Antonio Maria Costa

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Antonio Maria Costa
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV)
In office
May 2002 – July 2010
Secretary-General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
In office
Personal details
Born (1941-06-16) 16 June 1941 (age 72)
Residence Vienna, Austria
Alma mater University of Turin
Moscow State University
University of California at Berkeley

Antonio Maria Costa was an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed, from May 2002 until August 2010, to the positions of Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV).


An Italian native, Costa was born on June 16, 1941. He holds a:

His career history is as follows:

Tenure at UNODC[edit]

In June 2006, Costa made implied criticism of Britain's decision to downgrade cannabis from a Class B drug to Class C, stating that countries "got the drug problem they deserved" if they maintained inadequate policies. He went further and seemed even to question the democratic right of nation states to determine their own drug policy, stating "it is fundamentally wrong for countries to make cannabis control dependent on which party is in government." Citing more potent strains and increased "cannabis-related health damage", Mr. Costa proclaimed that "the harmful characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs such as cocaine and heroin."[1][2]

Costa was reported to repeatedly avoid to answer the question of Dutch psychiatrist Frederick Polak why cannabis use in the Netherlands seems to be lower than in neighboring countries.[3] Although the debate regarding the science of psychoactive substances continues, Costa continues to support the banning of the use of marijuana, which is now the world's most widely used illicit drug, stating:"Cannabis is the most vulnerable point of the whole multilateral edifice."[4]

The United Nations' anti-drugs chief denounced March 9, 2008 celebrities such as pop star Amy Winehouse and supermodel Kate Moss, saying that their alleged drug use was helping devastate West Africa.[5] Towards the end of 2008, Costa and the UNODC have increased their rhetoric against piracy off of Somalia, urging that pirates be brought to justice and that they not be paid ransom by shippers.[6]

On 12 July 2010, Costa's tenure at the UNODC ended when Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Yuri Fedotov Executive Director of UNODC. [7]


In 2007 the five biggest donors to UNODC's budget were, in descending order: European Union, Canada, United States, UN and Sweden.[8] The United States have repeatedly threatened[citation needed] to withdraw funding unless Costa assured that the UNODC would abstain from any expression of support for harm reduction measures in general. According to the Transnational Institute this explains the fact that - unlike other United Nations bodies like WHO and UNAIDS - UNODC does not promote harm reduction policies (e.g. needle exchange and Heroin-assisted treatment).[9][10]

Costa has also been criticized for having reports published that seem to be designed to please donor countries and to support their prohibitionist policies, such as the 2006 UNODC report Sweden's Successful Drug Policy: A Review of the Evidence.[11](Sweden's financed in 2005-2006 about 4% of UNODC's budget)[8]

His latest controversial statement has been to state that only drug money saved the world financial system from a complete collapse, effectively identifying major banks as money-launderers for about $325 billion in proceeds.[12]


External links[edit]