Published: 23 October 2017
Secretary-General, Mr Kinley Dorji
Chief Executive Officer, Mr Thomas Browne
Director CNB, Mr Ng Ser Song
Ladies and gentlemen
1. A very good morning. I am very happy to be here today and a very warm welcome to Singapore. I am very pleased to join all of you this morning for the 4th Drug Advisory Programme Focal Point Meeting.
2. I would like to thank the Colombo Plan for giving us the opportunity to host this wonderful meeting. The Colombo Plan has been an integral partner, spearheading many initiatives in the areas of preventive drug education and rehabilitation. These initiatives have been impactful and lives have been and continue to be transformed for the better.
3. Children with substance abuse disorders can now be identified, assessed and treated more effectively because of the training provided to practitioners. Youths are equipped with life skills through initiatives organised by the Colombo Plan in drug prevention that helps them to navigate life's challenges better. Anti-narcotics agencies have made good progress in advancing drug detection technologies and methodologies through closer partnerships and training. This has enabled them to effectively deal with the trading of illicit drugs and drug precursors.
4. Besides serving as an important platform for participants to share experiences and best practices, the Focal Point Meeting had provided opportunities to deepen partnerships and collaborations, sharing of strategies to reduce demand for drugs through the various workshops as well as bilateral relations fostered and strengthened through joint programmes. The facilitation of transfer of knowledge and skills across member states has been very helpful in fostering this good relationship.
Worsening Global and Regional Drug Situation
5. The worsening global drug situation is a stark reminder of the threat that we are facing, and why we need to step up our efforts, work together and stand united in the fight against drugs.
6. Based on the World Drug Report 2017, a quarter of a billion people had abused drugs at least once in 2015. Over 11% of those who had used drugs have suffered drug abuse disorders. Close to 200,000 drug-related deaths have been reported worldwide. 35% of these deaths had occurred in Asia. That means 70,000 deaths a year, or close to 200 deaths a day, in Asia.
7. Trends in the world and in the region are making it more difficult in our battle against illicit drug trafficking and use. Illicit drug producers and traffickers are not slowing down their criminal activities. Cannabis continues to be the most widely produced illicit drug worldwide. Global opium production increased by 30% to more than 6,000 tons. Seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants doubled between 2010 and 2015. And in this same period, in East and South-East Asia, seizures of methamphetamine increased more than five-fold and heroin seizures increased by 75%.
8. Even as we try to deal with the worsening drug landscape, there are new and emerging challenges that we have to grapple with.
New Psychoactive Substances
9. Seizures of new psychoactive substances, or NPS, have been significant. Enforcement against the abuse of NPS and regulating these drugs are particularly difficult. New substances are continually being developed and introduced into the market. It is not easy for drug enforcement agencies to keep up with the number of new substances. To add to the challenge, many NPS are being deceptively marketed as safe alternatives to illicit drugs, when in fact the harm they cause can be as great or even greater.
Online Drug Trade
10. Traffickers are leveraging the internet and online social platforms to facilitate their cross border drug trafficking activities. They hide behind the anonymity that the Internet provides to evade detection. This phenomenon is growing with more and more online black market sites sprouting up. Some of these sites are layered with sophisticated encryption software and advanced technology. They use electronic currency methods like Bitcoins for payment, and employ unsuspecting legitimate courier companies to deliver their wares.
11. To tackle the online drug trade, we need to strengthen and deepen transnational cooperation and intelligence sharing among enforcement agencies for greater effectiveness in targeting and disrupting their businesses.
Youth Drug Abuse
12. Another worrying trend is that traffickers are increasingly targeting youths online. We have seen how the youth drug abuse situation continues to be of concern here in Singapore. More than 40% of the drug abusers arrested in 2016 were below 30 years old. Close to two-thirds of new abusers arrested were also below 30 years old. Not only are the abusers getting younger, they are starting to adopt more tolerant attitudes towards drugs due to external influences.
13. A local study uncovered some worrying trends. First, there was rising acceptance of cannabis use. Second, young cannabis abusers had cited media celebrities, the Internet and peers as reasons for experimenting with drugs. Third, young abusers think that cannabis is less harmful and addictive than tobacco.
14. The socio-economic profiles of abusers are also changing. Many of these cannabis abusers came from well-to-do families. Many were high achievers in school. We have to keep a close watch on this and take decisive action to prevent the next generation of abusers from taking root.
