Sat. Jul 13th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the 67th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon to everyone, and Executive Director Waly, Ambassador Johnson, representatives of the member-states, today marks the first time the United States Secretary of State has taken part in a session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

I’m here because, more than ever, fulfilling the mission of this institution is critical to the security, to the prosperity, to the health of the American people, just as it is to people of all of our nations.

Since this commission’s last high-level session three years ago, the number of Americans who have died of overdoses caused by synthetic opioids has nearly doubled – 74,000 people over that year.  More than 40 percent of the American people know someone who has died from an opioid overdose.  Synthetic drugs are now the number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 45.

Many of you are here for similar reasons.  Now, the types of synthetic drug affecting your nations may vary.  In some, it may be methamphetamines or ketamine; in others, tramadol, Captagon, fentanyl.  The scale of the problem may be different.

But in every region, use, dependence, overdose deaths by synthetic drugs are rising rapidly.

My message to this gathering is urgent.  If we want to change the trajectory of this crisis, there is only one way to succeed, and that’s together.

Now, for each one of us, for every nation, that has to start at home, including in the United States.  Over the past three years, we’ve invested an unprecedented $169 billion to combat harmful drugs.

Under President Biden, the United States for the first time is dedicating more resources to tackling demand for drugs than to halting the supply.

That means more resources for public awareness, for health interventions and services to prevent and reduce drug use, overdoses, and other harms, alongside measures to prevent, to detect, and stop the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of drugs.

This reflects the fundamental fact that untreated substance use and rising trafficking are two sides of the same coin.  The more that we can help people break the cycle of use and dependence, the smaller the illicit market for drugs.  The more we can reduce the illicit supply of harmful drugs, the fewer people will be exposed to them.

But while our efforts to address synthetic drug – the synthetic drug crisis start at home, they can’t end at home.  This is, simply put, a problem that no one country can solve alone.

The criminal groups that produce these drugs are agile.  When one country cracks down on the production of a synthetic drug or the chemical precursors that go into making them, criminals quickly find another place to produce them.  When one trafficking route is shut down, they shift to another.

They are constantly creating new drugs, too.  Criminal organizations produce around 80 new synthetic drugs every year – many that are more potent than ones already circulating.  And they’re always looking for new markets and new users to boost their profits.

So, if we want to successfully protect people in all of our countries, we simply can’t go it alone.  I want to suggest four ways that we can work together to take effective action.

First, we can accelerate efforts to regulate the precursor chemicals that are used to illicitly make synthetic drugs.  We’ll have a chance to do that next week, when the CND will vote on adding new and emerging precursors to the list of chemicals we already control.  Doing so places responsibility on governments to more effectively monitor the manufacturing and trade of these chemicals to reduce their use for illicit purposes, and that in turn makes them harder to traffic.

We urge every member to support this effort – and to fulfill its obligations to control these substances.

Second, we can redouble our efforts to reduce overdose deaths.  There’s a growing body of evidence that demonstrates how we can bring together prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery to save lives.

Next week, we’ll sponsor a resolution calling on countries to implement measures like these.  I urge you to join us in adopting it.

Third, we can deepen collaboration with key actors outside of government, because just as no one country can solve this alone, governments alone can’t solve the problem.  Public health professionals, civil society groups, affected communities, academics, other experts have long led the way in identifying effective solutions.  We can do more – we must do more – to partner with them, and with the private sector, particularly given the central role that private sector platforms and products play in the illicit manufacture, the movement, and the marketing of synthetic drugs.

The United States and the UNODC recently launched a new collaborative effort with Meta, Snap, and others to disrupt synthetic drug activity online and instead to have these platforms use their influence to educate users about the risks.  We hope that this is something that you’ll all be part of as well and encourage more platforms to come on board.

Finally, join the now 151 countries and 14 international organizations in the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats.  Just since last July when this coalition came together, we’ve been working to identify ways that we can cooperate to prevent the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs, to detect emerging threats, to strengthen public health interventions.

Together, the coalition has developed specific recommendations for actions that countries can take, as well as identified more than 120 initiatives to support these efforts.  Now we’re moving to implement these actions, and we ask everyone:  Partner with us.

I opened by highlighting the catastrophic rise in overdose deaths in the United States, and in many ways we’ve been a canary in the coalmine, particularly when it comes to fentanyl.  It’s hit us hard, it hit us first, but unfortunately not last, and we can see its ravages beginning to take hold in other countries.

But that’s not where the story ends.  We have recent data that suggests that for the first time in years, the number of Americans who died of overdoses did not increase significantly.  The number has leveled off.

Now, with one American still dying of a drug overdose every five minutes, our work is far from finished.

But the change suggests that the steps we’re taking – many in partnership with countries here in this room – are making a difference, are starting to turn the tide.

That’s why we’ll keep pressing forward with efforts like the ones I described today. And for the health, security, and prosperity of people in your countries, I hope that you’ll join us and that we can continue and indeed deepen our work together.

I thank you each of you very much for your extraordinary dedication to this task, something that I know will be to the benefit of people all around the world.  And now it’s my pleasure to announce that the United States pledges to significantly expand our assistance to combat illicit synthetic drug threats around the world, and we’ll seek approximately $170 million to advance these efforts next year.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS