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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

6 October 2016, New York – Statement delivered by Garrett O’Brien, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the General Assembly Third Committee on Items 106 and 107: Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and International Drug Control

– Check against delivery –

Madam Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

This year was marked by the work of the UN and its members on the World Drugs problem. Special thanks to all who have actively contributed to the Special Session on drugs last April, the UNGASS preparatory board and the UNODC. We are glad that this session provides a first opportunity to reflect on the achievements of UNGASS and look forward to the 2019 process.

Madam Chair,

UNGASS allows us to progress towards a more balanced, comprehensive and coherent approach on the world drug problem. We are glad that UNGASS recognized the key objectives of respect for human rights, promotion of public health, and the need for balance between our action on drug demand reduction and on drug supply reduction. All these are seen today as indispensable for an effective global drug policy. The progress achieved at UNGASS and the structure of its outcome document should be used as a basis for our debates on the 2019 process.

The EU is firmly committed to what we in the EU refer to as risk and harm reduction. There is a vast amount of evidence and best practices across the world that demonstrate the effectiveness of these measures.  In this sense, we welcome the call, in the UNGASS Outcome Document, to consider providing access to risk and harm reduction measures (such as the medication-assisted therapy programmes, the injecting equipment programme, the antiretroviral therapy and other interventions that prevent the transmission of HIV). The recommendations on availability and access to controlled medicines for pain relief and suffering were also a step ahead in our international strategy to address the world drug problem. We should continue to develop this approach towards the target date of 2019.

We would like to reiterate the importance of appropriately mainstreaming gender and age perspectives into drug policies. We consider it important to recognize that the needs of women, children, young people, and any other person in a vulnerable situation are different, and that they must be addressed adequately.

Cooperation with civil society in drug policy formulation, follow up and implementation is key. Civil society collaboration in the 2019 process must be guaranteed, structured and transparent.

We also welcome the fact that the UNGASS Outcome document calls on Member States to promote the proportionality of sentencing for persons who committed drug-related offences and to implement alternative measures of punishment.

I have to underline yet again the opposition of the European Union and its Member States to the death penalty in all circumstances, including for drug-related offences. We do regret that the UNGASS outcome document does not include language on the death penalty, despite the fact that a significant number of countries are taking steps to reduce the number of offences for which capital punishment may be imposed.

Madam Chair,

The drugs market remains one of the most profitable criminal markets on Earth. The European Union and its Member States have taken up the responsibility to counter the threats related to being an area of destination, production and transit of drugs. In addition to the targeted work of law enforcement agencies, for six years now we have successfully applied a methodological instrument, the EU policy cycle for the fight against serious and organised crime.

We are highly supportive of the UNGASS recommendations for enhanced cooperation on drug-supply reduction. Upholding the rule of law and an efficient criminal justice, within the applicable law and with respect for human rights, in today’s reality is as important as ever. We would like to see applied in practice more and more measures to address the vulnerabilities that drive, enable and perpetuate any form of organised crime, to enhance the cooperation in criminal matters, including judicial cooperation, to focus on individuals and organisations responsible for illicit activities on a larger scale, and on the resulting illicit financial flows.

Madam Chair,

We welcome the fact that UNGASS recognized the reality of new psychoactive substances emerging in their hundreds every year and of the Internet as a large, if not the largest, marketplace for them and for other drug-related criminal activity. The contemporary trends re-state the global nature of the drug problem and the fact that it must be addressed with global efforts. The European Union and its Member States have mechanisms to address these challenges. Much of our action is done in cooperation with countries worldwide. We look forward to developing that cooperation further, and sharing experience with more and more counterparts.

The EU and its Member States, based on their longstanding experience, are convinced that facilitating access to research, evaluation and monitoring is vital to ensure more effective decisions on drug policies. We believe that drug policies should be built upon an integrated, balanced and evidence-based approach supported by objective monitoring and evaluation systems.

Madam Chair,

We have always promoted alternative development as a sustainable and holistic approach to tackle the root causes and framework conditions of the illicit cultivation of drug crops. We have no doubt that as long as root causes persist, such as poverty, limited access to licit markets or weak rule of law, the effectiveness of any intervention will be limited. We welcome the growing engagement of the business sector in providing viable alternatives to the cultivation of illicit crops. We are pleased that UNGASS recognized the significance of alternative development and the need to ensure appropriate financing for it. We welcome the call by UNGASS to place drug policy in a wider socioeconomic context and to bring it in line with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. We consider the objectives of tackling drugs and fostering development to be complementary.

Last but not least, ahead of 2019, we encourage the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to continue their work on drug control matters and to promote an open debate, wide exchange of information and positions. We would welcome the involvement of a wider circle of relevant UN bodies in the debate, as well as civil society and the scientific community. We are interested to see UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP and UNHRC enhancing their cooperation with CND, within their mandates, in a holistic, strategic and coordinated manner. At the same time, we want to see all UN members equally committed and involved with this work.

Madam Chair,

We will unquestionably continue to look for upholding human rights in all areas of work on tackling the global drugs phenomenon. The EU and its Member States believe that priority should be given to translating into practice the recommendations of UNGASS, without undue delay. We are strongly committed to exchanging information and experiences to foster the implementation of all UNGASS operational recommendations, and to monitoring developments and results. In this respect, we look forward to cooperating with all UN members, in the time until the 2019 review and beyond, starting with the intersessional meetings that are taking place in Vienna right now/in October and via the December reconvened CND session and the March 2017 CND.

Thank you Madam Chair.


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN16-120EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: Third Committee - Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee
  • Date: 06/10/2016

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