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Tuesday, June 9, 1998 Published at 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK

World: Americas

A global fight against drugs

By the BBC's United Nations Correspondent Rob Watson

At a special United Nations conference in New York, world leaders have been calling for a global partnership in the fight against illicit drugs.

There has been a rare sense of unity at the UN, with world leaders all agreeing, not surprisingly, on the harm caused by the use of illegal drugs and the need for a global approach to tackling the problem.


In the past, the war on narcotics has been hampered by name-calling between those countries where drugs are used and those countries where drugs are produced, with each blaming the other for not doing enough.

Acknowledging that dispute, President Clinton told delegates such finger-pointing had not closed down a single cartel or saved a single addict, and that it was now time for unity.

Although producer countries are pleased the richer nations are now accepting the need to reduce their demand for drugs, tensions still remain. In a clear dig at the United States, the presidents of Mexico and Colombia both said any anti-drug policy must respect the sovereignty of nations.

There are also problems over the funding of projects to provide alternatives to drug-cultivation, with the richer nations reluctant to donate money to countries whose governments they disapprove of, such as Burma and Afghanistan.


Critics of this conference say world leaders are still placing too much emphasis on costly law- enforcement operations and not enough on treating and preventing drug addiction.

They are also concerned that programmes to eliminate drug production will violate the human rights of peasant farmers without ever really solving the drug problem.

The three-day conference is expected to conclude with the endorsement of a plan aimed at drastically reducing the supply of and demand for drugs and encouraging better international co-operation to prosecute and convict drug-traffickers.

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