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Tendencies in the World Community's Reaction to Drug Abuse

E.G. Gasanov

This and many other very interesting materials have been published in the book "Drug Abuse: Tendencies and Ways to Overcome It (based on materials of the Republic of Azerbaijan)" (Мoscow: "JurInfoR" Educational and Consulting Center, 1998)


The world community counteracts the negative tendencies of drug abuse. This can be clearly seen in the materials of the world fora and in the international legal acts.

The Overriding Tendency of Combating Drug Abuse

The overriding tendency is the expanding scale, and improvement of activities, as well as of the international legal regulations combating drug abuse. The core of this tendency is expressed in the following trajectory from the study of drug abuse, and exerting influence by the world community through establishing international control over legitimate distribution and consumption of drugs, to the adoption and implementation of the increasingly diversified, detailed, rationalized and tough measures combating illegal drug trafficking and criminal drug money laundering. These measures are being worked out by international agencies and organizations and are aimed at fully blocking the spread of narcotics.

This overall tendency can be seen in several of its more concrete manifestations, such as bringing the problem of narcotics to the forefront; expanding the sphere of the international legal regulation by amending existing measures and approving new international legal norms; making actions against drug abuse more purposeful by revealing its most vulnerable spots and controlling them by using new, more perfected international legal norms; ensuring a more universal, unified and standardized understanding of international legal terms regulating narcotics and; adopting international legal norms that pave the way for a real opportunity to combat narcotics; bringing international and national legal acts in line concerning actions against narcotics in the process of nations joining international legal acts and ratifying them; increasing the number of countries taking part in international conferences on actions against narcotics and the number of countries joining international legal acts and setting up and expanding the functions of specialized international agencies that work to combat narcotics.

Bringing to the Foreground Problems of Combating Drug Abuse

Nearly 80 years since the convocation of the Shanghai Opium Commission in 1909, the first official body on the international scene that had drawn attention to the problems of narcotics, its regulation and gradual restriction, public attention to the problem has been steadily growing in proportion to the rise in the degree of public danger and the spread of narcotics. This is manifested by the increasing number of conferences, meetings, and symposia that concentrate on working out and adopting various international legal acts regulating measures to combat narcotics along with producing recommendations aimed at improving these types of measures and their application.

Expanding the Sphere of International Legal Regulation

Expanding the sphere of international legal regulation means that each successive forum and each new international legal act against narcotics has focused on such areas of drug abuse which have not been previously subject of international regulation.

In particular, the 1912 Hague Convention was the first to define types of narcotics - raw opium, smoke opium, medicinal opium, morphine and some others, which were placed under international control. Later this list was expanded. Under the Convention of 19th February 1925, some additional raw materials such as coca leaves, raw cocain and Indian hemp (cannabis) were included. Also any other drug capable of causing harmful affects, according to the finding of a competent body, could be added to the list. Under the Protocol of 19th November 1948 the list was further extended by synthetic drugs that had come into being by that time and had not been regulated by any of the previously adopted international legal acts. The 1961 Uniform Convention contained a much longer list of narcotics allowing for further subsequent changes and additions.

The 1912 Hague Convention obliged the participating countries to pass national legislation controlling the production, distribution, importation and exportation of raw opium as well as measures scaling down production, domestic trade and consumption of smoke opium, banning its import and export. The Agreement of 11th February 1925 envisaged setting up a government monopoly for opium production and monopoly associations for opium trade. The Geneva Convention of 19th February 1925 introduced new measures, such as exercising control over the activities of persons who held permits to manufacture, import, export, sell, distribute and apply narcotics, as well as control over the premises where these persons practiced their trade. The Convention also limited the number of ports, cities and other populated centers through which the import and export of drugs was allowed, and urged the adoption of domestic legislation qualifying violation of these provisions of the Convention as criminal offence. The Convention of 13th July 1931 formulated the following additional measures: extradition of criminals for committing drug-related crimes; setting up domestic government agencies to implement the Convention's decisions and regulations, supervision over the trade in drug-bearing medicines, listed in the Convention, and a clamp-down on illegal drug trafficking. The Bangkok agreement of 27th November 1931 contained such amendments as limiting retail opium trade to government agencies only. For persons under 21 years of age visiting opium dens, was a criminal offence. The Convention of 26th June 1936 was the first to introduce the word "struggle" and provided for a much wider range of criminal drug-related offenses. Under the Protocol of 19th November 1948, the signatories had to inform the UN about any substance, that had the potential of being abused in the future.

The 1961 Uniform Convention (with amendments) broadened international legal norms, over new aspects of drug abuse. For example, it established a special procedure for cultivating narcotic-bearing plants and manufacturing narcotic substances, it established uniform rules for storing drugs. These procedures bound the signatories to cooperate with each other and with authorized international organizations in arranging and holding campaigns against illegal drug trafficking , and in applying imprisonment and against those guilty of premeditated drug-related crimes.

