AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY STATEMENT
United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Dr Lisa Studdert, First Assistant Secretary, Population Health and Sport Division, Department of Health
12 March 2018
Madam Chair, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentleman,
Australia is pleased to again participate in this important forum.
Australia was honoured to have been re-elected to the Commission last year and looks forward to continuing a valuable and productive dialogue on combating the world drug problem with all Member States, United Nations agencies and civil society.
We will continue to focus on promoting an integrated and balanced health and law enforcement approach in our response to illicit drugs, an approach clearly reflected in Australia’s new 10 year National Drug Strategy that was finalised in 2017 and committed to by all Australian Governments at the national, state and territory levels.
The strategy recognises that law enforcement approaches are vital to reducing supply. Critical to this aspect of our policy are partnerships such as Australia’s Law Enforcement International Engagement Methamphetamine Disruption Strategy which aims to disrupt the supply and demand of methamphetamine and its precursors in Australia through international cooperation.
Equally, we emphasise the importance of sound prevention strategies and expanded access to evidence-based treatment must be part of an effective response. Australia’s National ‘Ice’ (methamphetamine) Action Strategy has been an example of this emphasis and balanced approach in recent years.
The National Drug Strategy also recognises the importance of attention to specific groups in our populations. Consistent with this, Australia has put forward a resolution for consideration at this 61st session of the CND on recognising the needs of vulnerable members of society in enabling a comprehensive and effective response.
While whole-of-population strategies can reduce the adverse impact of illicit drug use evidence tells us there are specific population groups that are particularly vulnerable.
This is a critical area that deserves more attention. The resolution builds on the operational recommendations on cross-cutting issues in the 2016 UNGASS document including: drugs and human rights, youth, children, women and communities.
It is also consistent the INCB’s 2017 Report and with Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 on vulnerable populations, social inclusion and access to services and the underlying principle of the 2030 Agenda of leaving no one behind.
We look forward to working with member states through the course of this session on this resolution and others to ensure a productive outcome of our work here.
Access to medicines
Australia remains concerned that 75 percent of the world’s population live in countries where citizens have inadequate access to effective treatments for pain. This is unacceptable in a time when we have the knowledge to support systems that can enable controlled, safe and effective access to citizens when they most need it.
We firmly believe access can be expanded while maintaining the integrity of the conventions which clearly state the goal of protecting the health and welfare of mankind.
Australia continues to support the work of the UNODC, the WHO and the Union for International Cancer Control to assist countries to develop robust systems that ensure access for medicinal and scientific purposes while reducing the risk of diversion for illegal use.
To underline our ongoing support Australia is pleased to announce that we are committing a further one hundred thousand Australian dollars to the Joint Global Program to roll out phase three of the pilot program.
Australia has also been pleased to support the INCB’s successful Learning Project which is assisting countries to improve estimates systems consistent with the international drug control conventions. In 2017 Australia funded a training seminar in Oceania which was attended by 19 representatives from 10 countries and territories.
Proportionate Responses and the death penalty
As a member of the CND and the UN Human Rights Council, Australia is committed to ensuring the human rights dimension of the world drug problem, as set out in the UNGASS outcome document.
Australia considers that law enforcement efforts are best focussed on disrupting the serious and organised criminal groups that drive the drug trade. Minor or non-violent drug-related crimes demand a proportionate response. Over many years Australia has found diversion to treatment and rehabilitation to be far more effective in reducing repeat offenses and reducing harm to individuals and communities.
Australia strongly supports the commitment of states at UNGASS to proportionate national sentencing and to consider alternatives to conviction.
Legal guarantees and due process safeguards must be upheld for all individuals, including drug users, in line with the obligations of states under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Extrajudicial killings of drug users is a clear violation of the right to life set out in that Covenant.
Australia will continue to press for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances. We believe the death penalty is an inhumane and irreversible forum of punishment, and completely ineffective in deterring drug use.
The rapid emergence of new synthetic drugs, including amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances poses a major challenge for law enforcement and public health agencies. This includes methamphetamines, which are rapidly becoming a public health threat across the Asia Pacific region.
Many of these new drugs lie outside the existing systems of international control. This demands closer international cooperation and exchange of information. Australia has committed another $100,000 this financial year to continue supporting countries through the UNODC’s Global SMART program. We encourage countries to strengthen efforts to address synthetic drugs.
Australia remains committed to moving forward in implementing the UNGASS Outcome Document and modalities for the review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action in 2019. Furthermore, in preparing for the high level segment in 2019 we call on all members to enhance engagement with academia and civil society to inform our work for the better. To this end, we must also ensure our preparations for next year enable meaningful participation by civil society in that event.
In conclusion, we remain encouraged by the commitment of member states to engage and contribute to this global effort to address the world drug problem and look forward to the sharing and cooperation which characterises our important work here at the 61st CND.