supported the work of the UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board, and felt they should be given the resources to operate effectively.  Her country intended to sponsor a draft resolution in 2005 based on combating drug trafficking in an equitable and balanced way and drawing on the principle of shared responsibility.  It was to be hoped that other Member States would support this effort to ensure the integrity of the text and avoid undermining it.

    Finally, she noted that Mexico supported the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and welcomed the work done at Vienna this year.  During the second meeting of States Parties, it was to be hoped that further consideration would be given to measures for follow-up to its implementation.  She was also pleased to announce that Mexico had submitted its ratification of the Anti-Corruption Convention.  All States that had not yet done so should sign and ratify that instrument, to enable its entry into force.

    MOHAMMED YUNUS BÂZEL (Afghanistan) said it was a sad reality that Afghanistan was one of the major producers of narcotics in the world.  Afghanistan’s opium production problem had worsened, mainly as a result of the destruction and degradation of the economic and agricultural structure of the country and the collapse of state institutions after more than two decades of foreign aggression and conflict.  The drug problem in Afghanistan was not a problem that could be tackled only by the Afghan Government.  It was a global problem, as recognized by the twentieth special session of the General Assembly in 1998.  The fight against the drug problem was shared responsibility that must be addressed through an integrated approach giving demand reduction as much attention and importance as supply.

    For its part, Afghanistan’s political will and commitment had resulted in presidential decrees that had banned the cultivation and export of opium, he said.  Cognizant of the link between drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and terrorist activities, his Government considered the fight against illicit drugs a national security question.  It had also been engaged at the regional level to enhance cooperation and coordination in the fight against illicit drugs.

    He also addressed the link between poverty and drug cultivation, pointing out that the needs of the war-stricken, drought-affected farmers of Afghanistan should be distinguished from the greed of drug mafias who profited the most from the lucrative business of drug trafficking.  Decades of war and conflict had left his country with some of the highest rates of rural poverty in its history, and long-term assistance was needed to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan.  Through sustained engagement and strong commitments of assistance, Afghanistan’s fight against illicit drugs could produce effective results.

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