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International and overseas responses

Drug policy varies quite markedly around the world. This section provides brief outlines of policy in selected countries.

Historical perspective : United Nations

Control of illicit drugs has been a global concern since the International Opium Commission, known as the Shanghai Conference, of 1909. An Opium Conference at the Hague in 1911 drafted the first treaty to control opium and cocaine through worldwide agreement, through the 1912 Hague Opium Convention.

From 1920, the Hague Convention was the responsibility of the League of Nations and since 1946 it has been administered by the United Nations. Drug policies of most western developed nations are guided by the numerous conventions to which they are signatories. In Australia, obligations of these instruments are given effect in domestic law by three Commonwealth Acts: the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967, the Psychotropic Substances Act 1976, and the Crimes (Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act 1990.

A number of international bodies including the International Narcotics Control Board which was established in 1968 and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which was established even earlier, in 1946. The objective of the International Narcotics Board is to limit the cultivation, production, manufacture and utilisation of drugs, while at the same time ensuring that there are adequate supplies of drugs available for medical and scientific use. It also monitors government controls over chemicals which can be used for the illicit manufacture of drugs. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the central policy making body within the United Nations for dealing with all questions related to drug abuse control. The mandate of the Commission is to review the global drug control situation making recommendations to strengthen international drug control activities where necessary.

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