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Sharing Singapore’s Anti-drug Story on the World Stage
Through global platforms such as the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Singapore is sharing its experience in fighting the drug scourge with other countries.

In mid-March 2018, a team of Home Team officers and community partners travelled to Vienna, Austria, to share Singapore’s anti-drug story. The occasion was the 61st Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the prime United Nations (UN) body for drug control matters. I was one of the members of the Singapore delegation, and attended the Session in my capacity as Assistant Director with the Institute of Safety and Security Studies’ Advocacy Office against Drugs and Crime (AODC).

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Global advocate: Mr Sivaraman Letchumanan is committed to helping other countries learn about Singapore’s experience in fighting drugs. PHOTO: Mike Tan

I’m a founding member of the AODC in 2017, and it’s been an eye-opening journey so far. While Singapore has always engaged with other countries about our stance on drugs, we made a concerted effort from 2016 to share our focus on harm prevention. That was the year that the UN General Assembly held a Special Session on the world drug problem.

It’s all about helping other countries understand what we do (based on our unique circumstances and needs) and securing our policy space in the global arena. To do this, officers from various departments in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) share Singapore’s strategy against drugs, which encapsulates every aspect of our anti-drug policy – preventive education; strong laws and enforcement; and evidence-informed rehabilitation and community reintegration.

At the 61st Session of the CND in Vienna, Singapore and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organised a forum on “Overcoming Vulnerabilities in Communities through Prevention.” This was a cross-regional dialogue between government agencies, civil society groups and other partners on anti-drug measures that prevent harm to individuals, families and communities. Response to the forum was very good, with about 115 representatives from around the world attending the event.

In her opening remarks at the forum, Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo noted how drugs harm communities and the vulnerable among us, especially women, youths and children. Noting that the forum participants came from many different countries, she also called for greater cooperation in the fight against drugs.

Through the CND and other platforms, many countries now understand that Singapore’s anti-drug laws and enforcement measures are complemented by an equally strong commitment to prevention and rehabilitation.

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Singapore’s solutions: Also sharing their experiences at the 61st Session of the CND were (at left) Mr Timothy Leo, Director, Psychological & Correctional Rehabilitation, MHA, and Mr Abdul Karim, Executive Director, Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA). Mr Leo explained how Singapore’s approach to rehabilitation was supported by neuroscience research while Mr Abdul Karim shared SANA’s efforts in engaging the community to support former drug abusers. PHOTOS: AODC

Some countries have taken our lessons to heart; for example, did you know that Fiji’s Yellow Ribbon Project is modelled on ours? Other countries have also commended us on how the differentiated approach in our rehabilitation regime supports vulnerable groups such as women and youths. Did you know that in Singapore, we pay special attention to young abusers by offering community-based drug rehabilitation services? This allows them to continue with their studies, family life and other social activities that are conducive for their development.
 
The learning process goes both ways. Our engagements with other countries help us to understand and sympathise with the challenges they face. By bringing home new ideas, scientific data and research, we can also improve our anti-drug policies and measures.

It has been an honour for me to travel beyond our borders to engage with a global audience. I still remember the first time I shared Singapore’s policy successes before international delegates at the CND, in January 2017.

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Forging an international consensus to solve the challenge posed by drugs – delegates at the 61st Session of the CND. PHOTOS: UNODC

Unfortunately, the global drug problem hasn’t gone away. While some countries have been more successful in combating drugs, others have been less so – not from a lack of trying, but from specific conditions that allow drug abuse to thrive. That’s why there’s no one anti-drug solution that works for all countries.

It has taken us much time, effort and resources to successfully fight drugs. Having seen the challenges faced by other countries, we’ll continue to do all we can to keep Singapore safe from the drug scourge.
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All together for Singapore: Our delegates at the 61st Session of the CND. PHOTO: AODC

Mr Sivaraman Letchumanan joined the Central Narcotics Bureau in 1999 as a uniformed officer. In 2011, he moved to the Home Team Academy before joining the Centre for Protective Security Studies and then the AODC in 2017.

Read Singapore’s National Statement delivered at the 61st Session of the CND by Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo.

  1. by Sivaraman Letchumanan
  2. 23 March 2018
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