Appointed in July by the UN Secretary General, Russian diplomat Mr.Yuri Fedotov took office as the new Director of the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the organization’s Headquarters in Vienna (Austria), He also became director of the United Nations Office at Vienna.
UNODC‘s mission is to help UN member states to promote security and justice and address the threats posed by crime, drugs and terrorism. The work of UNODC is based upon several international judicial instruments, as such the three conventions on psychotropic substances (1).
After eight years with Mr. Antonio Maria Costa in office, the UNODC is now in the hands of a Russian Diplomat, Mr. Yuri Fedotov, whose appointment has raised many concerns among those opposed to any punitive approach to the issue of substance abuse, including many NGOs.
Mr. Fedotov’s appointment will probably strengthen the Russian Federation, which ordinary stance on the subject, sometimes described as regressive, ranges from repeated calls to resume poppy eradication campaigns in Afghanistan, to its rejection of any harm reduction program whatsoever, including needle exchange, or methadone maintenance programs – despite a dramatic increase of heroin addiction and HIV infection rates in the country.
Despite these concerns, no one can judge someone on his alleged intentions and Mr Fedotov seems to be willing to ensure the continuity of UNODC’s global commitment to face the many challenges of the twenty-first century.
Taking charge of the UN’s drugs and crime arm, on September 13, Mr. Fedotov stated:
“UNODC has extended its activities and impact significantly over the years. I am looking forward to a period of consolidation, as we reinforce the Office’s governance and financial mechanisms in order to keep up with the world’s growing drugs and crime challenges.”
Mr Fedotov pledges to preserve people’s health and to promote Justice and human rights when designing drugs and crime policies: “I want this Office to make a significant contribution to economic and social progress”, he declared.
UNODC has valuable allies in the pursuit of its objectives: NGOs and the civil society, who are involved in the efforts to raise awareness on drug control’s global policies. The Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs is one of these. Since 1998, the committee is a vital link between NGO’s and the key international and intergovernmental agencies involved in drug policy, strategy and control, such as UNODC . The VNGOC‘s board of directors comprises six renowned NGO’s, including Dianova International.
Mr. David Turner, chairperson of VNGOC sent a letter to Mr. Fedotov to congratulate him on his appointment and to invite him to pursue his predecessor’s work to be more open to collaborate with NGO’s and the civil society.
“(…) Efforts to tackle the global drug problem and its associated problems of crime and corruption require a strong and effective partnership between governments, international organizations and civil society. Whilst that partnership is in place with governments and has been developing with other international organizations, it has not yet been effectively developed with civil society and NGOs.”
“We believe that (the Vienna NGO Committee) could now offer a framework through which UNODC could consult NGOs as it develops its strategic and operational plans in relation to the drug misuse element of its mandate. This would also offer the Office an additional source of information to draw on as it seeks to analyze the world and the regional situations.”
The call was launched, it is now up to the new Director-general of UNODC to take action to strengthen the essential partnership between NGOs and international bodies. Through its 11 member organizations on three continents, Dianova commits to be an active participant in this field.
Mr. Fedotov has represented his country at the United Nations’ main deliberative organs in New York. He has also been posted to Algeria and India and served as a member of the College of Commissioners of the former United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in Iraq.
1) The current international drug control system is based on three international conventions: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), amended by the 1972 protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988
2) Mrs Elena Goti, representative of Dianova is Deputy Secretary at VNGOC