International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

UN Chronicle, May 1987 | Go to article overview

International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking


International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

THE images of drug abuse are varied, contradictory, idyllic, oftenviolent. An illiterate peasant farmer tends a field of poppies in the misty, Eden-like setting of a mountainous hamlet in South-East Asia. Half a world away, in South America, vast green fields of marijuana plants and coca bush flourish. The calm, pastoral scenes are repeated, to some degree, in almost every region of the world--throughout the Middle East, in parts of Africa, Europe and North America.

The dangerous harvests are transported within a complexnetwork--ranging from canvas sacks on the backs of camels and donkeys to more sophisticated cartons passing through hidden airstrips or carried across oceans in huge sea containers.

The enormous sums of money garnered from the chainof transactions along the way may be transferred through sun-drenched banks on the main streets of Caribbean island capitals--a "laundering' process permitting the illegal profits to be diverted to other nefarious ends--support for organized crime or international terrorism.

The coveted substances at stake appear in the form of powders,shreds of tobacco, colourless liquids, in glassine bags, tiny glass vials or paper envelopes. They will ultimately reach their destinations--which may range from the dirt-floored tents of nomadic tribesmen to the grimy hallways of big city slums, from tree-lined suburban shopping malls to thickly-carpeted corridors of corporate executive suites.

But the final image is the most chilling: old men with vacanteyes, lifelong addicts, embracing a hookah in the corner of an opium den; heroin "junkies' heating twisted kitchen spoons over a match and swapping dirty hypodermic needles; college athletes "snorting cocaine'; young office workers on a city street corner, laughing and passing around a "joint'; children in a schoolyard "sniffing glue'.

Since civilization began

Drugs have been used since civilization began for medication,meditation, divination and recreation. But at no time in history has there been such grave concern--from Heads of State to the average citizen--over the epidemic nature of drug abuse and the insidious social and financial consequences of illicit trafficking.

"Drug abuse presents as destructive a threat to this andcoming generations as the plagues which swept many parts of the world in earlier centuries,' Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told the Economic and Social Council on 24 May 1985.

"Illicit drugs, wherever they are produced or used, contaminateand corrupt, weakening the very fabric of society. Increasing world-wide abuse is destroying uncounted useful lives. These problems have already profoundly afflicted every region in the world.' Existing instruments and resources were inadequate to deal with a problem of such magnitude, he said.

"We need a more concerted, a more comprehensive, anda truly world-wide effort to reduce the plague of illicit drugs', he said. Declaring that "the time has come for the United Nations to undertake a bold and new offensive to combat drug trafficking and abuse', Mr. Perez de Cuellar proposed the convening of a world conference at the ministerial level to deal with all aspects of drug abuse.

The year before, on 14 December 1984, the General Assemblyadopted a Declaration on the Control of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse (resolution 39/142), stating that the magnitude, scope and widespread pernicious effects of trafficking in narcotic drugs and drug abuse had become "an international criminal activity demanding urgent attention and maximum priority'.

It also affirmed that the illegal production of, demand for,abuse of and trafficking in drugs impeded economic and social progress and constituted a grave threat to the security and development of many countries and peoples, and that eradicating drug trafficking was the collective responsibility of all States. …

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