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The UK's Multilateral Drugs Diplomacy

Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), a subsidiary body of the UN's Economic and Social Council, is responsible for providing policy direction on international drugs issues to UN member states and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The CND has 53 members who normally hold office for four years. The UK has been an active member of the CND since it was set up in 1946 and was re-elected to serve a further term in May 2001.

UN Drug Conventions

The United Nations Drugs Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 provide the necessary framework for international co-operation against drugs trafficking and related crime. The UK is a state party to all three conventions. The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances regulate the licit trade in narcotic and psychotropic substances by setting out limits for the manufacture of and importation of drugs to the amounts necessary for medical and scientific use. The 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances provides a comprehensive framework of practical measures to facilitate international co-operation against illicit drug trafficking, such as mutual legal assistance, maritime interdiction, controlling precursor chemicals, controlled deliveries of drugs and action against money laundering.

We would like to see universal adherence to this framework of conventions and work to encourage countries that have not done so to ratify all three conventions. Implementation of the three international drugs conventions is monitored by the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent, quasi-judicial control organ established by treaty, and based in Vienna. Its 13 members serve in their personal capacity, elected by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The INCB's work is financed by the UN.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the primary international organisation dealing with drugs issues, and executes multi-year projects of a scale that the UK alone could not sustain. Each year the UK funds a number of international drugs control projects, which are managed and implemented by UNODC. We have generally been among the three or four largest donors. UK contributions are earmarked for specific projects that support the priorities of the UK's own drugs and crime strategy: including capacity-building for law enforcement authorities overseas, and efforts aimed at supply reduction of Class A drugs.

UNODC programmes are almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions from donor governments. The FCO contributed £2.5 million in 2002. All UK contributions are earmarked against specific UNODC projects in line with our priority to tackle the key heroin and cocaine routes to the UK.

Examples of FCO funded assistance directed through the UNODC in recent years include:

  • A programme of assistance to Iranian law enforcement authorities to tackle drug traffickers of heroin produced in Afghanistan;
  • A joint UNODC/EU programme to strengthen airport and border controls in Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia, which has led to sizeable heroin seizures by law enforcement authorities in these countries;
  • Activities in Colombia and Peru to monitor coca bush cultivation and production;
  • A project to strengthen controls of precursor chemicals used to manufacture cocaine in Bolivia;
  • Provision of funds to support the secondment of a UK law enforcement adviser in Pakistan;
  • Support to the UNODC's annual survey of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.

The European Union

Within the EU there are a number of areas of activity ranging from control of precursor chemicals, diplomatic activity under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) machinery, and police and customs co-operation. Europol (previously the Europol Drugs Unit – EDU) is a centre for practical information exchange and analysing and assessing law enforcement efforts and future threats. Europol enables EU countries to co-operate more fully on an operational level to combat drug trafficking and other forms of serious crime.

The key function of the European Monitoring Centre (EMCDDA) is to assess the scale of the drugs problem across the EU and consider the most effective ways to tackle the problem with particular emphasis on treatment and demand reduction.

The UK has been a key player in launching previous EU initiatives to tackle the flow of drugs through the Caribbean and Central Asia. During the 1998 UK Presidency of the EU we helped to negotiate agreement on EU priorities in Latin America and guidelines for drugs assistance in Afghanistan under an EU Common Position. We have also helped to enhance co-operation and co-ordination between the EU, Latin American and Caribbean states. The first formal meeting of the EU/Latin America/Caribbean Drugs Co-operation Mechanism was held in Panama in April 1999. An Action plan drafted by the EU was agreed in Panama and endorsed at the EU/Latin America/Caribbean summit in Rio in June 1999. Work to implement the plan was reviewed most recently in Madrid in March 2002. The next meeting is due to be held in Colombia in the first half of 2003.



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