UNODC is the UN agency responsible for coordinating international drug control activities. It was established in 1997 through a merger between the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Centre for International Crime Prevention. UNODC has its headquarters in Vienna and field offices in all regions of the world, in addition to a liaison office in New York.

UNODC was established by the UN Secretary-General to “address the interrelated issues of drug control, crime prevention and international terrorism in all its forms”. To fulfil its mandate, UNODC has a three-pillar work programme:

  • Research and analytical work (e.g. the annual World Drug Report).
  • Normative work to assist member states in the implementation of the drug conventions.
  • Field-based technical cooperation projects.

UNODC itself states that “A comparative advantage for the Office is its very DNA as a multilateral entity, namely as an honest broker representing the interest of no single Member State”. However, in reality, funding and diplomatic considerations have an enormous impact upon its work. UNODC’s budget relies upon voluntary contributions from governments, most of which is earmarked for specific projects or approaches rather than being for core funding. Therefore, at any point in time, UNODC is operating with an incomplete “jigsaw” of funding – with some planned activities waiting for funds to be raised, and a wide range of donors demanding that the office pursue their own, often conflicting, policy and programme priorities.

UNODC is also part of the “UNAIDS Family”, and receives funding from the UNAIDS Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF) to lead on issues related to HIV, injecting drug use and prisoners. This again creates challenging contradictions with the work of UNODC – promoting HIV prevention and harm reduction on one hand, while also supporting the ongoing criminalisation of people who use drugs that drives HIV transmission amongst this population.

IDPC works closely with UNODC in a number of forums. For example, we deliver a secretariat function for joint work-planning and strategy coordination between the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and key international and regional harm reduction networks. IDPC is also a member of the UN Strategic Advisory Group on Injecting Drug Use and HIV, which includes UNODC and met for the first time in April 2014.