United Nations World Drug Report 2010 Shows the Devastating Impact of the Drug Trade on Transit Countries

United Nations World Drug Report 2010 Shows the Devastating Impact of the Drug Trade on Transit Countries

The Office of Drugs and Crimes of the United Nations released the World Drug Report 2010 on June 23, 2010. The new report indicates that amphetamines and related stimulants as well as prescription drugs are becoming drugs of choice throughout the world. The biggest change in the statistics is the use of synthetic drugs. The UN estimates the number of users of these drugs will soon exceed the number of users of cocaine and opiates.

“We will not solve the world drugs problem if we simply push addiction from cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances – and there are unlimited amounts of them, produced in mafia labs at trivial costs,” warned UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.

The report makes it clear to any reader that demand must be lowered through effective drug addiction treatment or many of these states could become narco-states controlled by organized crime.

The UN news release on the report noted that it’s hard to track amphetamines because they are often made from legal, easily obtained ingredients, and if one becomes hard to produce, manufacturers market a new drug. Mephedrone, a synthetic drug based on compounds found in the khat plant, is an example of one of the more recent synthetic drugs.

Mr. Costa noted the synthetic drugs are doubly difficult to stop because new ones are developed so quickly, law enforcement can’t keep up. He also noted that the manufacturers are savvy marketers of their drugs.

Marijuana still remains the most popular illegal drug. The report states that 130 to 190 million people use marijuana at least once a year. However, marijuana use is declining in North America and Europe, which indicates a change in which drugs are being abused.

Mr. Costa also highlighted the report’s findings on the availability of drug treatment. Although wealthy countries such as the United States have many treatment options, poor countries do not. The report estimates that only one-fifth of drug abusers got any form of treatment in 2009. Costa believes access to quality drug treatment that respects human rights will be critical in developing nations.

The UN report also examples how drug trafficking can have a destabilizing influence on “transit countries.” They give examples such as Venezuela and Africa, major transit points for the global drug trade. The UN agrees with past studies that have examined the security implications of large-scale drug trafficking organizations. The profits are so enormous they often rival gross domestic product, and the trade undermines the stability of the State through violence and diminished economic growth. They also recognize that drug trafficking often funds terrorist groups.

High-level corruption in States where drug production is a major source of income, particularly risky in countries with vulnerable governments, undermines legitimate economic development and leads to lawlessness in remote regions of the country.

Cocaine and heroin are the drugs most often associated with poor countries. They export the drugs to the richest countries. Countries that produce these drugs almost all have had destabilization issues and insurgency problems that often lead to entrenched civil conflicts. For example, in Afghanistan, which produces 90% of the world’s opium, the drugs come from those provinces where rebel groups are the strongest. The Taliban also profit from the opium trade to the tune of about $125 million a year, most of it through direct taxation of farmers and traffickers.

The report states that “the ideal case for traffickers is an authoritarian state where the authority is in their pocket.”

Drug traffickers are a nasty bunch, using violence to reap their profits. They often target law enforcement and judges, journalists and activists. Corrupted officials are sometimes used to target competitors in the drug market – the government becoming a tool to destroy rival drug traffickers.

“A clear sign that crime has become a national security threat comes when exceptional legal and security measures are taken, including calling on the military to help re-establish the government’s authority,” the report states.

The impact of this destabilization can be challenging to reverse, especially because violence tends to increase when the government cracks down on traffickers.

Murder rates in transit countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador, have increased dramatically in the past few years, particularly in areas bordering Columbia. In 1990, statistics for Venezuela reported a little over 2000 murders a year. By 2008 that number had climbed to 16,000 murders a year.

The threat drug traffickers pose to the rule of law and to peace and prosperity most alarms the UN researchers because it can, in effect, influence the course of political events. When drug traffickers become the rudder of the ship, the State destabilizes and violence becomes the norm.

To read the complete UN report download the PDF at http://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_2010/3.0_Destabilizing_influence_of_drug_trafficking_Case_of_cocaine.pdf

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