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18 Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 387 (1989-1990)
Internationalizing the War on Drugs: The UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

handle is hein.journals/denilp18 and id is 397 raw text is: Internationalizing The War on Drugs: The
UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
The recent adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Illicit
Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances' marks a signifi-
cant step by the world community towards bringing effective law enforce-
ment measures to bear against international narcotics traffickers. Illicit
trafficking in natural and man-made substances has grown exponentially
over the past two decades to the point where no nation or culture is im-
mune to the ravages of rampant drug abuse. Existing domestic laws in
many countries, and the international enforcement regime established
under prior multilateral treaty arrangements, have proven unequal to the
task of controlling, much less suppressing, this vicious trade. Awakened
to the need for concerted and more effective action to harness the traf-
fickers, the international community began work in 1984, under UN aus-
pices, on a new multilateral treaty that would establish a comprehensive
set of laws and guidelines to be adopted and applied by all party states in
combatting illicit trafficking.
Adopted by consensus at an international conference of 106 states in
Vienna in December 1988, the Illicit Trafficking Convention is intended
to establish a new international legal regime for combatting international
drug trafficking. Explicitly recognizing in the preamble that illicit traffick-
ing is an international criminal activity,2 it requires that each signatory
state establish as criminal offenses under its domestic law a comprehen-
* Assistant Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State. Mr. Stewart was a member of the
U.S. Delegation to the International Conference at which the Convention was adopted. The
views expressed, however, are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the
position of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.
1. United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psycho-
tropic Substances, UN Doc. E/CONF.82/15 and rev. 1, adopted by consensus Dec. 19, 1988;
reprinted in 28 I.L.M. 493 (1989) [hereinafter Convention]. For background, see A REPORT
S. REP. No. 64, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. (1987). See also SENATE EXEC. RPT. 101-15, REPORT OF
THE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE (1989) (reporting favorably with the understandings).
The Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on Nov. 22, 1989; the U.S. instrument
of ratification was deposited with the U.N. on Feb. 20, 1990.
2. Convention, supra note 1, preamble,   4. The term illicit traffic is defined in art.
1(m) to mean the offences set forth in article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2, that is, the specific
offenses required by the Convention to be made illegal under the domestic law of party

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