Australia Funds UN Action on Illicit Drugs

Australia has pledged $200,000 to two United Nations initiatives which aim to reduce the human toll caused by the global trade in illicit drugs.

Page last updated: 21 April 2016

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21 April 2016

Australia has pledged $200,000 to two United Nations initiatives which aim to reduce the human toll caused by the global trade in illicit drugs.

Assistant Minister for Health, Ken Wyatt, announced two separate pledges of $100,000 in New York today. Mr Wyatt is leading the Australian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS).

The pledges are for very different programs – one to help catch illicit drug traders and the other to allow controlled legal use of opiate-based painkilling medicines.

The first is to the UN’s Global SMART program, which is helping countries to improve their capacity to gather, analyse and report information on synthetic drugs.

Global SMART – Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends – is run by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and currently operates in 11 countries in East and South-East Asia and Latin America.

Since 2011, Global SMART has highlighted the emergence of new psychoactive substances, including crystal methamphetamine or Ice.

The second pledge of $100,000 will go to the UNODC to further its work on increasing access to opiate-based medicines, such as morphine, for patients in severe pain and other cases of extreme need.

“While the illicit use of drugs is of great concern to all UN Member States, it is also a matter of great concern to Australia that so many people around the world still have limited or no access to the pain relief provided by narcotic-based medicines,” Minister Wyatt told the UN General Assembly.

“We urge other countries to join us in supporting the UNODC’s Global Program on access to controlled drugs to ensure more of the world’s citizens have respite from acute and chronic pain.”

During the past year, Australia has also provided funding to Ghana and Timor-Leste for pilot programs of regulatory and legislative control regimes for narcotic based medicines.

“These pilot programs, part funded by Australia, have shown that it is possible to overcome the complex set of barriers to accessing controlled drugs,” Mr Wyatt said.

Prior to the UNGASS plenary session, Mr Wyatt chaired a side event hosted by Australia on access to controlled medications.

“Data from the 2014 International Narcotics Control Board annual report tells us that approximately three quarters of the world's population live in countries with inadequate access to treatment for pain,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The report also states that 92 per cent of the world’s morphine is consumed by 17 per cent of the world’s population.

“Australia believes that the fundamental basis of the international drug control treaties is a recognition that the medical use of narcotic drugs continues to be critical for the relief of pain and suffering and that adequate provision must be made to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs for such purposes.”

Mr Wyatt also used Australia’s country statement to the UNGASS meeting to reiterate the Government’s strong opposition to the use of the death penalty, including for drug-related crimes.

For media enquiries:
Jamila Savoy-Soubotian, Minister Wyatt’s office on 0447 680 444

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