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21st June 1998

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'Lets make an effort to reduce desire for illicit drugs

United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem

All countries are af fected by the devas tating consequences of drug abuse. Rapidly changing social and economic circumstances, the global availability of illicit drugs, and the rising demand for them have all contributed to the increasing magnitude of this global problem.

The drug problem has also become increasingly complex. It can no longer be argued that drug abuse is taking place only among marginalized groups, or mainly in the western industrialized world. Drug abuse emerges as a means of survival for underprivileged young people who are in contact with street life and crime. It also forms part of a youth subculture which is quickly spreading a benign image of drugs around the globe.Illicit drugs are addictive substances, a fact that blurs the line between use and abuse, and between consumption and addiction. Based on estimates by the United Nations Drug Control Programme, annual illicit drug consumption is likely to involve 3.3 per cent to 4.1 per cent of the world's population.

From a health perspective, the most serious drug of abuse is heroin. Although its consumption is still relatively small - 8 million people or 0.14 per cent of the world's population - its use is increasing. Cocaine is more widespread in terms of the total number of consumers - 13 million people or 0.23 per cent of the world's population, though fewer countries are affected. Cannabis is the most widely abused drug, consumed by about 2.5 per cent of the world's population - about 140 million people.

Although the overwhelming majority of illicit drugs currently consumed are still derived from plants or plant products that have been synthetically modified, a wave of abuse of synthetic Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) has been reported in recent years, with a 16 per cent average annual increase in quantities seized. Today, some 30 million people or 0.5 per cent of the global population, consume ATS. There appears to be a perception,widely spread through the media and directed specifically to young people, that these substances are"fashionable" and safe.

Another key factor affecting illicit drug demand is that the age of initiation is falling almost every year. This is especially notable with regard to people seeking treatment for opiate abuse, as during 1995 when more young people in the age group 15-19 years entered treatment than during the entire three-year period from 1992 to 1994. This is not only a phenomenon of the developed countries. Many developing countries reported a similar trend in the growing number of youth abusing cannabis, heroin, stimulants and hallucinogens.The question of volatile substances must also be considered, as these are not subject to international control measures.

These substances may function as a gateway to narcotics and psychotropic substances, and young people in especially difficult circumstances, such as street children, are particularly vulnerable. For millions of children living on the streets, sniffing volatile substances is both a mental and physical escape.

Responses: Strategies

The priority in demand reduction activities is to reach vulnerable people. To do so effectively, it is also necessary to analyse the problem accurately and to develop strategies that work.

In view of the rising tide of drug abuse among youth and the changing patterns of consumption, it is important that links be established between policy-makers and people taking drugs or at risk of taking them, to determine what action is most appropriate. A varied spectrum of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration initiatives can then be developed and implemented.

Demand reduction programmes generally include and integrate three stages:

Primary prevention aims to prevent or at least delay the initiation of illicit drug use. The focus of this initial stage of prevention is to provide information and educate various target groups within the general population about psycho-active substances and the risks associated with their use. Educational services aim to strengthen the individual's self-esteem and resistance to peer pressure; to promote healthy life styles; to provide a supportive environment and the opportunity to develop life skills.

Secondary prevention aims at helping people who are illicit drug abusers to break their habits. It provides drug abusers with educational and counselling services to persuade them to cease experimentation, as well as a range of treatment regimes, followed by rehabilitation programmes. It also provides drug abusers with adequate aftercare services in order to sustain drug-free behaviours, prevent relapses and facilitate social reintegration. Secondary prevention should ideally culminate in the drug addict's return to a drug-free life.

Money laundering and the drug trade

The laundering of money derived from illicit drug trafficking, as well as from other serious crimes, has become a global threat to the integrity and stability of financial and trading systems. The international community must work together to stop these practices to protect itself and to deny drug traffickers their ill-gotten gains.

To harmonize the efforts of the international community to counter money laundering, the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 requires the States which are party to it to declare money laundering a punishable offence.They are also required to adopt measures to identify and freeze or confiscate proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs and promote international co-operation against money laundering.

The Process

Money laundering has three stages: placement, layering and integration.

Placement, the initial entry of funds into the financial system, serves the purpose of relieving the holder of large amounts of actual cash and positioning these funds in the financial system for the next stage. Placement is the most vulnerable stage of the process, as the chance of discovery of the illicit origin of the money is greatest at the beginning.

Layering, the next stage, describes a series of transactions designed to conceal the money's origin. At this level, money is often sent from one country to another and then broken up into a variety of investments, which are moved frequently to evade detection.

Integration is the final stage. In this stage, the funds have been fully assimilated into the legal economy, where they can be used for any purpose.

A number of countries have instituted a set of control measures, including the requirement for financial institutions to disclose suspicious operations, in order to detect and trace financial operations on dirty money. However, other countries, including many offshore banking "havens", are still subject to few such regulations. Hence, global agreement and co-operation are essential to prevent launderers from moving their business to unregulated countries and thus evading prosecution.

Highlights of the Draft United Nations Declaration on Money LaunderingA draft political declaration calls for the General Assembly to condemn the laundering of money derived from illicit drug trafficking and other related crimes and the use of countries' financial systems for that purpose. The Assembly would also urge all States to implement the antimoney laundering provisions of the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances by applying the following principles:Establishment of a comprehensive legislative framework to criminalize money laundering related to serious crimes and to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute money laundering by:

o Identifying, seizing and confiscating the proceeds of crime; and

o Including money laundering in mutual legal assistance agreements to ensure assistance in investigations, court cases or judicial proceedings.

Establishment of an effective financial/regulatory regime to deny access to national and international financial systems by criminals and their illicit funds through:

o Customer identification and verification requirements, in order to have available for competent authorities the necessary information on the identity of clients and the types of financial movements they carry out.

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