The 1988 UN Convention contained recommendations to define concrete premeditated actions as crimes in national legislation. An extended list of these crimes was included into the concept "illegal drug trafficking." The Convention also listed such measures as medical treatment of addicts, restoration of their working capabilities or social re-integration under subsequent supervision. The Convention outlined recommendations on using controlled deliveries at the international level on the basis of mutual accords.

Purposeful Actions Against Drug Abuse

Intensifying actions against drug abuse by revealing and attacking vulnerable spots of narco-business through the help of new, more perfect law as the world community increasing realized the danger of narcotics, it displayed a growing ability to apply new international legal norms. As a result the world community has been approving appropriate legal norms to check the spread of narcotics. For example, on the basis of the 1912 Hague Convention the signatories pledged to undertake measures to gradually stop the production, domestic trade, and consumption of smoke opium, as well as to ban its import and export. The 1988 Convention registered the provision on controlled drug deliveries at the international level on the basis of mutual accords. In accordance with the statement by the Committee for Banking Rules and Banking Supervision of 12th December 1988 and the decision of July 1989 by the heads of states and governments of the seven leading industrial nations and by the European Commission Chairman, measures were taken to prevent criminal use of the banking system for laundering money obtained from drug trade.

The Universalization of Legal Norms

The trend to ensure universalization, unification and standardization of the international legal norms on narcotics first manifested it self in the 1912 Hague Convention, the Convention of 19th February 1925 and the Uniform Convention. These contained uniform lists of controlled narcotics. The Convention of 13th July 1931 introduced the notions "production", "refining", "processing", "reserve storage stocks", "government storage stocks", "export-import", "cultivation", "illegal trafficking", "territory", "manufacture", "preparation", "storage stocks", and "special storage stocks". The 1961 Uniform Convention and the 1988 Convention provided unified lists of socially dangerous activities, qualified as criminal offenses.

Raising the Effectiveness of the International Legal Norms

More and more specific and not just declarative norms ensuring effective and lasting actions against narcotics have been introduced into law-enforcement practice at each new stage in the international legal regulation of narcotics. The adoption of these international legal norms is paving the way for a real opportunity to oppose drug abuse.

Whereas the 1909 Shanghai Opium Commission failed to generate any constructive measures against narcotics, the 1912 Hague Convention managed to define the kinds of narcotics to be placed under international control. The Agreement of 11th February 1925 provided for the establishment of monopoly institutions to deal with opium and for the transfer of the smoke opium production to a government monopoly. The Convention of 19th February 1925 extended the list of controlled narcotics and introduced new restrictions. Appropriate provisions of the 1931 Bangkok Agreement, the Convention of 13th July 1931, of 26th June 1936, the Protocol of 19th January 1948, the 1961 Uniform Convention (with amendments), the 1988 UN Convention and documents of the European Community of 1988 and 1989 as discussed above, have also been raising the effectiveness of the drive against narcotics.

Bringing into Line the International and National Legal Norms

Increasingly international and national legal norms against narcotics are brought into line as nations sign and ratify international acts. This leads to the mutual enrichment of the international and national legal norms aimed at blocking narcotics. On the one hand, the world community elevates national legal norms to international level by instituting international legal norms. On the other hand, nations ratify international legal acts thus adopting them as domestic legislation. International and domestic legal norms coincide almost completely sometimes, in such areas the list of narcotics and drug-related actions considered a criminal offense, as well as the procedure of filing criminal charges against persons committing drug-related crimes, and their extradition.

The Rise in the Number of Countries Taking Part in International Conferences

There has been an increase in the number of nations taking part in international conferences on narcotics and in the number of nations signing international legal acts. This is evident in the fact that 13 nations took part in the Shanghai Opium Commission in 1909, whereas 73 nations attended the New York conference which adopted the Uniform Convention in 1961. Since then, many nations have ratified the Uniform Convention and the 1988 UN Convention and more are going to sign them.

Setting up Specialized Agencies

The world community has created and keeps expanding the functions of the specialized agencies dealing with narcotics, such as Permanent Central Committee on Drugs of 1925, the Special Commission of 1928, the Control Commission of 1931, the Commission on Drugs of the UN Economic and Social Council of 1961 and the UN International Committee on Drug Control, and the special operations group on financial matters of 1989 dealing with money laundering resulting from drug trafficking. These agencies handle more and more functions in response to the ever more sophisticated dissemination of drugs, and money laundering resulting from drug trafficking.

The reaction of the world community to narcotics examined above shows a deeper understanding of this dangerous phenomenon, along with the increasing sophistication of measures against it. One can predict that this tendency will remain steadfast and keep progressing.


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