27 February 2009

Anti-drug efforts struggling

The global anti-drug effort is failing to effectively combat the emergence of a criminal market of "staggering proportions," according to a UN official.


The global anti-drug effort is failing to combat the emergence of a criminal market of "staggering proportions", according to a UN official.

"The world drug challenge remains enormous," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, told officials marking a century of international efforts to curb trafficking in opium and other narcotics. Urgent changes are needed to combat the exploitation, instability and terrorism that pervades the world drug trade and to prevent criminal networks from expanding their reach, he said.

"We must have the courage to look at the dramatic, unintended consequences of drug control: the emergence of a criminal market of staggering proportions," Costa said.

A century on and the battle continues
Countries have so far failed to implement anti-crime measures in a way that has had an impact, he added. International efforts to curb trading in opium and other narcotics began in 1909 in Shanghai, then China's main hub for the opium trade, with the meeting of the 13-country International Opium Commission.

The commission did not put an end to opium trafficking, which persisted in the chaotic times leading up to the 1949 Communist revolution. But its decision to begin trying to regulate the opium trade holds a special significance for a country whose appetite for the drug left it bankrupt and vulnerable to humiliating defeats by colonial powers.

In the 1950s, China largely eradicated widespread drug use, mostly of opium, along with prostitution and gambling. But today it is contending with a resurgence of addiction; illicit cultivation of opium poppies is entrenched throughout many parts of Asia and drug trafficking persists in various forms across the globe. – (Sapa, February 2009)

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