UNODC Youth Forum

The UNODC Youth Forum ’22 officially began on 28 February. This year’s forum brings together some 75 young leaders to learn about evidence-based drug use prevention, discuss various perspectives on the world drug problem, and be empowered to continue action within the field of drug use prevention and health promotion. Continuing the tradition of empowering youth to make their voice heard by World policymakers, in the next five days, throughout the Youth Forum participants will develop a Statement to be delivered during the 65th session of the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs.

Youth Forum is an annual event organised by the UNODC Youth Initiative in the broader context of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). Its main objective is to gather young people, nominated by Member States and active in the field of drugs use prevention, health promotion and youth empowerment from around the world. The aim is to allow them to exchange ideas, visions and different perspectives on how to better protect the health and wellbeing of their peers and provide them with an opportunity to convey their joint message to the global level policy makers.

UNODC is celebrating a decade since the launch of the Youth Initiative in 2012, which has seen 10 Youth Fora held with the participation of 371 young people from 97 countries. The Youth Initiative continues to encourage young people to reflect on the potential impact of substance use in their schools and communities, and to start taking effective and evidence-based action to prevent substance use.

Two representatives of our member organisations participate in the Forum this year: Sara Vukelić from Re Generation and Tedi Jaho from Aksion Plus. Both have participated in the No risk, no borders for young people in South East Europe. We are assured that they will contribute with a wealth of ideas and proposals gained from their peers.


The number of NPS stagnated

New psychoactive substances remain a global phenomenon with 134 countries and territories from all regions of the world having reported one or more NPS to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS from 2009 up to December 2021. Within this time period, 1,124 substances were reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS by governments, forensic laboratories and partner organisations worldwide.

The global NPS market continues to be characterized by the emergence of large numbers of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups. Until 2015, the number of different NPS reported each year increased year on year, but has since shown signs of stabilization, albeit at a high level (see figure below).

New psychoactive substances reported to UNODC each year, by substance group, 2009-2021

The last decade has been characterised by a growing diversity of new psychoactive substances (NPS) offered on illicit drug markets and a high level of innovation with dozens of new substances being detected year after year. In recent years, however, the number of NPS reported globally each year has stagnated, albeit at high levels.

Early warning at the national, regional and international levels has enabled the international community to identify NPS soon after their emergence on illicit drug markets as well as to monitor their persistence and regional spread. This allows the analysis of trends in diversity and innovation across effect groups and regions, an understanding of which is relevant to informing future drug policy measures. The potential impact of international scheduling decisions on these trends will be discussed with a focus on the first set of NPS placed under international control in 2015.


On International Human Rights Day, UN drugs body silences UN human rights expert on ground-breaking report

From the IDPC and Harm Reduction International press release

In an unprecedented, last-minute decision, the lead UN drugs body has blocked the presentation of a report from a group of independent human rights experts that calls out governments for serious human rights abuses committed in the war on drugs.

The UN’s lead drug policy-making body has slammed the door on human rights expert Dr Elina Steinerte, Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who was due to present a watershed study on how drug control policies drive an epidemic of arbitrary detention across the world. She has been blocked from addressing the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs today, 10th December, which is coincidentally International Human Rights Day, and her statement has been merely published online. This last-minute decision, which led to a contentious exchange during the session, was reached through an opaque, closed-door process that kept the human rights experts in the dark about their exclusion until today.

The report sheds light on the arrest and incarceration of millions of people around the world for drug-related offences, including for drug use. People who use drugs are also routinely held against their will in so-called ‘rehab centres’, where they are often subject to degrading and inhumane treatment, including forced labour. With today’s decision, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs stands in defiance of the Human Rights Council – the main UN human rights body – which had asked human rights experts to produce the very same report that now has been stonewalled.

The move to block the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s presentation is particularly galling, given that it is happening on International Human Rights Day 2021, held under the themes of equality and non-discrimination. From stop and search practices to mass incarceration or the death penalty, evidence shows that repressive drug policies disproportionately target oppressed and marginalised people across the world, including racialised groups, Indigenous people, people living in poverty, women, and  LGBTQI+ people.

UNODC launched Synthetic Drug Strategy

From the UNODC press release

In response to the rapidly-growing problem of synthetic drugs around the world, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today launched a new strategy to support countries in addressing the situation on 19 November 2021.

The launch of the new strategy comes at a critical moment. The number of new psychoactive substances emerging on illicit drug markets has increased six-fold in the past decade and reached a record high of over 1,000 unique substances in 2020. Annual global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants increased by 64 per cent in 2019, while opioid use disorder deaths have gone up by 71 per cent over the past decade.

Building on UNODC’s experience and lessons learned from the past years in dealing with the opioid crisis, the new Synthetic Drug Strategy will offer a balanced and comprehensive framework that is grounded in science.

