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Entire Societies To Involve In Anti-Drug Fight

UN Official Calls For Entire Societies To Get Involved In Anti-Drug Fight

The main United Nations policy-making body for drug-related matters opened its annual session today with a call for societies to become actively involved in countering substance abuse as a way to achieve better, broader and faster results in international narcotics control.

"If we put together income and social trends, public health factors, detection and treatment approaches, together with perceptions and the need to show results, one message emerges, loud and clear: the greater and the wider the commitment of society to drug control, the greater the likelihood of success," Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in his opening remarks to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, meeting this week in Vienna.

Mr. Costa reiterated last year's assessment that "important progress is being made towards the still distant goals" set in 1998 at the UN General Assembly special session on drugs, when governments called for a significant reduction in the supply and demand for illicit narcotics.

Afghanistan, as the world's largest producer of opiates, remains a special challenge, Mr. Costa noted, as the country needs continuing support in implementing its new national drug control strategy aimed at eradication of opium cultivation within the 10-year timeframe.

"Dismantling Afghanistan's opium economy with the instruments of democracy, rule of law and development will be a long and complex process," Mr. Costa said, warning that "as long as demand persists at over 4,000 tons of opium a year and trading profits therefore remain [one gram of heroin sells in Kabul at $1 at source, but retails in Europe at $100] illicit opium will be produced somewhere - whether in Afghanistan or not."

"The conclusion is clear: supply control measures must be accompanied by efforts to curb abuse," the UNODC chief said.

In other news from the opening session, Sweden presented its new national drug control strategy, based on full support for UN counter-narcotic efforts. "Through the United Nations, Sweden can contribute to the fight against drugs, primarily by working preventively, but also by impeding drug production and smuggling," said Carin Jämtin, Swedish Minister for Development Cooperation.

Two-thirds of Sweden's annual $7.4 million contribution to UNODC will be earmarked for demand reduction projects, policy support and advocacy. The remaining funds will be available for general UNODC drug control work.

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