When President Donald Trump took office, the opioid crisis was devastating communities across America. Nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016 alone. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 of these deaths, more than any previous year on record. In October 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Ever since, the Trump Administration has applied a whole-of-government approach to the epidemic, taking an extraordinary range of actions that reflect the President’s commitment to stopping the crisis in its tracks.
The U.S. Department of State plays a key role within the U.S. whole-of-government effort to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, aiming to stop illicit opioids from being produced overseas and trafficked into the United States. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of U.S. overdose cases involving synthetic opioids increased by nearly 640 percent. Due to the robust interagency efforts of the Trump Administration, the number of U.S. synthetic opioid overdose deaths has begun to plateau. But much more work remains to be done.
At the 2018 United Nations General Assembly, President Trump launched the “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem,” in which 130 countries agreed to take action against the growing international drug crisis. In the year since its inception, this call to action has helped elevate the international community’s focus on the growing synthetic drug threat. Mobilizing other governments is only one piece of the solution to this problem – the private sector is an equally crucial partner in our efforts to disrupt criminal activity.
At the 2019 Concordia Summit, the White House and the Department of State announced the Private Sector Call to Action Pledge. This follows President Trump’s call to action in 2018 by expanding the roster of allies to include the private sector. Criminal organizations are exploiting 21st century tools to enable their illegal activities. This includes taking advantage of the anonymity and convenience of the internet and encrypted peer-to-peer messaging apps to market and sell drugs to global clients and then shipping these dangerous substances through the mail in small, hard-to-detect quantities throughout the globe. Because of these factors, governments alone cannot stop this crisis.
The international community has also taken action to build a global response to the drug crisis. In March, a U.S. sponsored resolution promoting private sector partnerships to counter the world drug problem was adopted by consensus at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). This marked the first time the CND considered the role of the private sector in countering the world drug problem in a standalone resolution. Going forward, the State Department will use this and other multilateral avenues to spur an increased focus globally on the positive contributions that industry can make to governments’ counternarcotics efforts.
Meeting the challenges posed by illicit opioids requires partnerships by a range of actors: foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, and multilateral institutions. The State Department is dedicated to advancing this cooperation to stem the flow of opioids trafficked into the United States and ultimately, to saving lives.
Private companies can view and sign the Industry Pledge of Commitment here.
About the Author: The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State works to keep Americans safe by countering crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad.