Remarks at the Bangkok III Conference

Luis E. Arreaga
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Bangkok, Thailand
February 21, 2017

dMs.Rachanikorn Sarasiri, Mr. Viroj Sumyai, distinguished delegates. It is indeed an honor to be here. On behalf of the U.S. delegation I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Thailand for extending their gracious hospitality.

I also want to thank UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for organizing this conference.

As we begin our discussions, I think all of us can agree that the challenges posed by psychoactive substances require urgent attention from the international community, and that this forum provides a unique opportunity to work collectively to address these challenges. It is our sincere hope that at the end of this conference we have broad agreement on recommendations that our governments can consider for formal endorsement at the 60th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna next month.

Transnational criminal organizations dealing with illicit drugs are relying increasingly on synthetic products to harm our societies. They operate complex supply and distribution networks that cross multiple international boundaries. As a result the challenges they pose to the agencies responsible for countering these criminal organizations require that we redouble our efforts to work collectively. We need to work together to track and control the precursor chemicals used to manufacture drugs such as heroin, the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and methamphetamine. We need work together tackle new psychoactive substances (NPS), including fentanyl analogues, which are being produced and brought to market much faster than our traditional methods to evaluate and control them.

We recognize that we are making some progress. Tools created by the INCB, such as Pre-Export Notification Online (PEN Online) and the Precursors Incident Communication System (PICS), have been critical in this regard. The United States has used these tools to shed light on the evolving threat posed by new methamphetamine precursor chemicals.

Not surprisingly, traffickers have adapted by seeking alternate shipping methods, and by developing new chemicals to circumvent international controls, monitoring, and surveillance.

Ladies and gentlemen we are confronting a dynamic challenge that requires similarly dynamic responses and cooperation.

In this connection, the United States will introduce a resolution for consideration at the 60th CND that advocates for increased international coordination and collaboration to address the problems posed by precursor chemicals.

We are confronting a national crisis which is already spreading to other countries, as is the case with our neighbor to the north, Canada. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 20,000 people died from overdose deaths involving heroin or fentanyl in 2015. This means that we had average of 91 overdose deaths involving opioids per day.

At this juncture, I would like to invite you to attend a side event hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada where you will have an opportunity to learn about the impact of fentanyl and its precursors in our countries.

While fentanyl itself is internationally controlled under the Single Convention, ANPP and NPP, the two most prevalent precursor chemicals used to illicitly manufacture fentanyl, are not controlled by any international drug convention. We need to control these precursors. In March, members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will have the opportunity to decide whether to control these fentanyl precursor chemicals – ANPP and NPP – under the 1988 Convention, and heed the recommendation of the International Narcotics Control Board to do so. If approved, this would be a critical measure to prevent the fentanyl threat from crossing other borders. We would greatly appreciate your country’s support for this initiative at the CND next month.

The UN reports that more than 700 new substances have emerged over the last five years, and what we know about these substances is disconcerting and challenging because the international architecture set up to treat drug abuse and control the spread of those substances has not kept pace. We must adapt and use all the tools at our disposal.

This was endorsed by the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). We think we should focus on four measures:

First, as with all substance abuse disorders, education, prevention, and treatment are the first lines of defense. In the United States, we support primary prevention to reduce the number of first time users, with an emphasis on young people.

Second, early warning and information sharing help us prepare for emerging NPS trends. The UNODC Global Synthetics Monitoring, Analysis Reporting and Trends (SMART) program includes forensics and a database of legal approaches. The INCB’s Project ION – International Operations on NPS – allows member states to share operational information on NPS trafficking and work together to dismantle these networks. We urge countries to provide information on new substances to UNODC and the INCB to make these tools as robust as possible.

Third, we need to develop flexible domestic systems that can handle the influx of NPS entering the market. In the United States, we have legislation that allows for criminal action against traffickers of drugs that are analogues of scheduled substances, because they have the same psychotropic effect but potentially a different chemical composition. We also have the ability to schedule substances on an emergency basis. On this note, the United States would like to highlight China’s success in accelerating their processes for domestic control of NPS and synthetic opioids. China domestically controlled 116 NPS in 2015, and just last week, announced the domestic control of four harmful fentanyl analogues, including carfentanil, after only a four month domestic review process. Efforts such as these, exhibiting efficiency and flexibility, are worth emulating by the international community to handle the influx of NPS entering the market.

Fourth, we should expand the use of the treaty-based international scheduling tools to bolster our defenses against the most prevalent and dangerous substances. We believe that UNGASS strengthened the relevancy and role that the Conventions have in addressing global drug issues.

Madam Chairperson, decades of our mutual experience battling the drug problem have shown that voluntary international cooperation is vitally important. I think you will agree that inside our countries, public health, justice, and law enforcement agencies need to work closely together. At the regional level, organizations such as ASEAN, the Organization of American States, the EU, and the Paris Pact play critical roles in fostering cross-border coordination and information sharing. Globally, the INCB, UNODC, and the CND have the mandate to bring all countries together and to establish universal standards on issues such as chemical control and NPS.

The United States greatly appreciates the INCB’s for organizing this conference; this week marks a positive step forward for improving cooperation on a global scale. I hope that our delegations at the CND can use the proposals from this conference to generate concrete deliverables for the CND to endorse next month.

Thank you very much.