IDPC Briefing Paper - Antonio Costa's speech to the High Level Segment of the 2009 Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

31 March 2009

Antonio Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), gave a speech to the High Level Segment of the 2009 Commission on Narcotic Drugs on the 11th March 2009. The speech drew heavily on a discussion paper published by the UNODC shortly before the meeting - "Organised Crime and Its Threat to Security" (V.09-81081). This speech, and the paper on which it is based, continues a trend in which Mr Costa presents some interesting and helpful arguments that member states should seriously consider, but sometimes undermines the strength of his analysis with unnecessary rhetorical flourishes and the inaccurate use of data and evidence. The theme of the speech is the threat posed to communities and society by the growing wealth and power of organised crime, which is built on profits from the trade in controlled drugs. This develops the analysis of one of the 'unintended consequences' listed in Mr Costa's speech to the 2008 CND. It would perhaps have been helpful if the 2009 speech had given more prominence to some of the other areas of collateral damage of the system that also cause huge harm to society and included a stronger reference to harm reduction, the most contentious issue of the review. This briefing paper is an review and analysis of Mr Costa's speech and calls for Mr Costa to acknowledge that there are a wide range of policy options to drug control - including a harm reduction approach to both demand and supply side issues - which ought to be considered in formulating more effective and humane drug control policies.