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  Statement by

Mr. Werner Sipp, President,
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)

OSCE Conference on Combatting the Threat of Illicit Drugs
and the Diversion of Chemical Precursors

Vienna, 13 October 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to address you today in my capacity as President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Your Conference aims at setting out a "Roadmap for tackling the world drug problem" after UNGASS 2016. The General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in April this year culminated in the adoption of an outcome document, which provides an excellent framework for wide international cooperation in countering drug trafficking and diversion of precursors.

INCB acknowledges the role that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has played in tackling the world drug problem. As one of the largest regional organisations, OSCE has contributed to the implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration and to the UNGASS process, by providing assistance to its participating States. I just want to mention the annual OSCE conferences devoted to important drug-related topics such as, for example, "drugs and young people" (2012, 2015), "drugs and the internet" (2013), and "partnership between governments and the private sector" (2014). All of these topics are of utmost interest to the work of the INCB.

As all of you know, INCB has a clear mandate in monitoring the implementation of the three international drug control conventions, and particularly in the area of precursors control. Let me note at the outset that we are committed to work, within this mandate, with all interested parties, Governments and international or regional organisations alike, as well as with civil society, towards achieving the objectives of the treaties.

The Board has been actively engaged in the preparation of UNGASS. INCB contributed to the UNGASS process particularly by:

  • clarifying and highlighting the principles and approaches of the Conventions;
  • identifying shortcomings in their implementation; and
  • making specific recommendations based upon the Conventions.

INCB's assessment of the implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration is ambivalent:

Remarkable successes have been achieved through implementation of the international drug control system. For example:

  • Due to the control of the licit international trade in scheduled substances, including precursors, diversion from licit international trade to the illicit market have been significantly reduced;
  • In the last decade, efforts have been made in many countries to establish programmes for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse, and to reduce the negative consequences of drug abuse; and
  • International cooperation in drug related-matters has been considerably improved.

However, some of the targets of the 2009 Political Declaration have still not been met:

  • The availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes is still not satisfactory;
  • Globally, the illicit demand for and supply of drugs has not been significantly reduced. Moreover, every day new psychoactive substances and non-scheduled precursors are emerging on the market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In view of the results of UNGASS, allow me to highlight some of the key elements of our drug control system.

This year, INCB paid special attention in its Annual Report to the ultimate goal of the three drug control conventions, which is to ensure the health and welfare of humankind. We highlighted the challenges and opportunities that arise from this ultimate goal for the international control system. We examined in particular the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific use, including problems of access to these substances for medical use; the importance of demand reduction; and the principle of proportionality in relation to the imposition of sanctions reflecting the seriousness of the crime. We emphasized that drug control actions must be consistent with human rights standards. The balance in drug policy between supply reduction and demand reduction is the cornerstone of the international drug control system, and the Board has urged all Governments to review their policies in these areas. Drug policies must also be designed and implemented with due regard for socioeconomic and sociocultural factors such as poverty, economic inequality, access to education, and exposure to violence and abuse. States are encouraged to address illicit drug production, related crime and drug abuse with a complex strategy, which includes for example programmes of alternative livelihoods.

The future implementation of the three Conventions, in our view, should continue to be based on the following principles:

  • the principle of a balanced approach;
  • the principle of shared responsibility;
  • the principle of proportionality; and
  • respect for human rights.

The conventions provide for flexibility by States in determining appropriate sanctions, including non-punitive or non-custodial measures, for instance for possession of drugs for personal use. However, flexibility has limits; it does not extend to any regulation of non-medical use of drugs. Recent legislative developments in some countries that permit and regulate the non-medical use of controlled substances, in particular cannabis, are in clear contravention of the conventions. They defy the international consensus upon which international cooperation depends. The States Parties to the conventions have a responsibility to address this challenge.

Supply reduction will remain an essential component of our efforts. We do consider, for example, precursors control as a form of prevention of serious illicit activity. Article 12 of the 1988 Convention requires the promotion of international cooperation to prevent chemicals from being diverted for the illicit manufacture of substances of abuse. To that end, INCB provides tools such as PEN-Online and PICS which should be actively used by Governments for the exchange of vital information and intelligence in order to enhance international control over precursor chemicals. The Board invites all Governments to participate in our initiatives.

The importance of both demand and supply reduction efforts extends to a number of new drug control issues. For example, new psychoactive substances (NPS) pose a growing problem for the health and welfare of people worldwide.  INCB is working with the authorities of your countries to facilitate the sharing of information on incidents involving these substances. The increasing use of non-scheduled precursors in the illicit manufacture of drugs is another issue which demands modern, flexible approaches and international cooperation. In this context, the Board has issued guidance to help governments in the establishment of partnerships with the private sector for the control of precursor chemicals and to help address the emergence of so-called "designer precursors". We acknowledge that OSCE has devoted its annual drug conference in 2014 to this important concept of partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me a minute to raise an issue of grave concern to the Board, namely the deteriorating drug control situation in Afghanistan. I witnessed first-hand during my mission to Afghanistan in May 2016 the further deteriorating situation in the country. I am convinced that maintaining a sustained level of support by the international community for that country is a necessity, particularly in view of the increasing problems of this country on one hand and the declining interest of donor governments to continue providing further assistance to Afghanistan in drug control on the other. 

The worrying situation at present in Afghanistan does not only negatively affect the people of Afghanistan, but it has ramifications for the drug control and security situation worldwide.  Indeed, if the problem of illicit drug cultivation and production, drug trafficking and drug abuse is not comprehensively addressed by the Government of Afghanistan, its broader development efforts on governance and corruption, security and terrorism, and economic and social development are unlikely to be effective.

INCB has continued close consultations with the Government of Afghanistan under article 14 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. In view of the gravity of the situation, the Board brought this issue to the attention of the United Nations ECOSOC in July, calling upon the international community, in particular Afghanistan's development partners, to continue to support the Government of Afghanistan in its drug control and development efforts. And I would like to reiterate this call to you, the OSCE, and to your participating States.

The Conference on Afghanistan, which took place in Brussels recently, provided a critical opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to supporting the Government of Afghanistan, and to actively re-engage in development efforts. INCB looks forward to seeing tangible progress.

In that sense, the International Narcotics Control Board looks forward to continuing its cooperation with governments, with your organisation and all other relevant international and regional organisations, with a view to assisting Member States in improving the drug control situation worldwide.

Thank you for your attention.


Photo Credit: OSCE/Mickey Kroll

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