A particular emphasis will be placed on evidence-based responses for women and youth, in recognition of the specific challenges they face.

The Strategy will focus on four “spheres of action”: multilateralism and international cooperation, early warning on emerging synthetic drug threats, science-informed health responses, and counternarcotic interventions.

Those challenges have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, as economic hardship and growing inequalities have pushed people towards dangerous coping mechanisms.

Women who use drugs also face specific difficulties, including a lack of availability of necessary gender-specific health and drug treatment services, barriers to accessing existing services, social stigma and the fear of possible legal sanctions in relation to drug use and/or losing the custody of children while in treatment.

Through science-informed processes, evidence, and knowledge, the new strategy will help policymakers to introduce effective policy directions and strategies to disrupt the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs, and to provide access to treatment in different parts of the world.

To learn more about the UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy, follow this link>>>.

UNODC World Drug Report 2021

From the UNODC press release

Around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders, according to the 2021 World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Report further noted that in the last 24 years cannabis potency had increased by as much as four times in parts of the world, even as the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent, despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, especially among regular long-term users.

The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Share facts on drugs. Save lives”, emphasizing the importance of strengthening the evidence base and raising public awareness, so that the international community, governments, civil society, families and youth can make informed decisions, better target efforts to prevent and treat drug use, and tackle world drug challenges.

According to the Report, the percentage of Δ9-THC – the main psychoactive component in cannabis – has risen from around six per cent to more than 11 per cent in Europe between 2002-2019, and around four per cent to 16 per cent in the United States between 1995-2019, while the percentage of adolescents that perceived cannabis as harmful declined by 40 per cent in the United States and by 25 per cent in Europe.

Moreover, most countries have reported a rise in the use of cannabis during the pandemic. In surveys of health professionals across 77 countries, 42 per cent asserted that cannabis use had increased. A rise in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs has also been observed in the same period.

Drug Use Rising, but Science-Based Treatment More Available

Between 2010-2019 the number of people using drugs increased by 22 per cent, owing in part to global population growth. Based on demographic changes alone, current projections suggest an 11 per cent rise in the number of people who use drugs globally by 2030 — and a marked increase of 40 per cent in Africa, due to its rapidly growing and young population.

According to the latest global estimates, about 5.5 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64 years have used drugs at least once in the past year, while 36.3 million people, or 13 per cent of the total number of persons who use drugs, suffer from drug use disorders.

Globally, over 11 million people are estimated to inject drugs, half of whom are living with Hepatitis C. Opioids continue to account for the largest burden of disease attributed to drug use.

The two pharmaceutical opioids most commonly used to treat people with opioid use disorders, methadone and buprenorphine, have become increasingly accessible over the past two decades. The amount available for medical use has increased six-fold since 1999, from 557 million daily doses to 3,317 million by 2019, indicating that science-based pharmacological treatment is more available now than in the past.

The Dark Web

Drug markets on the dark web only emerged a decade ago but major ones are now worth at least US$ 315 million in annual sales. Although this is just a fraction of overall drug sales, the trend is upwards with a fourfold increase between 2011 to mid-2017 and mid-2017 to 2020.

Rapid technological innovation, combined with the agility and adaptability of those using new platforms to sell drugs and other substances, is likely to usher in a globalized market where all drugs are more available and accessible everywhere. This, in turn, could trigger accelerated changes in patterns of drug use and entail public health implications, according to the Report.

The Drug Market Rebounds and Shifts

The new report shows that drug markets have swiftly resumed operations after the initial disruption at the onset of the pandemic; a burst that has triggered or accelerated certain pre-existing trafficking dynamics across the global drug market. Among these are: increasingly larger shipments of illicit drugs, a rise in the frequency of overland and water-way routes used for trafficking, greater use of private planes for the purpose of drug trafficking, and an upsurge in the use of contactless methods to deliver drugs to end-consumers.

The resilience of drug markets during the pandemic has demonstrated once again traffickers’ ability to adapt quickly to changed environments and circumstances.

The Report also noted that cocaine supply chains to Europe are diversifying, pushing prices down and quality up and thereby threatening Europe with a further expansion of the cocaine market. This is likely to widen the potential harm caused by the drug in the region.

The number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) emerging on the global market fell from 163 in 2013 to 71 in 2019. This reflects trends in North America, Europe and Asia. The findings suggest national and international control systems have succeeded in limiting the spread of NPS in high income countries, where NPS first emerged a decade ago.

Drug Risks, New Developments Spurred by Pandemic

COVID-19 has triggered innovation and adaptation in drug prevention and treatment services through more flexible models of service delivery. Many countries have introduced or expanded telemedicine services due to the pandemic, which for drug users means that healthcare workers can now offer counselling or initial assessments over the telephone and use electronic systems to prescribe controlled substances.

