International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

Date/Location: Wednesday, June 26, 2013; 11:00-1:00; Conference Building Room 1

Speakers: H.E. Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon; H.E. Mr. Yury Fedotov (UN Undersecretary General of UNODC); H.E. Mr. Cesare Maria-Ragaglini (Permanent Representative of Italy); H.E. Mr. Norachit Sinhaseni (Permanent Representative of Thailand); H.E. Mr. Sheikh Meshal Hamad MJ. Al-Thani (Permanent Representative of Qatar); H.E. Ms. Letizia Moratti (Ambassador for San Patrignano); Dr. Herbert Kleber (Professor of Psychiatry Director, Division on Substance Abuse, New York State Psychiatric Institute); Ms. Rita Notarandrea (Deputy CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substane Abuse)

Written by: Marli Kasdan

Attended by: Gregory Swistel, Candace Tang, Sunny Hor, Alyssa Strasser, Norah Crossnohere, Mary Lam, Marli Kasdan

Today, in conjunction with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a conference on world wide drug abuse was held at the UN. The discussion began with Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon giving a statement on how drugs threaten individuals, families, communities, and the stability of nations. He also introduced the World Drug Report 2013 which was put out today in Vienna. The report shows that heroine and cocaine use is declining world wide, but new threats are emerging such as the use of psychoactive substances and prescription drug abuse. The Secretary General called for efforts to combat drug abuse and trafficking to be coordinated among countries and include emphasis on the rule of law as well as prevention and treatment approaches rooted in science, public health, and human rights. Following, Mr. Fedotov gave a video message where he talked about the illicit drug trade and how organized crime is fueling conflict in Africa. He stated that its is necessary to ensure that drugs and crime do not hinder sustainable development and pointed out how drug abuse in connection with the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a serious concern. 200,000 people die every year due to illicit drugs and much violence is generated by illicit drug trafficking.

Mr. Ragaglini then gave a statement on how prevention, education, early detection, and screening are all strategies Italy has been using to combat drug use. Italy supports strategies to place drug addicts on the path to rehabilitation and recovery. He also spoke about the need to curb drug demand and the important role NGOs and civil society play in drafting and implementing drug policies.

Next, Mr. Sinhaseni addressed the audience and spoke about how the global production of traditional illicit drugs such as opium remains a serious problem. His statement focused on Thailand’s experience in addressing the supply side of drugs. In the 1950s, Thailand was a huge producer and exporter of opium. To combat this, the Thai government created a crop substitution program to provide opium growers with alternative crops to grow so they could sustain their livelihood as farmers in a legal way. This was very successful and the income of former opium producers actually increased when they switched to producing the new crops and this policy severely decreased the production of opium in Thailand.

Following, Mr. Al-Thani gave a statement about the harmful effects of new psychoactive substances and how this is a rising problem in developing countries. Societies with high levels of poverty and unemployment make these communities more susceptible to drug use. He spoke about the new addiction treatment center that is being built in Doha, Qatar and emphasized the need for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

The next panelist talked about San Patrignano, which is a rehabilitation community in Rimini, Italy that takes in those suffering from drug addiction and abuse. The recovery program is free of charge and lasts 3-4 years. Since it was founded in 1978, San Patrignano has helped 20,000 people and the community has a successful completion rate of 72%. The rehabilitation community focuses on education and skills training as well as overcoming drug addiction.

The discussion then concluded with statements from Dr. Kleber and Ms. Notarandrea. Dr. Kleber focused on his program at Columbia that is carrying out research on drug abuse and the increasing use of amphetamine drugs in the U.S. Ms. Notarandrea spoke about the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse which is an organization dedicated to providing national leadership in Canada to address substance abuse and advance solutions. She said the best way to combat drug abuse is prevention and demand reduction.

Edited By Wayne Dean Doyle

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