Singapore's Drug Control Approach
15. I had earlier encouraged you to share your strategies and programmes. So let me start the ball rolling.
16. Singapore adopts a harm prevention model towards drug abuse. Our harm prevention model has three limbs. First, upstream prevention. Second, rigorous enforcement supported by tough laws. Third, effective treatment and rehabilitation. This approach has worked well for us and kept our streets relatively drug-free.
17. Singapore continues to believe in effective drug prevention programmes. It remains our first line of defence. We educate the young on the harms of drugs, we prevent them from falling prey to the online drug trade. We reach out to key influencers too - people such as teachers and parents, who can help the youths stay away from drugs.
18. We empower them with knowledge and tools, and prepare them sufficiently to help spread the anti-drug message.
19. We have stepped up our preventive drug education efforts. We have increased our presence on social media to address misconceptions about drugs. We are developing interactive and engaging content to generate interest in anti-drug messages. Check out our CNB Facebook page. It is pretty fun, it is pretty cool.
20. We have strong support and help from our anti-drug advocates. They are individuals and organisations who help spread the anti-drug message. They form part of a community passionate about keeping Singapore drug-free.
21. Enforcement is another key pillar in Singapore's anti-drug strategy. Intensive efforts were invested to suppress drug demand and supply. CNB has done a very good job in keeping the drug situation in Singapore under control. It has crippled drug trafficking syndicates and disrupted the supply of drugs into Singapore through joint operations with other local and foreign law enforcement agencies. It is very interesting. In fact, I followed CNB on a couple of drug raids and it was quite an experience for me.
22. Our enforcement efforts are supported by tough laws. We believe that tough laws form an integral part of the fight against drug trafficking and abuse. We are tough on traffickers and we will continue to be tough. If we soften our position on drugs, more drug syndicates and traffickers will enter Singapore. We cannot allow this to happen.
Effective Treatment, Rehabilitation and Aftercare
23. Rehabilitating drug offenders is another key strategy in Singapore's fight against drug abuse. We have comprehensive programmes in place to treat these drug abusers, and help them stay clean from drugs.
24. We know that every abuser is different. Abusers come from different backgrounds. They face different pressures. They have different levels of motivation. A one-size-fits-all approach would not work. Hence, we tailor different approaches to meet their needs.
25. I have spoken about the issues that we face and the measures that we have adopted to overcome them. But the most important ingredient to success, is cooperation. The fight against drugs transcends all national boundaries.
26. Organised criminal groups are becoming more sophisticated. They are not bound by boundaries. They do not operate on morals and principles. They are always thinking of how to outsmart law enforcement agencies.
27. We cannot counter them effectively if we do not join forces. We must continue with our efforts and our collaboration, to find solutions on bilateral and multilateral issues through Colombo Plan's principles of self-help and mutual help, and to keep on encouraging each other to reduce drug demand and supply.
28. I would like to encourage all of you to make use of this opportunity to share your national strategies and programmes addressing drug use, the current drug trends, and the challenges that you face. The knowledge that we can get from each other would be very valuable in informing the approaches we should take and to overcome the obstacles that we face in each of our countries.
Preventive Drug Education and Re-integration into society
29. Drug abuse destroys families, weakens the workforce, and has bad effects on health. We must step up our efforts in preventive drug education and rehabilitation. We need to protect our young people from these false messages tempting them to take drugs. We must continue to invest in rehabilitation programmes. To help ex-abusers kick their drug habits, and turn their lives around.
30. The Colombo Plan has been active by taking the lead in spearheading preventive education and rehabilitation programmes. The treatment and rehabilitation network established by the Colombo Plan has been very effective. Communities enjoy enhanced treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare facilities. Communities can participate in programmes that are customised to their social and cultural context. Countries have benefitted from the many training programmes. For example, the Colombo Plan's Youth Network trains youth leaders to initiate drug prevention projects. The emphasis placed by the Colombo Plan on preventive education and rehabilitation is a recognition of the need to take a holistic approach to address the drug problem.
31. Thank you very much for your efforts and commitment to this fight against drugs. We have made very good progress and I am confident that together we can achieve even more.
32. I would like to show our appreciation to the Secretary-General of Colombo Plan, Mr Kinley Dorji, and the CEO of Colombo Plan, Mr Thomas Browne for their leadership all these years.
33. I wish everyone a fruitful meeting.
34. Thank you very much.