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 by Herbert Schaepe: H.Schaepe@kabsi.at

 In a world where any person can interact with others not only within a country but between countries and continents, especially through more and more sophisticated and fast ways of communication and transport, not only drugs can be trafficked more easily from one corner of the world to another and production techniques can become more easily known, but also the propagation of abuse of drugs and its spreading occur easily across country borders.

 What has become a necessity for states almost 100 years ago, when they concluded at a conference in Shanghai in 1909 that they have to work together to thwart drug trafficking and abuse, has become of utmost importance in the world of today where so many aspects of life have become global. Such cooperation has been indeed taking place not only among states and governments, but also at the level of non-governmental organizations such as it is for example,  the case within the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas.

 Drug abuse patterns develop constantly to the worse and to the better. When such patterns are recognized and analysed in one country or region, it is of utmost importance to share the results with others, since recent history has shown that drug abuse patterns can develop similarly, often however with a time lag. Timely knowledge about developments in other countries and their drug control responses and the best techniques to be employed, make it possible to intervene at an early stage and in a more appropriate fashion in ones own country.

 International cooperation had for a long time focussed on law enforcement and on regulatory or control aspects, mostly at the operative level of national police and health authorities. Today, almost every aspect of drug control has very rightly become a subject of international cooperation. National and international drug control strategies would not be adequate, if analysis, discussions and agreements at the international level would not have preceded them.      

Besides governments, non-governmental organizations also have had an interest to create their structures and establish forums in order to organize such international cooperation among themselves. For example, more than 20 years ago an NGO committee on Narcotic Drugs was established to create an essential link between NGOs working at the grass-roots level world-wide and the United Nations drug control bodies and programs, all based in Vienna/Austria. Since then the committee has been actively working on the issues of demand reduction and the promotion of human and social development. The international drug control conventions require states to take a variety of actions to address the abuse of drugs and NGOs could and should insist that governments adhere to their obligations, that they generally cannot achieve without the intervention of NGOs, in many cases financed by them.

 States and Governments have created a comprehensive structure for cooperation among them through the adoption of international drug control conventions since the early 20th century and the creation of an organizational network, which since the end of World-War II has been mostly within the framework of the United Nations.

 53 member states are elected for a 4 year term by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) into the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the main policy making body, which decides on the elaboration of new conventions, adopts resolutions to facilitate their implementation and discusses ways and means of international cooperation. For the monitoring of Governments’ implementation of the international conventions, Governments have created through the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The same Convention requires the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess new substances from the medical point of view, whether they warrant international control and the CND votes on such inclusions. INCB then monitors whether the required control measures are applied by Governments in their respective countries.

  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), a part of the United Nations Secretariat, executes governmental decisions and through its offices provide technical assistance for drug control to many countries. A special fund enables donor countries to provide financial assets for interventions in those countries which by their own means are not in a position to effectively address drug abuse and trafficking.

 Many of the drugs abused in rich industrialized countries have been illicitly produced in developing and poorer countries, where often a lack of legislative, organizational and technical means facilitates illicit cultivation and trafficking. It is very much in their own interest that rich countries meaningfully support efforts in other countries to curb cultivation and trafficking and reduce the availability of illicit drugs.  

 Drug control has to remain high on the agenda of the United Nations, if we want to move ahead, This has become sometimes difficult, since politics determine  that other aspects of life and subjects of international cooperation should receive more attention and dealt with in a more urgent way, such as for example terrorism, poverty, environment etc.

NGOs are important partners for keeping the dialogue open and alive either through its relationship with the Governments as  counterparts or through direct participation in the work of these bodies by accreditation with ECOSOC.