U.S. National Statement at the opening of the reconvened sixty-first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Ambassador Wolcott delivers remarks at the opening of the reconvened sixty-first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

United States National Statement

at the opening of the reconvened sixty-first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

As delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott

Vienna, Austria

December 5, 2018


Thank you, Madam Chair.  Before I begin my comments on the CND, I would like to note that today is a National Day of Mourning throughout the United States and our embassies and missions around the world, in honor of my country’s 41st President, George H.W. Bush.  I thank those of you who have expressed to me or my colleagues their words of condolence.  George H.W. Bush exemplified the unselfish spirit of public service and had a long and distinguished career working on behalf of the United States, including as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.  As President, he described the American people as “a thousand points of light,” illuminating the world with the strength and vitality that are characteristic of our ethnic, religious, and social diversity.  And as President Trump stated this week, President Bush guided the United States through the Cold War to its peaceful and victorious end, making the second half of the 20th century safer through sound judgment, practical wisdom, and steady leadership—ideals we continue to aspire to today.  The United States is proud of, and grateful for, this legacy.

Madam Chair, we appreciate your leadership in calling for this special segment of the 61st CND reconvened to discuss ongoing preparations for the 2019 high-level segment of the 62nd CND.  We want to thank you, in particular, for your efforts to develop a valuable background document for Member States that reflects some of the major themes of discussion throughout the Fall CND intersessional period, including our major areas of consensus, stock taking of efforts made to address and counter the world drug problem, and suggestions for action that Member States might consider “beyond 2019.”  This document will undoubtedly be a valuable conference room paper for Member State use in the lead up to 2019, and during the session itself.

While this document provides a good overview of where we’ve been and where we might want to go, much work still needs to be done to prepare for the High-Level Ministerial.  Notably, we will want to underscore to our Ministers that with the increasing severity and complexity of the threats posed by the world drug problem, never has our work in the CND been more important.  Through the CND intersessionals this Fall, it was abundantly clear that we all share a common concern for the health and welfare of mankind, a concern that is the central aim of our three drug treaties.  While we iron out the details of our high-level meeting, and as we look beyond 2019, we recognize that there can be no greater cause worthy of the attention of our ministers and our national governments than safeguarding our future, our youth.

My delegation has participated actively throughout the Fall intersessional schedule, listening intently to the positions of our colleagues with regard to the structure, content and deliverable for the 2019 Ministerial segment.  We’ve built strong consensus in many areas and should use these areas of agreement to form the basis of the 2019 high-level deliverable, regardless of what form it takes, whether a statement, a resolution or other document.

Key areas of convergence that should form the basis of the 2019 deliverable include:

  • Reaffirming support for the three UN drug control conventions, as well as the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, the 2014 High Level Joint Ministerial Statement, and the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document, as the framework of international drug control commitments and policy documents that guide our work. Furthermore, the strong agreement that the 2009, 2014, and 2016 policy documents are complementary and mutually reinforcing should be reflected. There is no need for a new policy document as we already have the framework required to be effective in our shared goal of curbing the threats posed by the world drug problem;
  • Underscoring the invaluable leading roles of the CND and UNODC in international drug policy within the UN system, as well as the treaty-mandated roles of the INCB and WHO aimed at supporting Member States to address and counter the world drug problem;
  • Stressing that it is time for redoubled national action to implement the international drug policy commitments within the UN drug conventions and the 2009, ‘14, and ‘16 policy documents. In the context of this national action, we should commit to working together at the national, regional, and international levels to equip ourselves to face the ever-evolving drug-control threats.

To illustrate our commitment to this national action, Member States should put forward technical resolutions for consideration by the 62nd regular session of the CND.  This effort could mark targeted and immediate follow-on from the 2019 high-level Ministerial, as well as outline priority areas for national implementation, and allow us to engage in the niche expert-level discussions we are famous for here in the CND;

  • Finally, another area of convergence is establishing a new target date to allow us to again take stock of our collective efforts to implement international drug-control commitments – this target date could feed in to preparations for the 2030 Agenda or benefit from the 2030 Agenda.

This issue of how our process will feed in to the broader 2030 Development Agenda is one area in which we need to find agreement.  In our view, our processes here within the CND should be separate and distinct from those outlined by the UN General Assembly for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The 2030 Agenda addresses a broad range of development issues, while our deliberations require very specific expertise to inform interventions that are tailored to our shared drug-control challenges. While many aspects of our common and shared drug problem may be related to the broader development agenda, the two should not be conflated because it would hinder our efforts to specifically address drug-control related challenges.

While we do have many areas of strong convergence, a few outstanding issues remain.  For example, we need to determine how we will measure our efforts to implement these existing international drug policy commitments. We all agree on the need to assess ourselves, we just need to decide the best way to do it.  My delegation strongly supports the need to collect more comprehensive, high-quality data within existing mandates.  This issue was highlighted as a major gap during each thematic discussion during the Fall CND intersessionals during which we learned from UNODC’s Research and Trends Branch that there are a number of opportunities to streamline and enhance data collection, including by sharing data across UN entities.  These would be important areas to explore in great detail “beyond 2019.”

We need to accept, though, that we in the Comission are not best placed to resolve these data collection gaps.  This discussion is instead better left to statisticians with expertise in developing the targets and indicators that can help us achieve the goals set forth in the 2009, ’14, and ’16 documents.  Engaging in protracted and time-intensive negotiations on targets, and indicators between now and March is not the best use of our time as we work to finalize preparations for the 2019 meeting.   Instead, we believe this data collection gap should be highlighted as a major component in the 2019 discussions.  This would include asking our governmental experts to engage in a 2019 follow-on effort to explore solutions to addressing these data collection gaps to help us get a more comprehensive picture of Member State efforts to address and counter the world drug problem.

Under your leadership, Madam Chair, we have done an excellent job exchanging technical-level views, and have identified opportunities for cooperation at the national, regional, and international levels, to enhance our efforts to respond to the world drug problem.  The UNODC’s Expert Meeting on Non-Medical use of Synthetic Opioids earlier this week, called for in resolution 61/8, was another example of the importance of expert exchanges to tackle some of our most pressing drug-control control threats.  As we move towards March, the ideas and best practices shared in that meeting will inform the very important ToolKit UNODC is preparing to assist Member States in responding to new synthetic drug challenges. This practical guide will be one significant resource to advance our goal of ensuring a better future for coming generations.

These interactions demonstrate one way the CND brings us together to facilitate international cooperation at all levels.  It is through this kind of international cooperation that we can truly protect the health and welfare of mankind and fulfill the fundamental aim of the UN drug conventions.  We hope this message of potential and progress is one that rings loudly in the 2019 CND, including its high-level segment.

Thank you again, Madam Chair, for your dedication and commitment to ensuring the 2019 meeting is a success.