Remarks on the World Drug Problem

Remarks for the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) Special Segment on the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem,

Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate,

U.S. Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna,


Vienna International Centre,

Vienna, Austria,

November 30, 2016.


Thank you, Chair.

Seven months ago, the international community gathered at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to assess the progress made in implementing the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem. There, we committed to a balanced approach to drug issues and to enhance cooperation in addressing all aspects of this issue.

Now, Member States, with the assistance of UN entities, international organizations, regional organizations, civil society and one another, should turn our attention to implementing those commitments outlined in the outcome document.

Cooperation among Member States is particularly important when facing the emerging challenge of new psychoactive substances and synthetic drugs. The rate of proliferation of these substances makes it impossible for one Member State to catalogue all of the latest information alone. We therefore encourage Member States to actively participate in, and contribute to, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Synthetics: Monitoring, Analysis, Research and Trends and the International Narcotics Control Board’s project on International Operations on New Psychoactive Substances. Both provide unique platforms for sharing information, analyses and tactics to address this challenge.

We also commend the International Narcotics Control Board for its decision to host an international conference on precursor chemicals and new psychoactive substances in February 2017 in Bangkok. This conference will provide a tremendous opportunity to learn more about this critical issue as part of UNGASS follow-on, and we thank the INCB for its initiative. We encourage all Member States to send representatives at the policymaking and expert levels to this important meeting.

As one example of new realities, the United States is witnessing the growth of illicit opioid use, particularly illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds, resulting in an alarming increase in overdose deaths linked to this synthetic drug. Our efforts to address this challenge include a request to add the two most prevalent illicit fentanyl precursor chemicals – ANPP and NPP – to the international control regime under the 1988 Convention. We urge Member States to complete the International Narcotics Control Board’s questionnaires by the December 22 deadline, to inform its evaluation of these two chemicals. The United States stands ready to share its own detailed submission with any interested delegation. If any of you have questions on what we are proposing, I invite you to come to an event tomorrow morning from 9:00 to 10:00 in Room C4. A representative from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will be there to give a presentation and address any questions.

We understand that not all Member States are currently experiencing this challenge with illicit fentanyl. Indeed, we are glad if you do not share the problem, and want to do everything possible to ensure that illicit fentanyl does not spread to your country. We also want to make sure that countries seeing and seizing heroin are able to decipher whether fentanyl has been introduced into the heroin supply. As we have seen with other substances, international control is an important preventive measure.

Addressing the world drug problem requires collaboration and cooperation at all levels. An innovative aspect of the UNGASS outcome document was the call for greater collaboration, not only within and among states, but among UN entities on international drug policy. The lead entities in Vienna – the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – should draw upon the expertise of other UN entities whose work touches on international drug policy, including the World Health Organization. Together they will develop the most comprehensive policies possible.

The task ahead is to translate the numerous UNGASS recommendations into concrete action that ensures the safety and well-being of our citizens. It is not to negotiate new documents or re-litigate the consensus reached only seven months ago. As we look to 2019, our focus will be on how to advance the commitments and progress we have collectively made at the UNGASS. We should devote our energy and scarce resources to giving real meaning to our collective commitments. This may include adjusting the focus of this plenary’s subsidiary bodies to ensure all stakeholders’ voices reach the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, being careful not to create new bodies which could be burdensome or costly. We welcome the CND intersessional meetings scheduled in late January as the appropriate venue and a further opportunity for more in-depth discussion of these matters.