Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations Ms. Iruthisham Adam on Agenda Item 105: International Drug Control at the Third Committee of the Sixty-Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Thursday, 8 October 2009
As this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor, please accept our sincere felicitations to you and the members of the Bureau on your election. I assure you of my delegation’s full support and cooperation.
Let me also convey warm congratulations to Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, for the very important statement.
Illicit drugs are a global impediment to the social and economic development of nations. As we know, the transnational character of organized crime makes it a complex issue that cannot be countered by piecemeal efforts of individual states. The Maldives, as a small island developing state, cannot over-emphasise the importance of a concerted global effort that is designed to wipe out the roots of these criminal activities. Fight against narcotics requires unwavering commitment by all.
Unfortunately, the Maldives has not been spared from the menace of drug abuse. With a tourism driven economy, the Maldives is well connected with the outside world through its international airports and seaports making it highly vulnerable to the trade. The situation is made worse with a population of three hundred thousand that is widely dispersed between the 196 inhabited islands; resulting in a high degree of internal migration. As you can imagine this scenario makes it extremely difficult for authorities to monitor and manage the situation.
A Rapid Situation Assessment of 2003 declared drug abuse as the single most serious issue facing the country. Although the Maldives does not produce, cultivate or manufacture drugs, Maldives has been used as a point for the illegal shipment of precursor chemicals or large quantities of drugs destined for other countries. The study also revealed that the most common drugs of initiation were heroin with 43 per cent and cannabinoids with 34 per cent. The number of drug abuse cases has been steadily escalating since the first case was detected in 1993 and with a youth population of 40 per cent, most of the drug users fall between the ages of 16 and 24. Peer pressure is cited as the most common reason for falling victim to the dangerous trade.
To address these issues the Maldives has launched a Drug Control Master Plan that details nation-wide activities to counter drug abuse. In addition, a national campaign titled “Wake Up”, jointly organized by the Government, civil society and UNICEF was launched in December 2007. The "Wake Up" campaign emphasized the importance of community support and acceptance for addicts to help break the stigma and promote recovery. Renewed efforts are now underway to ensure better treatment of drug addicts.
The global fight against illicit narcotics should not lose its focus; protecting human security through enhanced public health. As very rightly distinguished by the UNODC, controlling drugs is not only a security issue. It is an issue that affects families as well as societies as a whole. Hence, a clear and distinct reorientation of the global fight is a necessity.
The focus on health security can be operationalised through an emphasis on treatment of drug victims. Increased awareness among youth on the dangers of drug addiction and a further commitment to rehabilitate drug offenders to facilitate their rejoining into society as responsible and productive citizens, will also assist in enabling this shift. The Maldives, thus, supports the call made by Mr. Costa to avoid criminalization of drug victims.
Simultaneously, international drug control and crime prevention requires a consolidated legal foundation that enables strong legal action against the perpetrators of transnational organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking.
The Maldives commends the successful work carried out by the UNODC over the last 60 years. As a developing state with extremely limited resources, the Maldives highly appreciates the UNODC’s successes. At the same time, the Maldives wishes to express its hope for a reinforcement of the international fight. We believe that the lessons learnt over the years can be aptly utilized to step up international coordination.
My delegation wishes to take note of the long-standing engagement the UNODC has maintained with the Government of Maldives. Through its engagement, the UNODC has and continue to accord technical expertise and much needed resources to address the issue. One recent achievement in this engagement has been the introduction of OST (Opioid substitution therapy) in Maldivian prisons.
Nonetheless, the Maldives reiterates the significance of pooling better resources to ensure the fight against drugs is effective. As such, capacity building measures in small developing states need to be enhanced so that their efforts are well coordinated and balanced, leading the way for the elimination of the international drug network.
In conclusion, my delegation wishes to convey the firm commitment of the Government of Maldives to play our part in the international efforts to combat drug control. The Government is also determined to continue its engagement with the UN bodies to further this endeavour.
I thank you Mr. Chairman.