Wednesday, March 10, 2010

U.N. Drug Chief predicts 3rd World “Health Disaster.”


The neo-colonialism of drug dependence.

For the developed world, drug abuse is a plague, a law enforcement problem, a budget line item, a therapeutical industry.  But in the developing world, rampant drug use can be a health disaster of immense proportions. Heroin use is skyrocketing in East Africa, while cocaine abuse is increasing in West Africa. The underground synthetic drug market is booming in the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia.

“The developing world lacks the treatment facilities and law enforcement to control drugs,” according to a recent address to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs by Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “Why condemn the Third World, already ravaged by so many tragedies, to the neo-colonialism of drug dependence?”

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) is the UN’s primary policymaking body for drug-related issues. Costa told the commission, which is meeting in Vienna this week, that inequality within and between states marginalizes poor people who lack access to treatment. Reminding the commission that “the medical use of narcotic drugs continues to be indispensible for the relief of pain and suffering,” the UNODC director said: “We must not only stop the harm caused by drugs: let’s unleash the capacity of drugs to do good.” He called on member nations to overcome the socioeconomic factors “that deny a Nigerian suffering from AIDS or a Mexican cancer patient the morphine offered to Italian or American counterparts.”

Costa’s UNODC also works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to pursue universal access to drug treatment and the reduction of disease transmission due to injectable drugs.

Costa said that drug penalties and addiction treatment in some countries amount to little more than cruel and unusual punishment. Noting the millions of people, including children, who are sent to jail for drug use, Costa said: “People who use drugs, or are behind bars, have not lost their humanity or their human rights.” The director cited the Balkans, Central and West Asia, and East and West Africa as regions requiring increased assistance in matters of security and justice related to drug use.

Costa said that the UN sees drug trafficking as a growing security threat, and noted that “few issues have received as much attention as drug trafficking in the Security Council over the past few months.”

Photo Credit: http://www.unodc.org/

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