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Homeland Security


Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

24 February 2003

Long-term economic development was not feasible when an effective drug control system was absent or lacking, the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Philip Emafo, said today at a Headquarters press briefing.

Launching the Board’s annual report, which was embargoed until 7 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, 25 February, Mr. Emafo said that, contrary to popular myth, illicit drug production did not foster economic development and did not provide a route to economic growth and prosperity. A comparative analysis of drug production data and economic growth rates in the main drug cultivating countries showed what appeared to be a negative correlation between illicit drug production and economic development, he said.

(The INCB is an independent, quasi-judicial body, which monitors compliance with international drug control treaties and recommends, where appropriate, technical or financial assistance. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council and serve in their personal capacity.)

Mr. Emafo said the Board’s work focused on six main areas: ensuring that cultivation, production, manufacture and utilization of drugs were limited to medical and scientific purposes; preventing illicit cultivation, production, manufacture, trafficking and use of drugs; ensuring availability of drugs for medical and scientific purposes; identifying weaknesses in the implementation of the international drug control conventions; evaluating and recommending chemicals for possible international control; and monitoring chemicals and preventing their diversion into illicit channels.

In addition to the annual report, the Board also published three technical reports, one each on narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals, he said. (Those could be obtained from the INCB secretariat and the INCB Web site, http://www.incb.org). The annual report examined the impact of illicit drugs on economic development, discussed operation of the international drug control system, and analyzed the world drug situation.

Chapter I focused mainly on the effects of heroin and cocaine on the economy since those two illicit drugs accounted for most of the drug problems worldwide, he said. The analysis showed a decline in economic growth when illicit drug production increased and vice-versa. In Myanmar, for example, when illicit drug production increased tenfold in the 1980s, the country had the lowest gross domestic product (GDP) rate in the region.

Afghanistan was another example of how large-scale involvement in illicit drug cultivation and traffic contributed to economic underdevelopment, he said. Evidence showed that Afghanistan witnessed a negative economic growth and instability from the time it first engaged in large-scale illicit opium poppy cultivation. In contrast, Pakistan recorded the strongest economic growth rate when its illicit opium production declined significantly.

He said that the bulk of the profits from illicit drug traffic were earned outside the countries where drugs were illicitly cultivated and manufactured. It had been estimated that 50 to 60 per cent of drug trafficking profits were made in developed countries, where most of the illicit drugs were consumed. Another adverse effect of the illicit drug industry was its destabilizing effect on the State, the economy and civil society. That industry underpinned political conflict by promoting conflict, insurgency, and compromising the rule of law.

The illicit drug industry also destabilized the economy through the inflow of large illicit profits, which fostered over-valued exchange rates and income inequality, he said. The industry undermined civil society by promoting drug abuse and disrupting the social fabric of society. That contributed to rising levels of crime and violence. Although the illicit drug industry offered employment opportunities to some disadvantaged members of society, it jeopardized their human development and compromised economic development overall. It was important, therefore, to align drug control efforts to a country’s economic development.

Reviewing the report’s second chapter on the operation of the international drug control system, Mr. Emafo highlighted four elements: the drug problem in Afghanistan; legal markets for opiates; combating the scourge of synthetic drugs worldwide; and diversion of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. On Afghanistan, the Board continued to consult with authorities there, and an INCB mission had visited the country in August 2001.

At that time, cultivation of opium poppy had been curtailed significantly in the Taliban-controlled areas, he said. In the Board’s annual report for 2001, however, it warned against the resumption of opium poppy cultivation and called for international assistance to Afghanistan to prevent that. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan was, once again, the largest opium producer in the world, followed by Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The drug problem in Afghanistan today extended beyond opiates. Chemicals needed for the manufacture of heroin continued to reach the country, he continued. There had also been attempted diversion into Afghanistan of psychotropic substances used for adulterating heroin. Thus, fully coordinated and well-organized action was required at both national and global levels. Indeed, there was an urgent need to develop and adopt a comprehensive and coordinated national drug control strategy, as well as measures to coordinate all drug-related activities in that country.

Turning to legal markets for opiates, he noted that global production of licit opiate raw materials had increased to record-high levels recently. Data submitted by the major producing countries in accordance with their mandates under the international drug control treaties indicated that global production in morphine equivalent had increased by 35 per cent from 2000 to 2002. Monitoring was necessary for preventing diversion of licit opiates into the illicit market. For the same reason, there was international consensus that the number of countries producing licit opiates and the quantities those were producing must be limited to the amounts required for medical purposes.

Over the years, however, the number of opiate-producing countries had increased, he said. Most recently, the Board noted with concern that the Government of the United Kingdom was considering commercial cultivation of opium poppy on its territory for the manufacture of narcotic drugs. The introduction of opium poppy cultivation in a new country had a direct impact on the proper balance between the supply and demand for licit opiates, particularly in view of the fact that stocks of opiate raw materials were high worldwide. The Board called on all governments to cooperate on that issue.

He said the abuse of synthetically produced drugs had been spreading for several years, and synthetic drugs might well be the drugs most abused in the present century. Unlike heroin or cocaine, which were made from agricultural products, the illicit manufacture of synthetic drugs required only chemicals, which could be found in many countries around the world. Of particular concern were stimulants like amphetamine, methamphetamine or MDMA, better known as “ecstasy”. The chemicals necessary for the illicit manufacture of those substances were controlled, but greater cooperation was needed to effectively combat their trafficking.

As a first step, he said, the Board organized, together with the United States and the European Commission, an international meeting in July 2002, which led to the establishment of a multi-government, multi-organizational task force to examine ways of preventing the diversion of chemicals into the illicit trade. The report showed that national and international controls of narcotic drugs had successfully prevented the diversion of licit narcotic drugs into illicit traffic. Controls of psychotropic substances, however, appeared to be less effective.

He cited a number of programmes launched by the Board in cooperation with intergovernmental organizations, customs and national law enforcement organs, which were proving to be effective: Operation Purpose, which was launched in 1999 for tracking potassium permanganate used in the purification of cocaine; Operation Topaz, which was launched in 2001 for tracking acetic anhydride used in the manufacture of heroin; and Project Prism, a recent initiative for tracking amphetamine-type stimulants.

Asked about data on the numbers of addicts in developed and developing countries, he said that data was scant, particularly in developing countries. Existing data was often incomplete because not all drug addicts presented themselves for treatment fearing arrests or prosecution. The Singe Convention on Narcotic Drugs, however, provided for treatment rather than punishment for drug dependent persons.

Replying to a question about the benefits of the illicit drug trade, he said he had not believed there were any. The benefits might be ephemeral in nature, in the sense that those who cultivated the plants were getting some revenue, but in the long-term, that was destroying their environment and impeding economic development. Further, cultivation was undertaken often in inaccessible areas.

The quality of life for those on drugs was “pathetic”, he replied in answer to another question. Students performed poorly in school; adult drug users often were involved in more vehicular accidents; and workers tended not to go to work as often. Also, drug dependent individuals generally used health care facilities more often, thereby placing additional pressure on health service, especially in developing countries. So, in terms of health and social well-being, quality of life for the drug dependent person was rather low.

Replying to another question, he said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was involved in alternative development, in which other crops were grown to replace the illicit ones. The problem occurred when prices fell on a crop whose growth was encouraged. Then, there was a tendency for the illicit drug growers to want to grow poppy. But, if the alternative was well geared, even if the economic benefits were less than growing the illicit drugs, it could succeed. Hopefully, the international community would support the efforts of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in ensuring that alternative development programmes were brought to those countries where illicit crops were grown.

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