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UNODC: The Russians Are Coming

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #639)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

[Update, 6:20pm EST: Peter Sarosi at HCLU just told me Ban Ki-moon has indeed picked Fedotov. Hence I have removed the question mark from the end of the title of this article. :( - DB]

Current head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Antonio Maria Costa is set to end his 10-year term at the end of this month, and according to at least one published report, a Russian diplomat has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace him. That is causing shivers in some sectors of the drug reform community because the Russians are viewed as quite retrograde in their drug policy positions.

The report names Russia's current ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yuri Fedotov, as the top candidate to oversee UNODC and its $250 million annual budget. Other short-listed candidates include Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana, who headed a UN anti-crime commission in Guatemala, Colombian Ambassador to the European Union Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and Brazilian attorney Pedro Abramovay. The final decision is up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If Fedotov wins the position, Russia would be in a far more influential position to influence international drug policy, and that is raising concerns because of Russia's increasingly shrill demands that the US and NATO return to opium eradication in Afghanistan, its refusal to allow methadone maintenance and its refusal to fund needle exchange programs even as it confronts fast-growing heroin addiction and HIV infection rates.

The concerns have crystallized in a campaign to block his appointment, including a Facebook group called We Don't Want A Russian UN Drug Czar!, which is urging people to send an email message to that effect to Secretary General Ki-moon. Group organizers the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have also produced a video on the subject:

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Michael McCarthy (not verified)

Antonio Maria Costa is a perfect example of what is wrong with our drug policies. The only loss from his retirement, will be one less buffoon to point-to when ridiculing the moralist stance that is doing so much damage to our poor and disenfranchised.
I'm sure he will find a new position where he can exercise his arrogance and abuse someone weaker than himself.
God Speed Antonio!

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 2:07pm Permalink
Michael Myers (not verified)

In reply to by Michael McCarthy (not verified)

Could you please inform us more on this issue. the info is vague. I would love to hear more of your view!

Wed, 11/10/2010 - 5:34am Permalink
Malkavian (not verified)

Check up on it. They don't even have methadone maintenance programs: illegal. From there it just gets worse.

Edit: and I wanted to add something. Back when I saw the documentary "Grass" on marijuana w/Woody Harrelson as narrator I was struck by the realization that in the late 70's there was a massive backlash because conservatives and Christians mobilized to counter the progress towards more lenient drug laws.

The UN knows well that we are winning, and next year they celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. They are gearing up to this event, and we better be ready. This is our time and we can't afford to lose it this time too.

Sat, 07/10/2010 - 7:22am Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.CanadaWe almost had legal marijuana in Canada and now we just saw a bill for mandatory minimum sentences for a few pot plants.A second heroin maintenance program was announced but is still awaiting the funding to proceed.We were seeing one reform win after another here until the harper minority government came to power.NAOMI went from expanding to ending,needle exchanges had their funding threatened and the safe injection site,Insite was forced to submit paper after paper and is once again being taken in front of the court to fight for it's existence.The courts got so frustrated with the governments obstructionist policies that it suspended federal drug laws for a period of one year during which the government was supposed to make them(drug laws)make sense and be written in concise clear language.I had been told I would be a client of the North America opiate maintenance initiative (NAOMI)as soon as they had the funding for that program and I phoned the day after the election only to be told by a very upset doctor that it was over.All I am saying is that although we have seen more progress in the last decade than we did in the entire 20th century,the forces of repression are always working to reinstate the draconian drug policies even as we see them eliminated.We have to be vigilant and never think that it's over till it's actually over.Even when I hear the drug war is suspended I won't trust them for one second.As for a Russian Drug Czar,or whatever they call them at the UN,I have seen the way the UN responds to news it doesn't like at the drug conference here in Vancouver.They tell you what you want to hear,then when they get back they go right back to being above it all.FREE MARC EMERY!

Mon, 07/12/2010 - 5:26am Permalink
McD (not verified)

Politics… Who needs ‘em? Well, it might just be everyone in this case. There are some intelligent and perceptive people making policy decisions in the US and at the UN (which is really the same thing). They know they have been defeated in their War on Drugs and must find the fact acutely embarrassing. As a rule, people don’t like losing fights or wars and, having done so, saving face becomes highest priority. Defeat has been indirectly admitted by the Obama administration: ‘We no longer call it the War on Drugs.’

The Russians don’t seem to have got the message, though. I’m sure there are plenty of intelligent and perceptive people in the Kremlin, as well as the White House, but they don’t have the same experience of defeat that the Americans do. (They have their own, which is no less valuable.) They’ve gone into ‘moron mode’ in their approach to drugs, just like their counterparts in the West did some thirty-odd years ago. This is something the Russians are extraordinarily good at… And human rights.

The appointment of Yuri Fedotov to the UNODC Boss job is a cause for great celebration for those who are eager to change current international drug policies. Not only does it underline the Americans’ admission of defeat in one of their most ridiculous holy crusades (The War on Drugs) but it has finally set the stage for the repeal of the (US/)UN(/UK) (Axis) ‘Narcotics’ Conventions of 1961 and ’88, which in turn should lead to a number of other equally important and similarly obstructed measures.

Look around outside the box - you don't even really need to think, just open you eyes - and consider a dialogue:
‘We’ve lost. What can we do?’
‘Blame it on the Russians.’
‘No-one’s going to buy it.’
‘Make ‘em beg for it.’
‘How so?’
‘Flood the country with heroin so that they have no choice but to demand responsibility for stopping it. That way we kill a whole bunch of birds with one stone:
1) we save face by distancing ourselves from defeat without even ever actually openly admitting defeat;
2) they take over, assuming the same position that caused our defeat, making the same mistakes until they’re forced - just as we have been - to come to terms with defeat; that way they take the blame and get called fools for repeating the mistakes which we can claim to have innocently made and they’re seen as idiots for repeating our mistakes; and the really, really good part is that we can then say, ‘Ah, yes, but you see, we’d already understood what we'd done wrong and started to embrace harm reduction before those idiots took over and made a mess of the good work we’d started to do, and we only let them because we’re such good, kind and trusting souls - always willing to give them enough rope to hang themselves - and they pressured us so hard to do so.';
3) when they’ve made such a mess of it that they’re crawling away on their knees, just like they did from Afghanistan twenty years ago, then we can waltz back in as heros, repealing the Conventions, replacing them with new ones to our liking, minimizing damage to our good selves, maximizing damage to them, thereby strengthening our position at the centre of the Axis. How’s that for a strategy?’
‘Let’s do it!’

Personally, I don’t think the Americans are as stupid as one might be led to believe by a simple analysis of their holy crusades, particularly the War on Drugs. Once they’ve managed to pull off something like the plan outlined above, I’m sure they’ll take a more intelligent approach to the new and improved Axis ‘Narcotics’ Conventions. Having lived and worked in Russia and the ex-Soviet Union for several years, however, I’m afraid I can’t find the same confidence in the Russians’ capabilities. I don’t think I’m revealing anything other than the obvious here. It won’t be long before the Russians have dug a hole for themselves so deep that their infractions of human rights become intolerable and they’re forced to retire from their fantasy role as ‘savior of traditional values’. As far as I can see, this is the only way the Axis is able to deal with the defeat it’s suffered. And it’s not a bad plan.

So take heart those of you who await intelligence from our masters. I see light at the end of a long, long, dark and decaying tunnel which has caused such horrific pain and suffering.

Fri, 07/16/2010 - 9:20pm Permalink

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