Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Regional consultation seeks to review UN drug policies

Posted by Kimberly on November 1, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
November 1, 2007, page 2 (967 words)

 

A regional consultation on drug control and prevention began yesterday at the Venetian Macao’s conference centre, with three objectives in mind.
The first was to highlight the achievements of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) that focused on the world drug problem.
The second was to propose new or improved methods of working between NGOs, the United nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
Finally, to adopt principles to serve as a guide for CND and for future deliberations on drug policy issues.
Held over two days and finishing today, the consultation involved the regions of South East Asia, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific and was set up by the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, in collaboration with its sister NGO Committee in New York and the support of UNODC.
In his opening ceremony speech, Mr Ip Peng Kin, Director of the Macau Social Welfare Bureau said that Macau applied three UN drug-related conventions, as well as having “learnt and adopted…principles, strategies and guidelines from the CND and UNODC.”
He added that the 20th UNGASS held in 1998 had been “a great landmark for the global fight against drugs and we are, at present, undergoing our final revision on its targets.”
Myanmar, one of the countries represented at the consultation has tended to be considered the country with the highest production of opium, but as Dr Maung Maung Lwin, Project Consultant for the Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association (MANA) said, “but from our view, in the world the highest production is in Afghanistan. About 95 percent is from Afghanistan and five percent is from Myanmar.”
He added that since 1974, the Myanmar government adopted the Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Law and opened many drug centres all over the country, doing so again in 1993, with the advent of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law.
“Our official number of drug addicts are about 65,000 addicts in our country but those are the ones registered to the centres. Maybe there is more than that amount. There are about 60 drug treatment centre, two-thirds are minor and the rest are major treatment centres,” he said.
He admitted that there was a shortage of resources, despite the government, since 1972, having extended the drug treatments.
The NGO he is involved in, MANA, which was created in 1994, created drop-in centres to assist patients, “and if there is a need for detoxification, we refer to the government centres. After that they come back to our NGO treatment centres and follow up there. So we can get more chance to help the patients,” said Dr Lwin.
He added that their rate of success was about “40 percent over the past two years,” but hoped that “with the help of other NGOs and the collaboration with our government, we have some amount of success. But to continue and sustain, we need some assistance,” he said.
Ms Mirella Dummar Frahi, a representative of UNODC and Civil Affairs Officer, Division for Policy Analysis and Publication said, “more and more you have these community organisations that would like to have their voice heard and the mechanisms are not yet there to have their voice reach the UN, which is an organisation of member states.”
She added that there were nine regional consultations going on, whereby, “all of this will be packaged and brought forward to the member states.
“The first benchmark is March 2008 when the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meet to look at the results, what has achieved from 1998 till now and one year later it will later decide on the future. They won’t know yet what will occur because they have to first look at the data,” she said.
She mentioned that one area of significant change over the past ten years has been in the area of HIV Aids as a result of intravenous drug injection.
“We have to adjust some policies to make sure that there is not an increased contamination in HIV Aids.
“In the South East Asian region 30 percent of people that contract HIV Aids comes from injecting drugs.
“Another region is Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the route from Afghanistan. In Eastern Europe it’s 60 percent, much higher,” she said.
Yet, she was adamant that the situation was not hopeless.
“I would say the drug problem has definitely been contained.
“Of course there will always be addiction. Human nature has been bound to more or less be keen to try substances, even if they are illicit. But if you don’t have an international system of control, that which is now contained, will grow exponentially.
“So you have to look at what the international policy is and adapt them to new situations,” she said,
Asked what a future goal may be once recommendations are put forward for the next ten years, Ms Fahri mentioned the issue of public health.
“The convention has focussed too much on the law enforcement side of the issue but at the some time you have to look at the more human part of it.
“These people need help as this is a disease like any other, that needs to be treated,” she said, adding that treatment should be a priority from the government but that community assistance was also good, especially, “from NGOs that can be closer to certain populations and that can follow the addicts when they go back into society.
“So I’m sure there will be an agreement on this concept.”
The Macau host committee consisted of the Organisation of the Families of Asia and the Pacific (OFAP) and the Presidency of the International Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO) chaired by President of both organisations, Mr Nuno Jorge.

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