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Seventieth Session,
7th Meeting (AM)
GA/SHC/4132

Top Official Urges Third Committee to Build ‘Bridge’ Linking Sustainable Development Agenda to Assembly’s Special Session on World Drug Problem

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control today with an invitation from the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Member States to “build a bridge” between the recently adopted 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals and the General Assembly’s Special Session on the world drug problem in 2016.

With terrorist groups now raising funds through trafficking in drugs, arms, cultural property and natural resources and the illicit narcotics trade fanning across borders, it was “a critical time for global efforts to prevent crime and promote justice and the rule of law”, Yury Fedotov said via videoconference during an interactive dialogue with Member States.

Indeed, the Assembly’s Special Session, to be held in April, was a unique opportunity for examining the impact of illicit drugs on sustainable development and to seek common solutions, he told the Committee.  Issues related to transnational organized crime, drugs and terrorism needed to be addressed in a broader socioeconomic context.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, that could be done, he said, as many of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets were related to the Office’s mandate.

“We have to build a bridge” between the Agenda and the Special Session, Mr. Fedotov said.  Yet at a time when the Office’s financial situation was “vulnerable” as it was doing “more with less”, he said that going forward, a solid stream of funding was required in order to continue to provide Member States with a high standard of technical cooperation.

During the general debate, speakers discussed new challenges and the persistent plague of drug trafficking and production.  The speaker from the United Republic of Tanzania said that while her Government was taking steps to deal with trafficking, porous borders had made the country vulnerable to that transnational crime.  The representative of Afghanistan spoke of an obvious link between a lack of security and opium cultivation, with terrorist groups now benefitting from the drug trade. 

Australia’s delegate expressed alarm at new illicit substances, including a drug called “ice”, that were devastating communities across her country.  She said more and more countries were recognizing the need for an evidence-based approach to the drug problem that focused equally on public health and human rights and on law enforcement.

To combat those and other illicit activities, Georgia’s representative stressed the importance of establishing a new standard of cooperation with all branches of the United Nations human rights machinery.  In light of the impact of transnational crime on human development and democracy, she said Georgia supported the Doha Declaration, the outcome document from the thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and its theme of integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation.

Representatives of Ecuador, South Africa and Libya also delivered statements.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 October, to take up its agenda item on the advancement of women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of its agenda item on crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.  For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4131 of 8 October.

Interactive Debate

YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), speaking via videoconference, said it was “a critical time for global efforts to prevent crime and promote justice and the rule of law.”  Public-private partnerships would be a main theme of the upcoming meeting of States parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to be held in Saint Petersburg.  The General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem, to be held soon after the adoption of 2030 Agenda, would be an opportunity to examine the impact of illicit drugs on sustainable development and to seek common solutions.  Announcing several forthcoming studies, he said a survey on opium and Afghanistan would be presented on 14 October in New York, Kabul and Vienna, while findings on wildlife and forest crime were expected to be released in 2016.

Turning to a range of other concerns, with regard to terrorism, he said terrorist groups had been raising funds through the trafficking of drugs, arms, cultural property and natural resources.  For its part, UNODC had been helping to strengthen the capacity of Member States in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans to combat terrorism.  The revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (“the Nelson Mandela rules”) had been a notable achievement.  The Office was also supporting Governments with strategies to address migrant smuggling and had published a report on criminal justice measures to combat violence against migrants.

The financial situation of the Office, however, was “vulnerable”.  It required more sustainable funding in order to continue to deliver a high standard of technical cooperation to Member States.  General purpose contributions needed for core functions had been declining, he said.  While the Office was doing “more with less”, it urgently needed a solid stream of stable and predictable resources.

When the floor opened, delegates asked a range of questions on sustainable development, trafficking, funding for the UNODC and cooperation between United Nations agencies.

Responding, Mr. FEDOTOV agreed that issues related to transnational organized crime, drugs and terrorism needed to be addressed in a broader socioeconomic context.  That could be done with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, as many of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets were related to the Office’s mandate.  With regard to alternative development, there had been success in some countries, particularly in Latin America, and the Office was trying to support best practices in other regions.  There would soon be an international conference in Bangkok on alternative development and it was hoped that its conclusions would support preparations for the Assembly’s Special Session.  “We have to build a bridge” between the sustainable development agenda and that of the special session, he said.

On the financial issues facing the Office, concerns were being addressed in Vienna, he said, noting that UNODC was counting on the support of the Third Committee and Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  Progress was being made on synergy between New York and Vienna; meetings were being webcast and documents were provided by different United Nations agencies.  With regard to a question from Yemen’s speaker, the Office could not be as active as before due to the security situation, but it was prepared to return and to help victims of human trafficking.

