73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 110: International Drug Control
Statement by H.E. Dr. A. Rohan Perera, Ambassador and
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
04 October 2018
We thank the Secretary-General for his detailed report on this topic.
It has long been well established that drug use and abuse has widespread harmful social and economic implications in our societies. In addition to severe economic impacts, drug abuse inflicts immeasurable harm on public health and safety around the world each year, and hinders the social and economic development of our societies. The Report of the Secretary General on “International cooperation against the world drug problem” notes that the global prevalence of drug abuse is 5.1 per cent of the global population aged 15–64 years. Although this percentage has remained stable over recent years, global population growth entails that the number of people who use drugs has increased. In addition, the Report notes that approximately one in eight people who use drugs suffer from drug use disorders.
Sri Lanka has long championed the prevention of drug use and abuse and has taken steps towards this goal with renewed vigour in recent years. Sri Lanka continues to see slight but steady increases in narcotics consumption, particularly of heroin.
Sri Lanka’s approach towards this issue is a comprehensive one, acknowledging that tackling the issue of drug abuse in the country requires a balance between supply reduction, treatment, rehabilitation and demand reduction. The Government of Sri Lanka is strongly committed to eradicating the drug menace in Sri Lanka, with H.E. the President Maithripala Sirisena establishing a Presidential Task Force on this topic, which carries out its functions with his oversight.
The central government agency that coordinates Sri Lanka’s approach is the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, or NDDCB. The NDDCB takes a multi-pronged approach toward curbing drug use in Sri Lanka, including through the strengthening of customs and law enforcement capabilities, the study and development of a harmonized legislative approach to drug related offences, the improvement of treatment and rehabilitation services for drug users and the launching of a wide variety of education campaigns in schools and communities. In addition, the NDDCB works closely with the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) that investigates major drug cases and responds to international requests with regard to drug law enforcement. From a law enforcement perspective, according to data from the NDDCD, 34,970 persons were arrested for drug related offences in 2017, which marked a 2% increase of drug related arrests compared to 2016. The targeting of traffickers and drug dealers who make drugs freely available among our youth including school children remains a key aspect of our law enforcement efforts.
One of Sri Lanka’s principle policy frameworks for tackling this issue is the National Policy for the Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse of 2005, which was amended in 2016. The amendments reflected strengthened measures against the production, smuggling, trafficking and use of illicit drugs in the country, as well as supporting regional and international initiatives on prevention of drug use. With this policy, the Government adopted a broader approach to drug use control within the context of human development, focusing particularly on the links between drug use, poverty reduction, crime prevention and improving health. In this context, Sri Lanka reaffirms and supports the assertion in the Secretary General’s Report that this issue requires “a people-centered approach, based on results rather than dogma or prejudice.”
Sri Lanka is also a signatory of major international conventions related to drug abuse and trafficking, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. Sri Lanka remains committed to its international obligations stemming from these conventions.
Sri Lanka's strategic location, between Europe and South Asia, has made Sri Lanka increasingly vulnerable to drug trafficking, with international drug smugglers turning to Sri Lanka as a transit hub in Asia. Sri Lanka has taken many concrete steps to prevent this process, including through tightening security procedures and regulations. Sri Lanka works closely with the UNODC Regional Office in South Asia on these issues. In August 2017, Sri Lanka established a special police unit to focus specifically on drug-related issues. Furthermore, the government, in partnership with six South Asian countries, established a South Asian Regional Intelligence and Coordination Centre in order to “enable meaningful exchange of information and strengthen inter-governmental cooperation against crime.”
The issue of drug abuse has severe socio- economic implications and is detrimental to our journey towards peace, prosperity and sustainable development. We must keep working collectively to curb the menace of drugs and eradicate it from our societies.