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Friday, October 10, 2014
DRUG POLICY: UN / OAS TO MORE HUMANELY TACKLE NARCOTIC ISSUES
William R. Brownfield Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
New York City
October 9, 2014
Thank you, Madam Chair. It is a pleasure to address the Committee today.
This committee is rarely tasked with answering simple or short-term problems. Today is no exception. Narcotics and transnational organized crime are stubborn and complex challenges. Criminal organizations constantly evolve in their quest for profits. Drug addiction wreaks havoc on families and communities, and new psychoactive substances appear on the market faster than governments can review them. Corruption weakens the rule of law and democratic institutions.
Our starting point is the international legal framework:the three drug control conventions, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the UN Convention against Corruption. These treaties provide a resilient framework for establishing common definitions of illicit behavior; ensuring compatibility of legal standards and criminal justice responses; and promoting stronger cross-border cooperation. The authors of these conventions wisely left each treaty flexible in order to help governments address new and emerging threats, like wildlife trafficking and cybercrime. As threats and our responses evolve, the international community should show tolerance as governments try new policies within their borders to address specific national concerns, provided they promotethe aims of the conventions.
On the drugs issue, last month the Organization of American States adopted a resolution that effectively articulates a consensus within our Hemisphere in three areas:
First, we recognize that substance use disorders, like other diseases, can be treated. A science-based public health approach is the bedrock for sound drug policy.
Second, a sensible criminal justice policy must ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing. I am proud that my own country is redressing past inequities in our criminal justice system and I welcome OAS efforts to champion drug policies which are both more effective and more humane.
Third, states must redouble their efforts to work together to combat transnational organized crime. The best defense is effective, accountable justice institutions that protect citizens and allow no impunity for the powerful. And if we don’t use every tool of international judicial cooperation, the criminals will continue to victimize us.
There is no tension between these priorities and the drug-control conventions. The current international framework is designed to help national governments advance the core objectives of protecting the health of citizens and the safety of communities. Translating these aspirations into effective action will be our charge at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016.
The UNGASS is a rare opportunity for stake-holders to reflect on the drug issue. We look forward to an open, inclusive debate that includes civil society, the private sector and relevant UN agencies. Member States, through the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, have established an effective plan to prepare for the UNGASS.The United States urges the UN General Assembly to adopt this plan without amendment.
We also have a responsibility to work across borders to dismantle, disrupt, and eliminatetransnational criminal enterprises. All links in the criminal justice continuum – police, courts, and corrections – must be addressed. Sovereign governments bear the bulk of this burden. But we also have a responsibility to help each other. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is an important partner in these efforts through its work implementing technical assistance projects around the world.
Civil society also plays a critical role - as first-line responders, advocates and assistance providers. Next year, we look forward to the Thirteenth UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. This Congress will be a valuable venue at which Member States and civil society exchange research, experience, and perspectives.
Drugs, crime and corruption are global issues that require global responses. The international frameworksare an essential element. They are force multipliers, forging operational cooperation and helping us learn from each other. Only though collective effort can we advance our goal of making our citizens and communities safe.