Statements

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country faced a growing trend in drug abuse and trafficking, having detrimental effects on security, social and political issues, public health and the economic well-being of people.  Porous borders made it vulnerable.  In response, the Government had developed a progressive approach involving prevention, raising awareness and drug treatment programmes.  It had established a mechanism to enforce and coordinate the fight against substance abuse and illicit trafficking and was formulating legislation on the prevention of cultivation and manufacturing of illicit drugs.  The Government also carried out advocacy and sensitization policies in schools and at the national level, and had strengthened national coordination in the area of drug dependence treatment.  To conclude, she emphasized the need for preventing illicit drug trafficking, which had turned into a breeding ground for terrorism and international organized crime.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said countering drug trafficking had been a serious challenge for his Government over the past few years.  The link between a lack of security and opium cultivation in the country was obvious, as various terrorist groups had benefited from the drug trade.  Narcotics had undermined Afghanistan’s security, social and economic development, and the rule of law, he said.  Ensuring the security, health and well-being of the most vulnerable people remained a serious challenge for Afghanistan, leading to the Government’s adoption of a national action plan to tackle those issues.  The plan would be implemented through the establishment of a national mechanism empowered with addressing the drug problem, strengthened cooperation with military activities and drug abuse reduction based on national health policies.  To conclude, he stressed the importance of combatting drug trafficking through targeting the illicit market in his country.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said her country was fully committed to the protection of human rights and to cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.  Georgia continued to improve its domestic legal system to bring it in full compliance with international standards.  Convinced that crime prevention and criminal justice were essential for ensuring national stability and democracy, Georgia had been constantly concerned with strengthening its legal machinery, developing preventive mechanisms and providing a humane criminal justice system.  In light of the impact of transnational crime on human development and democracy, Georgia supported the Doha Declaration.  Georgia was determined to work closely with all interested non-governmental organizations to increase their participation in international human rights and crime prevention forums.  Concluding, she stressed the importance of establishing a qualitatively new standard of cooperation with all branches of the United Nations human rights machinery.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa) said that while significant progress had been made in addressing challenges posed by the abuse of illicit narcotics and psychotropic substances, the world drug problem continued to affect regions and countries in different proportions.  For South Africa and other parts of the continent, traffickers were establishing new routes to transport drugs and precursor chemicals.  Further, drawing attention to the recent statistics provided by the International Narcotics Control Board, the delegation was concerned that cannabis remained a major illicit drug in Africa.  While the country continued to implement a cannabis eradication strategy, it was also cognizant that a careful balance should be maintained between law enforcement measures and illicit crop eradication.  The forthcoming General Assembly Special Session, therefore, presented a unique opportunity for the United Nations to review the progress made in the implementation of the goals of the 2009 UNODC Political Declaration and Plan of Action.  Concluding, he urged the Member States to seize such an opportunity to renew their political will and commitment to the Plan of Action in full conformity with the three drug conventions.

JASEM K. S. HARARI (Libya) said his country, due to its location and size, was concerned about illegal migration.  Libya would appreciate greater regional and international support to finding solutions.  Help was needed for countries of origin, transit States and the migrants themselves, who faced the danger of death and exploitation when trying to cross borders.  Any proposal to limit illicit migration while respecting the sovereignty of States and the rights and dignity of migrants would be supported by Libya, which invited all organizations and international financial institutions to work together to end corruption and trafficking in its various forms.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia) said illicit opium cultivation had increased and trafficking in synthetic drugs was on the rise, placing a heavy burden on the public health systems and law enforcement agencies.  Governments around the world were increasingly recognizing the dangers posed by drugs to users, families and communities and were responding with more determination than ever before.  A greater number of countries was recognizing that a comprehensive response to tackling the drug problem required an evidence-based approach that focused equally on public health and human rights, and on law enforcement.  Accordingly, the 2016 Special Session of the Assembly would take place at an opportune time in the international community’s push to combat the world drug problem.  For its part, Australia was following a comprehensive and balanced approach in tackling crystal methamphetamine, known as “ice”, which was posing grave risks to communities nationwide.  To identify gaps in responses and to ensure the efforts were appropriately targeted and effective, Australia was developing the National Ice Action Strategy.  She looked forward to sharing its experiences and learning from other Member States in combatting the use and supply of synthetic drugs.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador) said drug policies had to focus on public well-being and human rights.  Organized crime, money-laundering and weapon trafficking all fuelled the drug problem.  Ecuador’s Constitution stated that drug addiction was a national health issue, which the Government tackled through comprehensive policies.  The international community must go beyond the model focused on reducing supply and demand, he said, insisting on the necessity to adopt new regulations and rules focusing on prevention and rehabilitation.  The Assembly’s Special Session would constitute an opportunity for debating new approaches to respond to current challenges.

For information media. Not an official record.