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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to the 56th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs


Remarks
William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Vienna, Austria
March 11, 2013

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It is my great honor to be here today, and to contribute to this important dialogue on how to advance the goals of the UN Drug Control Conventions. My government is deeply committed to both reducing drug abuse within our own borders and cooperating with international partners to reduce the availability of illegal drugs and minimize the harm they cause. It is encouraging to hear that so many governments share this important agenda.

I second UNODC Director Fedotov regarding the expansion of prevention and treatment efforts. Evidence-based demand reduction is an integral component of the UN Drug Control Conventions, and a cornerstone of my own National Drug Control Strategy. The United States has reduced cocaine use by approximately 40 percent over the past 8 years. There's still lots to do but the advances of science and evidence-based research with regard to treatment, prevention, and recovery are encouraging.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States does not claim a monopoly on best practices related to drug control. All countries must consider their own unique circumstances and experiences. There are no simple answers or uniform solutions. Each government must decide its own course for how to best uphold its obligations under international law to protect its citizens against the harms caused by illegal drugs.

We will hear much this week about alternative approaches. As my own President Barack Obama has stated, the United States welcomes honest and open debate over the issue. But debate should be fact and science-based. The common drug control framework that we operate under - the conventions, the political declarations and the action plans approved and reaffirmed in the General Assembly - these are products of years of careful consideration and field-based experience, in response to demands from our publics to reduce the social costs of illegal drugs. Those who advocate change to global drug policies should offer their own credible evidence or scientific research.

In fact, ladies and gentlemen, there is already a process for systematic review of policies and practices in the upcoming High Level Segment of the CND in 2014 and the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016. My government believes we should use next year's High Level segment to prepare for the 2016 meeting. Here in Vienna are gathered, you, the experts on drug policies and practices. It is our responsibility to provide the recommendations and materials for the General Assembly Session, reflecting our best information, analysis and judgment. We may have differences, but they shouldn't obscure our need to work together toward the common goal of protecting the health and security of our citizens.

May I take a moment to look at the threat? My government believes that we should focus our most urgent attention on the drug threats that represent the most clear and pressing dangers to our publics, especially those with what we might term "break-out" capability. While most markets for plant-based organic drugs such as cocaine and heroin are stable or declining, synthetic drug use is rising. Synthetic drugs originate from a wider range of production zones than cocaine or heroin, they are less vulnerable to law enforcement intervention, and are found in otherwise legal precursor chemicals needed for legitimate industry.

The United States shares the concern expressed by many delegations over the global spread of new psychoactive substances, including synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones. Their manufacturers have shown an ability to alter their chemical composition to skirt existing drug laws, putting them on the market faster than they can be scheduled for control. In 2012, my nation passed domestic legislation to enhance law enforcement's ability to respond to new psychoactive substances. We need to look towards formal scheduling of substances. We need to look towards formal scheduling of these substances, and also consider voluntary measures to help identify new drugs and improve cooperation, including with the private sector. We are pleased to be working this year with many other delegations on an important CND resolution that we hope will promote international action to address this serious threat.

Finally, Madam Chair, the United States would like to thank again UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board for their invaluable contributions. UNODC assistance programs play a crucial role in supporting the drug-control efforts of Member States, and the organization has earned a well-deserved reputation for the expertise of its staff, its insightful and analytical reports, and responsible stewardship of resources. Similarly, the INCB has earned our gratitude and that of many governments for its tireless work to encourage full implementation of the UN Drug Control Conventions. We congratulate the Board for the recent publication of its annual report, and thank it once again for its unique and irreplaceable role in promoting international cooperation to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak, and we look forward to a productive week.



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