International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking

RC’s statement for International Day against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking (June 26, 2018 at Paro)


“An estimated 68 percent of the people who use drugs and substances get them from their peers and another 16 percent get drugs and substances through cross border exchange. Cannabis users account for 72 percent of the total number of drug users in Bhutan.”– Bhutan Vulnerability Baseline Assessment, 2016 by Gross National Happiness Commission and United Nations in Bhutan.

Your Excellency Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Minister for Health. Dasho Phuntsho Wangdi, Director General of Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency. Dashos, principals, school counselors. Ladies and Gentlemen.

International Perspective


The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was established by the United Nations General Assembly to strengthen global action and cooperation.


The international community continues to face many problems that stand in the way of achieving the aim of a world without drug abuse. There is the opioid crisis and other urgent drug use problems, compounded by gaps in health and social services that leave far too many people without the help they need; illicit drug cultivation and trafficking; related crime and violence, and linkages with development challenges, conflict and terrorism.


But as daunting as these problems are, all of us can do our part and take action. Policy makers first and foremost, but also concerned citizens, parents, teachers and engaged young people – we can work together to prevent substance abuse, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that no one is left behind.


We at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are committed to working with you to advance balanced, people-centred and holistic approaches to drug challenges, fully in line with the universal drug control conventions.


“Listen First”, the theme of this year’s International Day, is a UNODC initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science.


Research suggests that early-to late adolescence is a critical risk period for the initiation of substance use. By breaking the chain of social, neurobiological and psychological factors and inequalities that can increase susceptibility to drug use disorders, we can help young people to grow up healthy and safe.


When we are talking about the lives and futures of the next generation, prevention is truly better than cure.


By listening to the needs of children and young people, prevention can contribute to their safety, health and well-being, and enable them realize their potential. All our societies would be better off if more resources were devoted to supporting evidence-based drug prevention strategies, which are a sound and effective investment in families, schools and communities.


Bhutan scenario

The police reported that more than 98% of the arrest related to drugs were youth The World Health Organization’s report (2017) on mental health status of adolescent in South-East Asia reports Bhutan to have the highest number of adolescents currently using marijuana at 12 percent among the 11 countries in the WHO South-East Asia region.

This year, in just two months (January to mid- March), 27 drug traffickers and 71 drug abusers were caught by the police in Thimphu alone. These numbers are quite alarming for a small population.


UN’s contribution

The United Nations in Bhutan is of the view that the most effective way to prevent substance abuse among adolescents and youth is to enhance their participation and engagement in social and civic life.

The UN has developed a framework for harmonized approach and communication among relevant agencies to address issues related to use of alcohol and other drugs among youth in Bhutan.

A Child Protection in Emergencies manual has also been developed to facilitate school counsellors and youth volunteers in providing better psychosocial support to children during emergencies.

The UN with partner agencies provide life skills training for young people (both in and out-of-school) focusing on vulnerable youth and skills development on drug education and livelihood skills for recovering clients/staff.

Youth Networks – to accelerate services to youth in regional and national level, various youth networks have been set up in different districts across Bhutan.

As a part of a global leader to fight against illicit drugs and international crime, the United Nations, collaborated in organizing a training on preventing drug overdose by building capacities of health care professionals and organized a workshop on promoting the implementation of the Trafficking Protocol and the Smuggling Protocol.

What are the action that are needed?

The Bhutan Vulnerability Baseline Assessment, 2016 by Gross National Happiness Commission and United Nations in Bhutan recommends full and effective implementation of the Multi-sectoral National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable diseases (2015-2020). The action plan involves a multi-sectoral approach and will need strong coordination and mobilization of adequate funds to implement the action plan.

There is a need to increase the number of rehabilitation centers and develop short-term activities and skills trainings which can be used to constructively engage individuals coming in for counseling and rehabilitation.

We must strengthen the number of skilled and qualified counselors by developing a short-term course on ‘counseling and rehabilitation therapy.’

We also need to engage those seeking counseling and rehabilitation support as peer counselors and role models who can work in the community and reduce the incidence of substance use. These peer counselors can also help with post rehabilitation support for others.

The Child Care and Protection Act, 2011 is the paramount Act for children, hence, a further review of existing laws while trying persons under 18 years who are accused of carrying or consumption of banned substances is recommended.

During His Majesty’s speech graduates on their convocation, His Majesty emphasized on five extraordinary qualities that defines the Bhutanese. These are five extraordinary qualities that you possess.

  1. Tha Damtshi or unwavering loyalty is a natural and instinctive trait. Bhutanese are s We have integrity. No matter what we do, there is a degree of sincerity that is worthy of praise.
  2. We are mindful. We are always mindful of our duties, responsibilities, obligations, and wellbeing-not just our own wellbeing but the wellbeing of everyone.
  3. We Bhutanese are very astute. That why we have been able to build a country like Bhutan. We have worked with great ingenuity, perception, and wisdom. We have the intelligence and skills to be able to strengthen our country. We are clear minded and competent people.
  4. We are resilient. We are well-tempered and strong, not afraid of suffering, not averse to hardship, ready to face problems and risks. Since time immemorial we have not been overcome or destroyed. We have has the resilience to withstand the biggest challenges and threats. We do not just live in the present but are aware of the future. We care, not just for this generation, but for different eras and generations to come.
  5. We understand that whatever we have has to be timeless. We realize that we are impermanent, that our children will inherit what we leave behind, and our country will be there for all times to come.

The acronym for these extraordinary qualities of the Bhutanese people- Sincerity, Mindfulness, Astuteness, Resilience, and Timelessness- is SMART. Bhutan has always been a smart nation. That is why we must continue to build smart institutions, and that is why it is imperative that our people remain smart. We must nurture these wonderful qualities and remember every day, how they have defines us as a nation and as a people. We must remember that these qualities will help us navigate the 21st century and build an even better place. Our country has an extremely bright future and that future is in your hands.

Our efforts to promote development and fight drugs and crime will be more effective if they are rooted in partnerships with the youth, civil society organizations, government ministries and the international community.


I would like to conclude by urging each one of us, the next time you come in contact with a friend, partner, relative, or anyone else who might be struggling with addiction. ‘Sem Ghi Hingley Ngyen Go.’ Compassionate listening is powered by generosity. It is a virtue we can grow so it becomes instinctive. It has a vulnerability because its willing to be surprised, even sometimes, a willingness to change our minds we want to understand the humanity of the other through their words. As far as I can see, it is a cornerstone for compassion.

Kardrinche and Tashi Delek


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