Intersessional of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Counselor for UN Affairs Barry Fullerton
Vienna, Austria, September 21, 2022
Thank you, Mr. Chair, the many panelists this morning and this afternoon, and the Secretariat for facilitating – as my esteemed German colleague described – very open and constructive discussions on the international drug treaties. Unfortunately, our discussions today are overshadowed by Russia’s wanton disregard for international law with its war against Ukraine.
The United States stands with the European Union, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Slovenia to strongly condemn Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful war against Ukraine, which has exacerbated the serious challenges we are here to discuss today.
UNODC experts have long reported and documented the links between armed conflict and vulnerability to drug use disorders in previous contexts. Prior experience with the Ukrainian military serving in conflicted areas following the Russian incursion in 2014 shows that there will be increases in post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use, including misuse of alcohol, psychostimulants, and opioids. Russia’s war against Ukraine is likely to make people more vulnerable to drug use disorders.
Furthermore, Ukraine’s drug treatment programs may face serious shortages of resources such as methadone, which is vital for the treatment of people with opioid dependence.
Russia’s actions will not deter our critical work at this intersessional. We will engage with other member states to ensure a productive meeting.
This morning, we heard from our panelists on the critical importance of the three UN drug control conventions which form the cornerstone of the international drug control system. For decades, the framework established by our conventions has fostered cooperative and unified action against the world drug problem, even as illicit drug markets have grown more complex. The treaties obligate us to protect the health and welfare of humankind, and they also obligate us to cooperate with one another to this end.
Achieving these aims in the context of an evolving world drug problem requires flexibility – we must quickly identify vulnerabilities and work together to address them.
In the United States, tackling illicit synthetic opioids is a top national security and public health priority. Nearly 108,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2021, with the majority of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
For my country, for me, this crisis has become personal. We have heard countless heart wrenching stories from friends, colleagues, and members of our families. The devastation plays out on local, state, and national news, in dinner table conversations, and in school board meetings. It is everywhere, in every community, and we know it is not going away.
We are not alone. Many of you are facing similar devastation in your own countries. The threat of synthetic drugs, which was once seen as a North American problem, is now recognized as a truly global epidemic, one that we will have to fight together.
The United States looks to the treaties for our tools to address this threat and protect our people. In the past five years alone, this Commission effectively used the drug scheduling provisions of the drug control conventions to place 54 new psychoactive substances under international control, as well as 9 chemicals used to illicitly manufacture drugs. This includes 15 synthetic opioids, as well as 5 chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of fentanyl – for this, the United States is grateful. The international scheduling system is one effective tool among many.
I would like to highlight some good practices for Member States that build upon our existing efforts and tools in conformity with the international drug control conventions.
The United States is proud to have supported the creation of the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, which brings together guidance and resources for countries to address the international threats posed by the non-medical use of synthetic drugs.
We also urge Member States to make use of the programs and platforms of the International Narcotics Control Board for global intelligence sharing, multilateral case cooperation, and private sector engagement, to help commercially disrupt the synthetic supply chain – and to make use of the recommendations of the INCB relating to non-scheduled chemicals and designer precursors. All of these represent critical opportunities for international cooperation to address domestic and global drug threats.
Our challenges have evolved over the last fifty years, but the tools contained within the treaties continue to be relevant.
Illicit synthetic opioids may not represent your country’s primary drug threat today, but within the drug control framework, every country has committed to be a part of the collective solution. To do otherwise would be a response not in conformity with the drug control conventions and would pose a barrier to the implementation of our joint commitments based on the principle of common and shared responsibility. International cooperation is at the heart of every country’s counternarcotic efforts, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to address and counter this global threat.