United Nations quotes


What is a drug?

UN’s ‘A participatory handbook for youth drug abuse prevention programmes’, 2002:
"What are drugs? A very basic question but one that needs to be clarified. For, if we start thinking of drugs as just the substances that cause problems or are abused by people we know, then we are likely to ignore other substances that, for one reason or another, are not thought of as drugs by our immediate communities.
A psychoactive substance is any substance people take to change either the way they feel, think, or behave. This description covers alcohol and tobacco as well as other natural and manufactured drugs".
www.undcp.org/youthnet/pdf/handbook_what_are_drugs.pdf (233kb)

UN’s ‘Demand Reduction – A Glossary of Terms’, p.21, ‘Drugs’:
"caffeine, tobacco alcohol and other substances in common non-medicinal use are also drugs … taken primarily for their psychoactive effects"

UK’s Department for Education ‘Drugs: guidance for schools’, 2004:
"All children and young people need to be able to make safe, healthy and responsible decisions about drugs, both legal and illegal. … The definition of a drug given by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is: "A substance people take to change the way they feel, think or behave". The term ‘drugs’ and ‘drug education’, unless otherwise stated, is used throughout this document to refer to all drugs:
all illegal drugs (those controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971)
all legal drugs, including alcohol, tobacco".


Global drug use statistics:

According to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan "An estimated 200 million people worldwide use illicit drugs". http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press_release_2003-06-25_4.html


Benefits of drug use + hidden benefit of UN Drug Conventions:

Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Forty-second session, ‘Youth and drugs: a global overview’, 1999:
"Drug abuse continues to emerge as a strategy among youth to cope with the problems of unemployment, neglect, violence and sexual abuse. Various explanations can be offered for the high prevalence of cannabis use among young people, explanations that include … a perception that the recreational use of cannabis has less harmful effects than the use of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco".

UN Secretary General, Bulletin on Narcotics, Issue 1, 1949:
"in themselves narcotic drugs are neither dangerous nor harmful. Indispensable to modern medicine, they are used the world over to alleviate pain and restore health. Thus used they bring a great benefit to mankind.
This international control and the treaties on which it is based have, however, a wider significance than the limited field of narcotic drugs. If the principles on which these treaties and this control rest could be applied with equal success to wider fields of human endeavour, to other kinds of dangerous weapons, peace would be within our reach".


Principles of intervention:

UN’s ‘Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction’, 1998:
14. Governments should consider providing … as an alternative to conviction or punishment … that abusers of drugs should undergo treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration.
15. Information utilized in educational and prevention programmes should be clear, scientifically accurate and reliable, culturally valid, timely and, where possible, tested with a target population. Every attempt should be made to ensure credibility, avoid sensationalism, promote trust and enhance effectiveness.
5. Programmes to reduce the demand for drugs should be part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for all substances of abuse. Such programmes should be integrated to promote cooperation between all concerned, should include a wide variety of appropriate interventions, should promote health and social well-being among individuals, families and communities and should reduce the adverse consequences of drug abuse for the individual and for society as a whole.
9. Demand reduction programmes should be based on a regular assessment of the nature and magnitude of drug use and drug-related problems in the population …using similar definitions, indicators and procedures to assess the drug situation.
11. A community-wide participatory and partnership approach is crucial to the accurate assessment of the problem, the identification of viable solutions and the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies and programmes. Collaboration among Governments, non-governmental organizations, … is therefore essential. Public responsibility and awareness and community mobilization are of paramount importance to ensuring the sustainability of demand reduction strategies.
12. Demand reduction efforts should be integrated into broader social welfare and health promotion policies and preventive education programmes. It is necessary to secure and sustain an environment in which healthy choices become attractive and accessible. Such efforts should be comprehensive, multifaceted, coordinated and integrated with social and public policies that influence the overall health and social and economic well-being of people.
Appendix: 3. The principles of equality of opportunity and treatment contained in the International Labour Organization Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111), 1958, are also directly relevant to demand reduction.


The UN's Political Declaration:
2. We "recognize that action against the world drug problem is a common and shared responsibility requiring an integrated and balanced approach in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, and particularly with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs of States, and all human rights and fundamental freedoms".
4. We "undertake to ensure that women and men benefit equally, and without any discrimination, from strategies directed against the world drug problem, through their involvement in all stages of programmes and policy-making".
7. We "affirm our determination to provide the necessary resources for treatment and rehabilitation and to enable social reintegration to restore dignity and hope to children, youth, women and men who have become drug abusers".


Improving regulations:

UN’s ‘Commitment to Good Governance’, 2003:
"The process of re-engineering of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was set in motion following the 45th CND in April 2002.
State-of-the-art management stresses the importance to be given … to … relations with the civil society organizations.
Member States will never know whether their tax-payers’ resources are well spent until the
Office establishes an independent Evaluation Function. This was now decided and vacancy announcements published. In addition to servicing the governing bodies and the normative work on treaty implementation, the UNODC’s measure of success or failure lies in its operations on the ground, which helps countries meet the UNGASS objectives. The Evaluation Function will guarantee that programmes and projects are anchored into:
(i) rigorous design, management and execution. In other words, the delivery is most professional;
(ii) transparent implementation, including the way money is spent.
Efficiency will derive from … restructuring of the
Office, so as to achieve full integration … in the areas of advocacy/communication and NGOs.
Reaching out to civil society: Recognizing the value and potential of NGOs, the Office is working with civil society organizations in line with the Secretary-General’s policy of outreach—to learn from their experiences and call upon their expertise. The 46th Session of the CND itself was organized to assure NGOs had opportunities for participation and sharing of experiences and, for those with ECOSOC consultative status, appropriate participation in the ministerial segment".

Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Forty -sixth session, Joint Ministerial Statement, 2003:
"We stress that, in order to be able to further develop sound, evidence-based drug control policies, data collection and analysis and evaluation of the results of ongoing policies are essential tools".

UK's Parliament's Home Affairs Committee criticisms of UN:
Chairman: "I read your response to the comments by the [UN's] International Narcotics Control Board in their annual report about the Government's very modest and sensible decision to reclassify cannabis.
You talk of their "selective and inaccurate use of statistics"." Ainsworth [UK Government]: "I think UN bodies ought to base their pronouncements on evidence, fact and legal basis, and not on reaction and knee-jerk comment. It certainly seemed to me that that was exactly what they were doing. I do not believe there is any justification for the comments that they made". Chairman: "Is this organisation in the hands of zealots, do you think? Are their comments usually as unscientific and unjust as the ones in relation to our decision to reclassify cannabis? Why are their reports so unscientific if they have all these experts?" Ainsworth: "I do not know what the reasons were, whether it was headline-grabbing or whether it was just reacting to a lobby. It did not seem to be based on any reference to fact. Our analysis is that none of the Conventions are in any way preventing us from doing what we want to do". Cameron: "the Government position on the two UN bodies seems to be that they are pretty hopeless talking shops that set very odd targets, that use extraordinary statistics, but we have to take part, we have to be there and try and have an input. Is that an unfair summary?" Ainsworth: "I do not believe that international bodies should behave in that way and make pronouncements without any basis of fact or legality". Russell: "we suggested the Government should initiate a discussion with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways, including the possibility of legalisation and regulation to tackle the global drugs dilemma. The Government did not accept that recommendation. I wonder if you would care to say why". Ainsworth: "We do not believe legalisation is appropriate. Legalisation will carry its own problems. Those problems will self-evidently be some increase in prevalence and in usage".