While the impact of COVID-19 on drug challenges is not yet fully known, the analysis suggests that the pandemic has brought increasing economic hardship that is likely to make illicit drug cultivation more appealing to fragile rural communities. The social impact of the pandemic – driving a rise in inequality, poverty, and mental health conditions particularly among already vulnerable populations – represent factors that could push more people into drug use.

The World Drug Report and further content is available following this link>>>.


CND 64 started today

H.E. Ambassador Dominika Krois from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the UNODC opened the 64th Meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) today in Vienna. In the next five days, the CND will consider and adopt a range of decisions and resolutions in a hybrid format (online/offline).

At the Opening of the General Debate, the CND64 adopted joint statement on the impact of COVID-19 on addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that “COVID-19 crisis has shown us how much the world needs solidarity, shared responsibility and international cooperation to improve health coverage, protect our societies and recover better”.

The Vienna NGO Committee (VNGOC) has drafted a Guide for NGOs participating in the CND, available here>>>. VNGOC has also compiled a list of recommendations aimed at protecting the role of civil society engagement in the CND, available here>>>.

To follow the session, you can use the CND Blog>>> which provides near real-time updates on the plenary session, Committee of the Whole and selected side events. The CND Blog is a project of the International Drug Policy Consortium, in collaboration with NGO partners, which aims to ensure transparency and provide live records of the discussions taking place at the meeting. The CND Blog also covered UNGASS negotiations and proceedings.

You can also follow the CND webcast at YouTube following this link>>>. There, the formal sessions of the meeting will be streamed.


National Consultant Opening with UNMIK/UNODC

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) invites qualified applicants in the relevant occupational group to apply for the vacancy opening for the National Consultant in Kosovo* for the position of Drug Demand Reduction Evaluation and Reporting Officer.

The Consultant will closely work with the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Regional Project Manager (Belgrade) and UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Rule of Law (RoL) Advisor (Pristina) in facilitating following tasks:

  1. Communicate with the UNODC Regional Project Manager (Belgrade) and UNODC RoL Advisor (Pristina) to agree on the work plan
  2. Communicate with the International Consultant on the reporting requirements
  3. Prepare the WHO/UNODC substance use disorder treatment facility survey (cultural adaptation and expert proofreading)
  4. Prepare the COVID-19 impact assessment questionnaire on drug treatment services (cultural adaptation and expert proofreading)
  5. Run the approved questionnaires with the selected facilities/organisations to test the applicability and clarity of questions (cognitive/pilot testing)
  6. Modify the questionnaire based on the received comments from testing phase
  7. Facilitate the implementation of surveys with treatment facilities and organisations (nominated by the Ministry of Health),
  8. Provide statistical analysis of collected data
  9. Submit the processed data along with the narrative (in English language) to International Consultant for further processing

The deadline for applications is 02 April 2021.

To read the Terms of reference follow this link>>>.


Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment 2020

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented the Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment 2020. It provides an analysis of the global synthetic drugs market. This report presents a global thematic analysis of the key trends and emerging developments of the synthetic drugs market as well as the recent trends in the manufacture of synthetic drugs.

The first part of this report provides options for responses to counter the synthetic drug problem. The second part presents a global thematic analysis of the key trends and emerging developments of the synthetic drugs market as well as the recent trends in the manufacture of synthetic drugs, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The third part provides the key findings of the synthetic drug situation in the different regions of the world.


The report is available follow this link>>>.

The Regional overviews highlight context-specific dynamics relating to the demand and supply of synthetic drugs in Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The regional overview for Europe is available following this link>>>.


Open letter to UNODC Executive Director

In an open letter, with the support from more than 100 civil society organisations, the International Drug Policy Network Consortium (IDPC) invited Ms Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to mark International Human Rights Day by calling on Member States to change drug policies and practices that violate human rights, and entrench exclusion and discrimination.

My Waly was invited to issue a strong statement that underlines UNODC’s commitment to rights-based drug policies, and calls for change in the laws and practices that threaten health and human rights. The 2020 International Human Rights Day, which will be held under the title ‘Recover better: Stand Up for Human Rights’, includes a thematic focus on the need ‘to apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination’. As such, it presents a key opportunity for UNODC to highlight its commitment to the promotion of drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, in line with the UN System Common Position.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the civil society organisations which supported the letter.

To read the letter, follow this link>>>.


NGO Marketplace and civil society engagement at the CND

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) together with the UNODC Civil Society Team are inviting you to a joint webinar presenting the NGO Marketplace and giving guidance on how to engage effectively at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

The webinar will include a tour through the new features of the NGO Marketplace, information on this years CND intersessional meetings and guidance on how to best apply for speaking opportunities.

To ensure a broad engagement, the webinar will be held twice:

  • Monday, 21 July 2020, 4 pm CEST, Vienna (2 pm UTC)
  • Tuesday, 22 July 2020, 10 am CEST, Vienna (8 am UTC)

To register, follow this link>>>.