AUSTRALIA COUNTRY STATEMENT
UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON NARCOTIC DRUGS,
Dr Wendy Southern PSM, Deputy Secretary, National Program Delivery Group, Department of Health
Madam Chair, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Australia is pleased to participate in the 60th meeting of the CND.
We welcome the consensus reached at UNGASS. We see this first session of the Commission following last year’s UNGASS as a particularly important occasion to consider next steps, including how to move forward in implementing the UNGASS Outcome Document, and modalities for the review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action in 2019.
UNGASS, Balanced approaches
Australia considers that to address the world drug problem effectively, a holistic approach is needed. Law enforcement approaches are vital to reducing supply. In our Asia-Pacific region, Australia is working closely with partners to disrupt the trafficking of methamphetamines by serious and organised crime groups.
Equally, we have found that health-based approaches based on sound evidence are critical to effectively address illicit drug use. We need sound prevention strategies to reduce uptake. We need to ensure adequate treatment for users to reduce their harmful effects. In addressing methamphetamine use in Australia for example, record numbers of arrests and drug seizures at the border have not been enough. Complementary health-based measures to reduce domestic demand are also required.
Australia welcomes the commitments made by states at UNGASS to address the world drug problem in a comprehensive manner. UNGASS was agreed by consensus after careful negotiation and reflects different international approaches to addressing the world drug problem. We look forward to discussing the implementation of UNGASS commitments. Tools, measures and partnerships are needed at all levels.
Human rights and broader issues
Australia considers that the obligations in the UN drug conventions cannot be interpreted in isolation. Domestic drug policies need to align with both the drug control treaties and other international obligations.
Australia welcomes the reaffirmation by states at UNGASS that all human rights must be protected in addressing the world drug problem.
Australia strongly encourages discussions in Vienna to take into account broader issues in the UN system. We also encourage discussions in Vienna to consider broader perspectives to ensure a robust approach based on sound evidence and experience. In formulating Australia’s domestic responses to methamphetamine use, we have found the input of civil society and academia to be invaluable.
In implementing UNGASS, greater collaboration between the CND, World Health Organisation, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and other relevant UN agencies is needed. Australia urges closer cooperation.
Access to medicines
The international drug conventions express as their goal the protection of the health and welfare of mankind.
The fact that some three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with inadequate access to treatment for pain is a matter of great concern to Australia. It is an ongoing infringement of the right to health that must be addressed.
We strongly support the commitment by states at UNGASS to improve access to controlled substances for medicinal and scientific purposes. The UNGASS Outcome Document identified barriers to access and made practical recommendations on addressing these. We appreciate the INCB’s role in formulating recommendations on how access to these substances can be improved, while reducing the risk of diversion.
Australia has been pleased 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 to essential medicines whilst reducing the risk of diversion. A pilot program in our region, in Timor Leste, has shown that it is possible to overcome complex barriers.
In the context of expanding access to medicines, Australia is implementing a scheme to allow legal cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. The scheme seeks to enable the supply for patients through a robust licensing scheme in line with our obligations under the Single Convention.
Proportionate responses, death penalty
In addressing drug use, Australia considers that law enforcement efforts are best focussed on disrupting the serious and organised criminal groups that drive the drug trade. Minor or nonviolent drug-related crimes demand a proportionate response. We have found treatment for drug users to be an effective alternative to incarceration in appropriate cases. 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.
Special attention is also required to address the needs of vulnerable groups. Australia welcomes the recognition at UNGASS of the need to ensure non-discriminatory access to healthcare, including for detained persons, and the need to address the special needs of children, women and girls.
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 form of punishment, and completely ineffective in deterring drug use. We consider that drug use is most effectively addressed through policies based on sound evidence that integrate both health and law enforcement aspects.
The rapid emergence of new synthetic drugs, including amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances, is posing 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. We encourage countries to strengthen efforts to address synthetic drugs.
Madam Chair, as you would be aware, Australia is seeking re-election to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 2017 for the 2018-21 term.
If elected, we will continue to advocate for a balanced and evidence-based approach to illicit drugs policy, incorporating both law enforcement and health approaches.
We are committed to the integrity of the drug control regime, including as a reliable producer of over 50 per cent of the world’s licit opiates. Australia has been an active supporter of this regime, including as a top ten donor to the UNODC since 2005 and a key contributor to the Global SMART program.
Australia brings an Asia-Pacific perspective, collaborating closely with our regional partners to address our shared illicit drug challenges.
We will continue to advocate for greater access to controlled medicines for those in need.
In closing, we look forward to contributing to a productive session to progress international cooperation to address the world drug problem in a balanced, humane and evidence based way in line with the international drug control conventions.